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Hamilton County tourism leader selected to join CIB

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A new incarnation of Indianapolis' Capital Improvement Board is set following Friday’s appointment of Brenda Myers, executive director of the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Myers is the last of nine members to join the revamped CIB, whose financial troubles last year elevated its once-quiet profile. The board manages the city’s professional sports venues as well as the Indiana Convention Center.

Its reorganization is the result of a state law passed last summer requiring the terms of all nine board members to expire in January, although the law does not prohibit members from being reappointed.

The same law allows the six counties surrounding Marion County that contribute food-and-beverage tax revenue to the CIB to appoint a member, which paved the way for Myers’ election. Morgan County does not pay the tax.

Myers received the nod unanimously over Thomas Wheeler, a Boone County resident and lawyer at the Indianapolis office of Cincinnati-based Frost Brown Todd LLC. A representative of each of the six counties cast a vote.

They were the only two people seeking the position on the CIB that Marion County commissioners formerly appointed. Commissioners now have one selection instead of two and last month reappointed Doug Brown, a lawyer at Indianapolis-based Stewart & Irwin PC.

Those close to Myers say she is well-qualified to help the CIB tackle the financial problems plaguing it.

“I’m just very pleased that they picked Brenda,” said Christine Altman, a Hamilton County commissioner. “She’s just very well-rounded, and I think she would be able to give some positive input.”

Myers, who has led the Hamilton County CVB since July 2005, said her 25 years in tourism and related industries should benefit the CIB.

“I understand conceptually what it takes to negotiate a deal and make that happen,” she said. “Granted, it’s nothing to the scale of [CIB contracts]. But I understand the formula and what it takes to make that happen.”

Myers previously served as vice president of marketing at the Indiana Historical Society, executive director of the not-for-profit Tour Indiana organization, and public affairs director at Conner Prairie.

In November, Mayor Greg Ballard reappointed Ann Lathrop, an executive in the local office Oak Brook, Ill.-based public accounting firm Crowe Horwath LLP. She will assume the president’s position from Robert Grand. Grand, the managing partner of Indianapolis law firm Barnes and Thornburg LLP, was selected to head the CIB last year but won't return in 2010.

In addition, the mayor appointed Paul Okeson, his former chief of staff, who resigned his position to become vice president of business development for Keystone Construction.

The mayor, who picks the majority of the board, also appointed former state Rep. Carolene Mays, hotel executive Jim Dora Jr. and investment company CEO David Shane, and reappointed union leader Jay Potesta.

Former City-County Council President Robert Cockrum has been replaced on the CIB by fellow Republican councilor Michael McQuillen.

Republican caucus members of the City-County Council ousted Cockrum as president in December in favor of Ryan Vaughn, an attorney at Barnes & Thornburg. Vaughn then appointed McQuillen to the CIB.

The past year has been particularly daunting for the CIB, as it grappled to overcome a projected $47 million deficit in 2010. The board has improved its financial health by making $26 million in cuts and by avoiding $25.5 million in debt-service reserve payments.

The largest challenge facing new board members is ongoing negotiations with the Indiana Pacers to keep the team from breaking its lease. That could require the CIB to fund $15 million in Conseco Fieldhouse operating costs.

The new-look CIB meets for the first time at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

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