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 is a highly accomplished real estate executive with over 25 years of experience in the commercial and residential development industry. As the CEO of Safe Harbor Development since July 2013, Chris is responsible for managing the overall operations of the company and its related entities, including acquisitions, development, construction, operations, and forecasting.
Prior to joining Safe Harbor Development, Chris gained valuable experience as the Director of Real Estate for the Weigel family and Weigel's Stores, managing and purchasing new store locations as well as family holdings. Chris directed operations for Knoxville’s own Schaad Companies for over a decade, serving as their Chief Operations Officer.
Chris is a visionary leader with diversified management skills and is known for his player-coach approach to leadership. He is also LEED certified from the Green Building Certification Institute and currently serves on the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission as Vice Chair, broadening his already considerable experience in city planning and real estate development.
Originally from Oak Ridge, Chris earned his BS Degree from ETSU with an option in city planning. He is married to his wife, Leah, and has three children: Emily, Jack, and Miller. With his expertise in real estate development and his passion for creating thriving communities, Chris brings a unique perspective and skillset to the Safe Harbor Development team, providing critical oversight in capital investments and helping to drive the company's continued success.
Lola Alapo Vice Board Chair & Marketing Committee Chair
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.
Robin Parton Pate Secretary & Sales 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.
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.
Courtney Bergmeier serves as the Executive Director of the historic Bijou Theatre. She grew up in Cincinnati, OH, before moving to Knoxville in 2005 to attend the University of Tennessee, where she attained a degree in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Writing and a minor in Journalism and Electronic Media. Since graduating, Courtney’s career has centered around music and performing arts. She began working for AC Entertainment in 2010 and eventually became the company’s first female talent buyer, booking artists and negotiating deals for venues in Knoxville and the Southeastern region. Wanting to get more involved and connected to the events she booked, she transitioned to venue management and accepted the job of Assistant General Manager of the Bijou Theatre in 2016.
Since then, Courtney’s role at the Bijou evolved from operations and programming to fundraising and strategic planning. In 2018 she completed two certificate programs at UT for Nonprofit Management and Grant Writing. While guiding the theatre through a global pandemic, Courtney was promoted to Executive Director in 2021 and oversees the Bijou's strategic plan, administration, programming, fundraising, community outreach, and education.
Outside of attending more than 50 concerts a year, Courtney enjoys hiking and camping with her husband and pup, toiling in her garden, and traveling to new places to experience different cultures and gain a global perspective. However, she is always happy to return home to Knoxville.
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).
Kristin was born in Washington D.C., but has called Knoxville home since 2004.
She is currently the Communications Director for the City of Knoxville.
Before joining the City, she was an Emmy award winning news reporter and anchor, having worked as a journalist for more than 26 years throughout West Virginia, Ohio, and Tennessee.
Kristin believes in giving back to her community. She currently sits on several boards, is the former president of the non-profit Girls on the Run, has served as a tour guide for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, and received the 2019 Pope Francis service award.
As the Communications Director for the City of Knoxville, Kristin and her team are dedicated to promoting and supporting all aspects of the City of Knoxville. Through news releases, social media posts, public service campaigns and more—the Department of Communications works to highlight critical services, promote citywide events, and educate people about local initiatives.
In her spare time she enjoys running, hiking and traveling with her family.
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.
Paul Jordan is an accomplished professional with over 30 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. Paul served as the General Manager for the Hilton Knoxville hotel for 12 years before assuming the role of Area General Manager for Aimbridge Hospitality in the downtown Knoxville area. Paul also serves as the President of the Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association. Prior to his time in Knoxville, he served as a hotel professional with Davidson Hotels in multiple locations.
As the Area General Manager for the Hilton Knoxville, Marriott Downtown, and the Tennessean he is driven by delivering meaningful experiences for both his fellow associates and his guests. He takes great pride in being a passionate hands-on leader focusing on delivering exceptional hospitality at every opportunity.
Paul is a forward-thinking leader that continuously focuses on improvement for both him and the establishment. He is married to his lovely wife Tonya, has four children and two grandchildren who have given life a whole new level of appreciation. Paul enjoys traveling, sports and all things to do with food. He loves the city of Knoxville and is eager to be a part of the Visit Knoxville Team and the exciting growth in our future.
Kelly Mathis is currently the Director of Development at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The global museum is the only facility of its kind completely dedicated to a woman’s sport, honoring the past, celebrating the present, and promoting the future. She oversees donor giving, corporate partnerships, and sponsorships, grant acquisitions, Hall of Famer giving, the new LPI-partnered Hall of Fame licensing program, a corporate marketing platform called Digi Deck by Sports Digita, the stewarding of all relationships, partnerships/sponsorships, and deliverables for development activities. During her first 13 months serving as the Director of Development, Kelly successfully raised over 250,000 dollars by adding new partnerships, creating giving campaigns, and cultivating new donors for the official’s exhibit that was unveiled at the 2023 Induction ceremony on April 28th. In 2023, Kelly joined the Visit Knoxville board and will serve a three-year term.
Before joining the WBHOF team, Mathis was coaching at Winthrop University (Rock Hill, SC) after spending two seasons as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at East Tennessee State University. Stints prior to ETSU include Georgia State, University of Georgia, Florida State University, and Washington & Lee University.
“Throughout the years, I’ve watched Kelly and her passion to recruit and connect with studentathletes and her success has been off the chart,” head coach Semeka Randall Lay said of the new addition to her coaching staff. “I’m excited to have her provide a game plan that will help increase our recruiting efforts. I know she will have a great rapport with prospective studentathletes, current student-athletes, coaches, as well as our administration and support staff. I know she will work tirelessly to impact our program.”
Mathis brought almost a decade’s worth of recruiting and coaching experience to Winthrop’s bench. At ETSU, she managed the recruiting budget, helped organize and recruit for ETSU camps, worked on skill development with guard and post players, managed social media, and lead all team-building activities. She also prepared all areas of scouting reports for the coaching staff and team.
While at ETSU, Mathis coached a plethora of All-SoCon players. In 2018-19, Erica HaynesOverton was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, All-SoCon First Team, and All-SoCon Defensive Team. Kia Upton was named All-Freshman Team by coaches and media while Micah Scheetz, named All-SoCon Third Team, finished second on the team in scoring (11.2 ppg) while having the highest 3-point percentage on the squad and third highest in the conference. Sheetz also earned All-SoCon Second Team honors, while Tijuana Kimbro was named All-SoCon Defensive Team alongside Haynes-Overton. Mathis was responsible for the scout against Wake Forest on Dec. 5, 2019, where the Bucs upset the Demon Deacons, 67-60.
Before joining the Bucs, Mathis was the assistant coach of Georgia State’s women’s basketball program. During her time with the Panthers, Mathis prepared scouting reports, clipped and presented film, and oversaw the skill development of guards and post players. She identified and organized top prospective student-athletes which led to the signing of three Top 10 players: the No. 7 NJCAA D1 player, the No. 5 overall NJCAA D1 rebounder, and the No. 3 overall NJCAA D1 offensive rebounder. Following the 2016-17 season, Jada Lewis, the team's leading scorer, was named Freshman Player of the Year and All-Sun Belt Third Team.
During her sophomore campaign, Lewis opened the season with a 20-point performance against Florida, averaging 15.5 points per game. Mathis coached 2016-17 Newcomer of the Year, Tiffany Holston and signed Shay Fluker, who averaged 14 points per game in her first season at GSU. She also managed the team’s social media.
Mathis was a member of the Georgia Bulldogs staff for four seasons. She served as the coordinator of recruiting operations in 2012 before being promoted to director of recruiting operations and player development in 2015. She assisted with all recruiting efforts, organized, and hosted visits, and assisted with the breakdown of film and the creation and distribution of all graphics and mailings. Mathis also oversaw all social media efforts for the team and staff.
Before joining the Bulldogs, Mathis was the director of recruiting operations for the Florida State women’s basketball program for the 2011-12 season. In this position, she assisted with travel arrangements, on-campus official and unofficial visits of prospective athletes, the recruiting calendar, and scheduling the 2012-13 season. She also served as the director of the Seminoles’ girls basketball camps that that saw over 500 participants.
Mathis began her coaching career at Washington and Lee University as an assistant for the 2010-11 season. The team posted a 19-8 overall record and a 14-6 mark in conference play. She also taught two semester-long physical education classes to Washington & Lee University students.
The Maryville, TN native earned a bachelor's degree in sports management from Pfeiffer, where she played four seasons on the women’s basketball team. Due to multiple knee injuries, Mathis was only able to fulfill playing on the court for 2.5 years. She had 4 ACL reconstructions, 1 scar tissue clean out, and 1 meniscus repair over her basketball playing career starting her 8th-grade year and continuing as a coach. While playing Division II basketball, Mathis averaged 5.6 points and 3.2 rebounds as a Falcon and served as team captain all four years. In her sophomore season, Pfeiffer won the regular season, the conference championship with a 26-5 overall record and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.