Worcester County Tourism (WCT) Director Lisa Challenger will retire effective May 29, 2020, after 31 years of public service to the community. Challenger joined WCT as the director on September 11, 1989, and she has played a pivotal role in shaping tourism in Worcester County and across the State of Maryland.
“Tourism supports 14,228 jobs in Worcester County, generates $1.9 billion in visitor spending, and $366.8 million in tourism tax revenues,” Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins said. “That statistic speaks volumes and is a testament to what 31 years of hard work can accomplish.”
Challenger, a founding member of the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council, spearheaded numerous projects and programs that directly attributed to the growth of tourism in Worcester County, throughout the Eastern Shore region, and across the state. For her exceptional creativity, positive approach to identifying and developing new tourism markets, and commitment to enhancing and perpetuating the Maryland tourism industry, Governor Larry Hogan appointed her to the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority in 2014. Then in 2016, Maryland Tourism Coalition named Challenger Maryland Tourism Person of the Year.
“This job has really defined me and my life here in Worcester,” Challenger said. “I have loved every second of it. I look back and realize how lucky I’ve been to hold this position and to work with all the great folks I’ve had the pleasure to meet and collaborate with over these many years. It feels great to know that my good friend Melanie Pursel is taking over. She’ll be terrific.”
Known for her success in developing regional partnerships, Challenger developed the Cape to Cape Scenic Byway, spearheaded the Wilds of Worcester video series, Eat, Drink and Buy Art campaign, Worcester Green Award Program, Beach and Beyond website and mobile app, West Ocean City Commercial Harbor and African American historic markers, Delmarva Birding Weekend, the social media campaign that earned Berlin the title America’s Coolest Small Town, and inclusion of the Beach to Bay Indian Trail on the Department of the Interior’s National Recreation Trails list.
Challenger successfully applied to have Worcester County recognized as both a Maryland heritage area and a Preservation America Community under then First Lady Laura Bush. She is a past chair of the Maryland Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, and she organizes the Eastern Shore Economic Data handout to explain tourism’s value to the Eastern Shore delegation. She passes the torch of leadership in WCT to incoming Director Melanie Pursel, who brings 21 years of proven leadership to Worcester County Government and is respected statewide for her contributions to the business community, marketing, and tourism, as well as workforce and economic development.
Challenger has three daughters, Natalie, Mackenzie, and Olivia and is looking forward to spending more time with them, her parents, Ed and Emmy, and her 22-month-old grandson, Kellen.