Bob Stewart ’74 named Kentucky tourism secretary
July 25, 2013 By Mariel Smith
prepared and do the work needed," says newly-appointed Tourism
Secretary Bob Stewart ’74. "This lesson of being prepared has
served me well throughout my career."
Centre alumni are no strangers to accolades and achievements, and Bob Stewart ’74 is the perfect example. Having been recently appointed as tourism secretary for Governor Beshear, Stewart only adds to a long list of distinguished posts in state government.
Stewart and public service just seem to go together; having worked for Governors Wendell Ford, Julian Carroll, Martha Layne Collins, Brereton Jones and Paul Patton, he has amassed a wealth of experience in state politics, particularly how to put Kentucky's best foot forward.
"In the governor's office, I did a wide variety of things," Stewart says, "but I was drawn to special events and opportunities that allowed me to showcase Kentucky and present it to the world in a way that showed its best attributes."
This affinity for the state's culture and destinations allowed Stewart to segue seamlessly into the tourism industry, specifically as Kentucky's Commissioner of Travel, a position he held from 1992 to 2003.
The appointment as tourism secretary is an exciting opportunity for Stewart, who has big plans for his time in office.
"Foremost, I want to see the tourism economy continue to grow," he says. "Tourism is a viable and healthy industry in Kentucky—a 12.2 billion-dollar industry in 2012, to be exact."
Stewart plans to continue growing the tourism economy by refocusing efforts on the Kentucky Tourism and Development Act, an incentive program designed to recruit financial and business investments in tourism.
Stewart also plans to promote the arts and cultural tourism, which he sees as a key and growing area of tourism in the Commonwealth. Connecting, integrating and forming alliances between various agencies of the cabinet is another big project. The biggest challenge for Stewart is to continue to showcase what makes Kentucky one-of-a-kind.
"Adventure tourism has really taken off," Stewart says. "It's an exciting, new niche of tourism in our state that I plan to support and develop further.
"International tourism is also a growing focus for us," he adds. "I plan to launch new initiatives for attracting international visitors, who are interested in our state's bourbon culture, horse industry and Civil War history."
For Stewart, much of his success originates from his time at Centre, where he received both a depth of knowledge and breadth of opportunity.
"I couldn't have asked for a better college experience," he says. "Centre offers a true liberal arts education, presenting a very well-rounded and balanced view of the world. It also enabled me to explore my interests in a wide spectrum of disciplines, providing a framework for what I'm doing now."
Centre's high standards pushed Stewart to achieve in ways that benefitted him greatly throughout his career.
"Centre challenged me, and in meeting that challenge I had to be prepared and do the work needed for exams and presentations," he explains. "This lesson of being prepared has served me well throughout my career."
In fact, Stewart's preparations as an English major helped him land his first job with Governor Ford. He recalls being asked, "Can you write?" His answer, that he was an English major who graduated from Centre, seemed to be what the Governor's office was looking for: he was subsequently hired as an intern, jumpstarting his career in public service.
Stewart's advice for Centre students interested in tourism careers: never give up.
"Get involved early. Volunteer in your community, seek out internships and once you get your degree: apply, apply, apply over several agencies. Many different agencies touch tourism—you just need to get your foot in the door."
Tourism and state government are clearly Stewart's passions, and his appointment as tourism secretary will allow him to continue pursuing both of them full-force.
"It's a high calling," he says. "I'm honored to work in public service—it is very gratifying because it serves the needs of people in a meaningful way."
Centre College, founded in 1819, is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Danville, Ky. Centre hosted its second Vice Presidential Debate on 10.11.12, and remains the smallest college in the smallest town ever to host a general election debate. For more, click here.