James Houchins recently assumed the newly created position of Recreation/Tourism coordinator.
Houchins took on the tourism duties of Sandra Belcher, who resigned as the director of the county’s tourism office in April.
The additional duties include marketing, promoting the region and its amenities to potential visitors, performing grant research and managing grant awards, overseeing the Visitors Center, and other related duties.
Houchins also continues his duties with the Recreation Department to ensure that all local sports are able to run smoothly.
“Whatever Sandra had been doing previously, that’s what I will be doing, as well as coordinating, organizing, and the operations of the sports and activities throughout the county, including all of the sports,” he said.
Houchins, 54, said he accepted the dual position because he believes recreation and tourism go hand-in-hand.
“I’ve been noticing with over in the Roanoke Valley that Roanoke’s tourism and recreation sort of overlaps, or combines,” he said.
In his role as assistant director of the Patrick County Parks and Recreation Department, Houchins said many people came by the office wanting to get information on where to hike or go canoeing. “Our Recreation department is very much involved in that too because the parks have to be in tip-top shape,” he said.
Houchins has had others call the department asking about the county and the services it offers, “so, I’m very much familiar with tourism. We have a lot of people try to come in at the museum down here and I gave them information even though it may not have been open at the time,” he said.
He added that some visitors may want to take a break in-between activities by watching a little league game or go into the local community and see a recreational sports game.
“It’s a way of just bringing more visibility to the county to hopefully increase the dollars here since that’s what we’re sort of leaning more towards as a tourism until we can get industry in,” he said.
While he currently does not have any major goals he wishes to accomplish aside from increasing tourism and raising awareness, Houchins said he wants to enhance what Clyde Crissman (long-time director of the Parks and Recreation Department) has done and bring a fresh perspective to the role.
“It’s not to change anything per se that has been done, but just to enhance what’s already been accomplished. Maybe just bring some fresh ideas to it as well in the way of communicating what we do have here to offer in the county,” he said.
Houchins said he plans to continue the close relationship between tourism and the other entities in the county, but he believes one of the biggest challenges he will face is getting everything organized for the upcoming summer season.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that many children did not participate in the annual ball seasons.
“Just trying to get first and foremost get the kids involved back involved in our recreational sports, and then merging that with tourism so that the parks and all are highlighted,” he said.
While his is a new position in title, Houchins said it’s basically “just a matter of how we see it sort of merging together. It’s new in name, but they shouldn’t see and won’t see any dramatic changes in tourism,” he said.
A lifelong resident of Patrick County, Houchins graduated from Averett University in 2019 with a degree in business administration.
Before he was named the assistant director of Parks and Recreation in July 2021, Houchins worked at Results-CX for several years, and was a sales coordinator at Capewell Aerial System for 10 years where he was over the military helmets and the survival egress air systems.
Houchins has been married to his wife Donita for 31 years. The couple have four children. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, meditating, and watching NASCAR.