Thursday, May 23, 2013
I'd never meet anyone from Tishomingo before. Turns out this versatile lady, Tina Zimmerman, hails from a small Oklahoma town which, at a population of 3500, bears a striking resemblance to Old Summerville, in the days when we had our first tourism surge. Tishomingo, which is named for the Chickasaw Indian Chief, was founded in 1852, seven years after Summerville's incorporation. Her home town was originally a camp site because of its springs. Summerville began as a camp site because of pine trees. Both towns were – and are – known for attracting visitors because of natural beauty.
Tina tells me Tishomingo is a small charming place with a rich history and close, caring people. This is a major reason why, when she came here, she thought “moving away from my family almost killed me and I knew the only way I was going to be happy here was if this was my new small town home.” Accordingly she volunteered for the Junior Service League as well as at her children's' schools and got busy with her neighborhood association. She came to love our town and now – through a bit of serendipity –coordinates Tourism for the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce.
She's been here 14 years, but didn't come directly from Tishomingo. After college, she met her husband Phil in Dallas where they both worked for an aerospace company. “Mine was an office job with numbers and pricing and it wasn't my thing.” So she quit and became a stay-at-home mom for 19 years. When Phil's aerospace career brought him to this area and as their kids, Dylan and Hanna, now both at USC, grew older, she became a partner in Southern Graces, a catering service, but stopped that “wonderful but exhausting” enterprise when her kids got into high school. Then about three years ago she heard about an opening at the Visitor Center front desk, three days a week. That was perfect as she could handle that work schedule and continue to volunteer.
Enter serendipity. The then tourism coordinator left her position about three months later and Tina says she “kind of got selected.” She also says she took to the work immediately and “thank goodness for Nancyjean (Nettles) and Rita (Berry, Chamber board chairman, and President and CEO, respectively). who trained me quickly.” From the first, she loved the creativeness of the job.
Tina's strengths include affability, curiosity, and the skill to search for and find solutions. She has steered the Chamber's “Birthplace of Sweet Tea” and “Sweet Tea Trail” tourism initiatives. She heads up a Trolley Task Force, investigating obtaining an appropriate vehicle for the proposed Sweet Tea Trolley Tours and is looking into getting historic homes on tour. Both these ideas are to augment the “Birthplace” and the “Trail” by offering more local attractions, thus encouraging the usual half-day visitors to stay at least overnight. She has the ability – no doubt, partly because of her obvious enthusiasm for the job – to ask for and get help.
“I wasn't born here but I like it because there is that sense that we're proud of our town. I am proud of the town's many strengths, such as our former mayor's four-decade tenure and our football coach's half century on the job. I love that and I take ownership of it – that's my town!”
All of this surely also makes her “The Girl from Summerville.”