Visit Knoxville Board of Directors
Visit Knoxville is governed by a board of community leaders who willingly commit their time to nurture our efforts to be an economic driver for the Knoxville/Knox County area.
Chris Ooten Board Chair
Chris Ooten thrives in the fast-paced environment of Safe Harbor Development. He brings over 25 years of experience in both commercial and residential real estate and development to the Safe Harbor team. As CEO he is at the helm of the overall management of Safe Harbor Development and other related companies including acquisitions, development, construction, operations, forecasting, and marketing.
As Director of Real Estate for the Weigel family and Weigel's Stores managing, selling, and purchasing new store locations as well as family holdings, Chris gained valuable experience that would prepare him for his current role. He also worked for the Schaad Companies as their COO and the Metropolitan Planning Commission where he broadened his experience. Chris has earned LEED certification from the Green Building Certification Institute and currently serves on the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission as a commissioner.
Originally from Oak Ridge, he earned his BS Degree from ETSU with an option in city planning. He is married to his wife, Leah, and has three children: daughter, Emily, son, Jack, and daughter, Miller.
Rick Emmett Board Vice-Chair
Rick Emmett is the Downtown Coordinator for the City of Knoxville. He grew up in Middlesboro, Kentucky where he was employed as Chief Surveyor in the coal industry before moving to Knoxville 25 years ago to work for the City of Knoxville as Technical Services Administrator in the Engineering Department. Emmett attended Southeast Community College, the University of Kentucky, and Lincoln Memorial University and is a Professional Land Surveyor licensed in Tennessee and Kentucky.
He serves as ex officio member of Public Art Committee, Downtown District Association, the Historic Old City Association, and the 100 Block Association and is currently a Board member for the Central Business Improvement District. Emmett is also currently a member of the Mid South Parking and Transportation Association, the Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors and the International Downtown Association. He has served as a Board member on the Public Property Naming Committee, the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad, and was Chairman of the Knox County Redistricting Committee.
Jay Kramer Board Treasurer
Jackson G. Kramer, a highly skilled, knowledgeable and trusted counselor who has over 28 years of legal experience, concentrates his practice in the areas of Corporate and Transactional, Real Estate, Estate Planning, Administration and Trusts, and Local Government and Public Utilities. He is a strong but reasonable advocate for his clients. His primary goal is to help his clients solve their legal issues and achieve their overall objectives while simultaneously protecting their best interests.
Mr. Kramer's broad practice focuses on: real estate transactions including ad valorem taxation questions and sales and use tax matters, general business matters such as corporate formation, contracts, etc, estate planning guidance and administration, property tax issues, and tax exempt organizations.
Robin Parton Pate Secretary & Marketing Committee Chair
Robin Parton Pate serves as Chief Marketing Officer for Green Point Research (GPR), a vertically integrated phytocannabinoid-rich biomass originator and processor founded in 2016. Prior to joining GPR, Pate most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer at The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a major public-private partnership funded in part by the Department of Energy and operating as a not-for-profit under the University of Tennessee Research Foundation. During her time at the Institute, she led government relations, strategic partnerships, communications, and other functional areas. Through her executive leadership positions with IACMI and many globally recognized media brands, including HGTV, CNN, and TBS, she has earned a reputation as an innovative and impactful marketer and business strategist.
Pate holds a Master of Arts in Marketing from the University of Alabama (UA), a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Western Carolina University (WCU), and a Graduate Certificate in Strategic Management from Harvard.
Community and advisory leadership highlights include serving as President of Western Carolina University’s (WCU) National Alumni Association Board of Directors (2016-2018), 100 Girls of Code’s Advisory Team (2015-Current), Childhelp East TN’s Board of Directors (2011-2018) and Alpha Xi Delta’s National Communications Advisory Team (2014-Current).
Robin grew up in Bryson City, NC, and currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband and two daughters. They enjoy experiencing all the wonders of the beautiful area with favorite activities ranging from paddleboarding on the Little River, to youth sports, to Sunday drives on the Dragon.
Becky Hancock Sales Committee Chair
With 20 years of fund development, event planning, and project management in the nonprofit sector, Becky Hancock has served as the Executive Director of the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation since 2013. Becky oversees all activity at the venue, serves as the public face of the organization, and works with the Board of Directors to preserve and maintain this important community asset as well as fulfill the mission and long-term vision of the Official State Theatre of Tennessee.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Becky’s career began in arts administration, working in New York City for a public relations firm representing classical musicians and performing arts organizations. She moved back to her hometown in 2001 to work for AC Entertainment, managing the daily operations of Tennessee Theatre. She was actively involved in the $30 million renovation and restoration of the venue completed in 2005, participating in both operational/programmatic planning and assisting the Board in fundraising. Prior to her 2013 return to the Tennessee Theatre, she was Assistant Director of Knox Heritage, a preservation advocacy organization.
Becky is a member of Leadership Knoxville’s Class of 2006 and the Executive Women’s Association. She serves as Vice Chair of the League of Historic American Theatres, a national organization dedicated to sustaining treasured landmarks like the Tennessee. Becky spends her free time practicing yoga, renovating her historic home, and making music with friends.
With more than two decades of remarkable industry experience, Skip Adams exudes warm hospitality alongside a passionate drive for success. From the day-to-day interactions with the associates and guests at each of the prestigious properties he oversees to effective communication with hotel ownership, Adams is noted as a results-driven, motivating leader among his peers, colleagues and friends.
Adams began his career in food and beverage operations and spent several years as a Director of Food & Beverage in the culinary hotspot of New Orleans. Each of his early experiences crafted an appetite for creating memorable dining and cocktail experiences in his hotels. In the past four years, Adams has established The Tennessean Hotel as a personal luxury experience – among the finest in the market and noted among top travel rankings including Forbes, Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure. Most recently, Adams led the top-to-bottom renovation and rebranding of the Marriott Knoxville Downtown, while also introducing the Maker Exchange concept – a gathering space, artistic showcase and culinary scene designed to highlight and embrace Knoxville’s creative maker community. The opening marks a major revitalization of the destination originally built for the 1982 World’s Fair.
As an Area Director of Operations for Aimbridge Hospitality, Adams also oversees properties in multiple destinations, while he and his family enjoy calling Knoxville home. He is passionate in the opportunity to continue to put Knoxville on the map as a leading travel and culinary destination in the Southeast.
Lola Alapo has spent her career telling people’s stories through the written word. She's been a newspaper journalist, a public relations specialist and a science writer. She currently is the public information officer for University of Tennessee Public Safety and manages communications for five entities, including the UT Police Department.
Lola served on the City of Knoxville’s Neighborhood Advisory Council (At-Large Seat C, 2015-2017). She chaired the Board of Advisors for the University of Tennessee Master of Public Policy and Administration Program (2015-2021). She is active in Knoxville's faith community and foster care community. A Nigerian-born, New York-raised Tennessean, Lola loves the outdoors and travel—especially using both passions for a purpose. She hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Inca Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru and Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic through Compassion International to raise money for children’s needs.
Lola believes any season in East Tennessee is a season for the outdoors. Favorite hikes include the River Boardwalk Trail and Ross Marble Quarry at Ijams Nature Center; North and South Old Mac trails at Frozen Head State Park; and Rainbow Falls trail to Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Linda Billman uses her working skills to benefit Knoxville area non-profits such as Knoxville History Project, her neighborhood association, Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, Visit Knoxville and other organizations. Previously Linda served as Interim Director of Legacy Housing Foundation and as General Manager of community public radio station WDVX, which is located in the Knoxville Visitor Center.
Linda’s professional background also includes independent documentary, lifestyle television and corporate video production and Managing Producer of the Emmy-award winning program, "The Heartland Series," on Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR-TV.
Meg Counts is the Sr. Manager of Team Member Experience and Corporate Giving at the Pilot Company. Meg leads the company’s philanthropic initiatives in Knoxville and across the Pilot Flying J footprint in North America. She is overseeing a multimillion dollar philanthropic campaigns in connection with the company’s giving strategy. She oversees all donations will be made to both local and national organizations that align with our company’s mission, and is charged with identifying partnerships; researching and vetting the national recipients; and coordinating the process from start to finish. Meg also creates and manages the programs and events for the sales and support center in Knoxville including the company’s largest conference for its travel center general managers.
She manages a busy professional life, while making family a priority with her husband, Kevin Counts, who also works at the Pilot Company, and their two daughters Keally (11) and Frances (8).
Becky Huckaby, APR, Fellow PRSA, A.A.E., is the Vice President of Public Relations for the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, which owns and operates both McGhee Tyson and Downtown Island Airports in Knoxville, TN. Through her role, she oversees all facets of internal and external communication including media relations, social media strategy, employee communication and customer service.
Huckaby holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications from East Tennessee State University and a Master of Science in Communication & Information from the University of Tennessee. She attained her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in 2008. And in May 2018, she earned the designation of Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E) from the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), the world’s largest professional organization for airport executives. And in October 2019, she was inducted into PRSA’s College of Fellows.
For the past 15 years, she has shared her passion for communication with college students as a lecturer for both the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and King University, teaching courses on professional communication, persuasion, public relations writing, advanced speech and campaigns.
She spends her free time with her husband and two children at ballfields, concerts and on the water of our region’s beautiful lakes. She loves to read entertaining stories about interesting people and traveling the world while exploring new cities and cultures.
Mayor Glenn Jacobs
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs took office in September 2018. Since that time, he has worked diligently to provide a fresh outlook on limited government and keep his campaign promises of transparency, maintaining low taxes, continuing to attract new jobs to this area, focusing on the quality of education, and improving infrastructure.
In 2020, COVID-19 drastically changed the playing field, but Mayor Jacobs constantly rose to the challenge, fighting for personal responsibility and against government overreach.
Now, with the pandemic waning, he is again focused on telling the rest of the world what he already knows: that Knox County is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.
By putting jobs, education and recreation at the forefront, Mayor Jacobs hopes to ensure that Knox County is committed to creating opportunities for everyone to thrive in an engaged and vibrant community.
Chief among his priorities is embracing regionalism and working across county and state borders to stimulate economic development.