CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Parkways Authority has gone outside West Virginia to hire the next executive director for the Tamarack visitors’ center.

The authority’s economic development and tourism committee recommended Jim Browder of Lexington, Ky., for the job Thursday during a meeting in Charleston. 


Jim Browder has been chosen as the next executive director at Tamarack.

Browder has worked in the tourism-hospitality industry for more than 30 years, most recently as the president of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Parkways Authority Chairman Jason Pizatella, who served on the search committee, said he believes Browder will raise the profile of Tamarack, an arts-based retail and conference center on Exit 45 of the West Virginia Turnpike in Beckley.

“He’s a leader that Tamarack needs,” Pizatella said. “I think he has the mix of retail, tourism, hospitality and government experience too.”

Pizatella said there is a West Virginia connection. Browder’s wife is from Hinton, where the two own a residence there.

Tamarack has rarely been profitable since opening in 1996 and Pizatella said Browder will be charged with making Tamarack a destination location, not just a place for motorists to stop for gas and food.

“We’ll be asking him to come up with ways for Tamarack not only to do what it needs to do, be the best of West Virginia and provide the retail side for artisans to be there. One of his other tasks is going to be trying to make Tamarack a destination,” Pizatella said.

The Parkways Authority received Tamarack’s latest financial figures Thursday. Revenues were down for August in retail, food and museum shop purchases. The conference center at Tamarack has topped estimates by $39,000 so far this budget year.

More than 100 people applied for the job left open by the retirement this year of Cheryl Hartley.

The Parkways Authority hopes to reach a contract agreement with Browder so he can start by Oct. 1, Pizatella said.

After three years at his Lexington post, Browder resigned in May. His employment stops in the industry have included Florida, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Browder would be the fourth executive director since Tamarack opened in 1996.

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  • WV Grad

    How about a name change since there are no Tamarack trees in West Virginia and it was misnamed from the start.

    Sassafras anyone?

  • Independent View

    Maybe you should get your facts straight before lecturing anyone regarding the Turnpike.
    First, some history regarding the Turnpike. The Southern WV politicians mimicked the region's residents who were crying and whining for a 4-lane highway through Southern WV. They screamed, "although its not economically feasible and cannot stand on its own feet, we would GLADLY pay tolls for a 4-lane highway!" Well, they got what they wished for, a 4-lane highway, but with tolls. Now comes the hue and cry heard for several years--we want to renege on our agreement to pay tolls and want them removed! As for Tamarack, it was an idea to increase tourism along the Turnpike and a stop and shop destination to aid the local economies. Then, along comes the Southern WV politicians and with their caucus of spenders diverted money to "pet projects" unrelated to the Turnpike such as an office building on the boulevard in Charleston and a financing a major bridge in the Northern Panhandle. They even managed to change the name of the Turnpike to facilitate diversion of toll money. The renamed it The WV Turnpike and Economic Development Authority, to justify diverting toll funds to other "pet projects."
    So, the blame for continued tolls does not lie at the feet of the Turnpike's BOD or its management, it lies at the very feet of the Southern WV Politicians pandering votes by diverting tolls to projects not related to the turnpike and hundreds of miles from it! Now, those same politicians echo the hue and cry of the very people that screamed for a 4-lane highway through Southern WV to remove the tolls after their politicians have diverted toll money that would have paid off the revenue bonds years ago to their "pet projects."
    To those that travel the Turnpike and yes, pay tolls, it has to be a scary thought of the WV DOH taking over the Turnpike! The DOH cannot even maintain the Interstate Highways, let alone the state and county road systems. Travel the Pennsylvania Turnpike from beginning to end. As a traveler who regularly does, I shake my head each time and ask, what is the PA Turnpike Authority doing with the hundreds of millions, maybe billions of toll money collected? Obviously, they have not been spending it on maintaining the Turnpike! Every 40-50 miles provides part of an answer--mammoth office buildings housing hundreds of turnpike management staff! The PA Turnpike does not even provide a courtesy patrol, State Farm Insurance provides it! The Ohio Turnpike is in similar disrepair.
    The WV Turnpike is well-maintained and safe given the topography of Southern WV. My hat is off to the Turnpike BOD, its management and maintenance staff for a job well done under very difficult circumstances---i.e., topography and politicians!
    And, I do not work for the Turnpike, nor do I have relatives that do, so, my opinion is unbiased

  • Aaron

    If you truly want to see not only Tamarack, Beckley and the surrounding area prosper and become a destination point then the solution is simple; remove the tolls. Studies have shown that toll roads have both an immediate and long term impact on the economic development surrounding the toll roads. Many of these economic obstacles can be offset with alternative roads for local and regional travelers but unfortunately, there is not easily, accessible route into and out of Beckley besides the toll road. Route 19 is a suitable route for southbound travelers but anyone who has ever traveled that route understands the congestion of the area leads to increased travel time.

  • In da stickes

    Two words: sock puppets

  • Please look closer


    Could you please research and report how much money the Turnpike Authority takes from its budget to maintain the facility?

    I think it would be very interesting to see where the funding comes from.

    I would really appreciate it if you or someone from Metro news would report on the complete balance sheet and financial statements from Tamarac.

    It should be public information since it is a state run program


  • any major dude

    Maybe Mr. Browder can make Tamarak something more than a glorified gas station.

  • Kelly

    Everytime I see Tamarack, I think of the seen of Chartpn Heston at the destroyed Statue of Liberty in "Planet of the Apes". :)

  • Karma

    Pity - Pickins' are obviously slim in WV.


    I been there several times the food is excellent but I would have to rob a bank to buy anything else while I was there. Almost 20 years loosing money.....? State should probably do the smart thing and sell it to private party and keep the money for road repairs on the turnpike. But we all know WV can't do the smart thing in most cases so why should this be any different.


    • Jim

      Another vote to sell it here. If the arts and crafts are worth showcasing, let the artists and artisan prove it by paying rent on the showcase to a real, private-sector landlord.

    • History lesson

      This place was the creation of
      Gov. Gaston Capertons wife

      It was to showcase WV.
      The turnpike has been subsidizing this attraction since it opened.

      It's the state of WV operating a high end craft show.

      If they need a director, then he should have to run it like any business should.

      Turn a profit on your own, or turn out the lights.

      This country subsidizes farmers in the Midwest , people who don't want to work across the United States, and illegal Imagrants to our country.

      So it's no surprise WV feels compelled to subsidize a high end craft show.

      So to the new director, I wish you nothing but success; but please be the one to run it on its own substainability; or close it like any other business that is in the red and going under.

      It amazes me that In the real business world companies must stand on their own or meet their demise. But in government we miraculously always find funding for the beauty pageant programs instead of addressing the problems with our crumbling infrastructure
      And the absolute lack of any projects on the market to sustain
      Highway contractors


        Well said Historylesson. Here here.

  • Wowbagger

    Tamarack is a great place, but has far too much high end merchandise to hope to consistently break even. It needs to be combined with higher profit gift or even food consessions say at all interstate welcome centers. I stopped at the welcome center on I-68 this afternoon and found myself wondering at both why there wasn't a gift shop and snack counter and why what was initially a really nice facility was being allowed to start to become run down. Highways obviously doesn't understand how to run one of these welcome centers and I suspect Mr Browder does.

    • epeer

      It is illegal to sell merchandise at rest areas on non-toll roads.

  • CB44

    "Tamarack has rarely been profitable since opening in 1996."

    Another example of why we continue to pay tolls on the Turnpike…the Parkways Commission decided they were in the economic development business in addition to operating a highway and funded this boondoggle rather than pay off the Turnpike bonds.

  • cutty77

    Wonder if Joe Man. was briefed on this Guy. You know he stills runs The State.

  • don in Berkeley

    If this guy can get this political boondoggle to turn a profit, we taxpayers should take off our collective hat to him.

  • MyView

    Shame on the parkways authority. I almost certain a lot of home grown candidates applied, and you chose to take someone from out of state. I think WV residents should boycott Tamarack for this decision.

    • Tom

      Provincial thinking like this results in making the same mistakes over and over...and eventually brings failure. New and fresh ideas are the cornerstones of success for any venture.

    • Gob

      God forbid we add good minds and population to the state. Yeah....let's not hire out of state folks ever again!