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Mark Hecquet is the new president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, succeeding longtime leader Tracy Kimberlin.
Rebecca Green | SBJ
Mark Hecquet is the new president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, succeeding longtime leader Tracy Kimberlin.

Executive Insider: Mark Hecquet

CVB leader forges path in new home

Posted online

In the short time since he moved to town to become the new president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc., Mark Hecquet is getting to know a few new faces.

Make that a lot of new faces.

“I would say I’ve met over 200 people in three weeks,” he says. “But that’s what I wanted to do. One of the first things when I first came and interviewed, even in the short amount of time, I felt a closeness and togetherness of the community. I knew coming here I needed to embrace that. I needed to get to know the city, the people who lead the city and the people who influence the city. For the first few weeks, I’ve put that as a focus, to get out there and meet as many people out there as I could.”

That strategy has led Hecquet all over Springfield to meet city and county leaders, chamber of commerce members and nonprofit officials, and even to Jefferson City to introduce himself to legislators, as well as Gov. Mike Parson.

“And there’s more to go,” he says with a laugh. “I really wanted to hit the ground running, so to speak.”

Hecquet started in the role Jan. 17, succeeding Tracy Kimberlin, who retired at the end of December from the leadership post he held for 35 years. He came from Butler County, Ohio, located between Cincinnati and Dayton, where he served as president and CEO of Travel Butler County, a destination marketing organization that serves the county with a population of 390,000. It was a position Hecquet occupied for 16 years and one he didn’t plan to leave prior to being contacted during a nationwide search to fill the Springfield CVB post.

“The first difference in coming here is the city dynamic, which was one of the things that really lured me to the position,” he says. “Not that I didn’t enjoy the county environment. I just thought there was a greater opportunity for success working closer with city leadership and all the values of a city as opposed to a county.”

The process was conducted by SearchWide Global, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based executive search firm that works primarily in the travel and hospitality industries. Aside from his job with Travel Butler County, Hecquet also served as district governor for the Ohio Amateur Athletic Association, a volunteer position, and is past sports marketing director for the Warren County, Ohio, CVB.

“A lot of things that my organization and I focused on, such as sports marketing, product development, tourism and attractions, things like that, were some things I felt the search committee was looking for,” Hecquet says of his past work with Travel Butler County. “Coming to Springfield and seeing the lay of the land, I felt there was a lot of opportunity for a lot of success.”

Hecquet was hired among five finalists in a 12-candidate field, says Joe Wadkins, chair of the Springfield CVB Board of Directors.

“Mark just really stood out to every one of us,” Wadkins says, pointing to Hecquet’s experience in areas such as travel, tourism, marketing and sales as key factors. “That position absolutely leads the team that promotes the city of Springfield as far as marketing efforts and sales efforts.”

Wadkins, who has hired people in his role as general manager of DoubleTree by Hilton, says this was a different experience for him. He says at one point, the note-taking stopped, and the interview suddenly turned into a conversation. It was an experience that resonated, Wadkins says.

“He has a personality that kind of draws you in and he’s engaging,” he says of Hecquet. “That was the very first thing that I noticed.”

Born and raised near London, where his extended family still resides, Hecquet moved to the United States in 1992 to attend the University of Kentucky. It was there he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management and a master’s degree in sports management. It also would be where he met his future wife, Beth, a native of Cincinnati and fellow UK graduate. The couple have been married 22 years and have two children, Mason, 18, and Lauren, 15. Mason is following in his parents’ footsteps and is a freshman at UK, while Lauren remains in Cincinnati with Beth as she finishes the current school year before they move to Springfield.

Hecquet says studying in America was “a wild hare,” which led him to apply to numerous colleges, including all of them in the Ivy League.

“My parents were not enamored by the idea, I can assure you,” he says, adding he got accepted at Cornell University. “Safe to say, the price was little bit out of our range.”

The next acceptance letter came from UK, and the price was much more affordable, Hecquet says.

“I didn’t know anything about Kentucky. I didn’t know anything about basketball, horses,” he says, noting he felt welcomed the moment he arrived. “I was a big-city boy flying into Lexington, which could challenge some.”

Hecquet’s tourism industry experience included five years in sports marketing for the CVB in Warren County, Ohio, which was followed by Travel Butler County, where he served as the first CEO of the organization. Among his achievements was overseeing the Spooky Nook Sports project, a $165 million indoor sports complex in Hamilton, Ohio, which had its first major event earlier this month, according to media reports.

Hecquet says he’s also excited about the sports market in Springfield, which includes newer developments such as the $30 million Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town.

“There is a lot of upsides in terms of where the future opportunities lay for driving in new business streams and really sharing everything that Springfield has to the world, which is really what I’m here in essence to do,” he says.

He’ll lead a staff of 18 with an annual budget of $4.5 million, which he notes includes some funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. He says budget work is ongoing for the next fiscal year that starts July 1. It’s currently estimated at $4.2 million.

Away from work, Hecquet says he takes his work-life balance very seriously. When he’s not spending time with his family, he trains for triathlons. He competed in his first Ironman competition a few years ago and was set to travel to one in Germany this year.

“I took a new job instead, so that got rid of that,” he says with a laugh. “I spend a lot of my personal time riding my bike, at the Y in the pool or just out running.”

He’s competed in four Ironman races to date, with his best time coming in at roughly 12 hours.  

Much like when he started college in Kentucky, Hecquet says he had that familiar and comforting feeling when he first came to Springfield.

“I felt really welcomed when I landed,” he says. “From the very beginning, I felt it was genuine, and certainly I felt this was a community I would be excited and want to come to and live in.”

Noting since starting his job he’s had several conversations with Kimberlin, his predecessor, Hecquet feels confident about carving his own path in leading the CVB to what he hopes will be new heights.

“I’m not one to dwell in the past. I like to look forward, and at the end of the day, I’d been fortunate enough to create my own CVB,” he says. “I learned a lot about what has been successful, and I just saw this as something different, a different structure that was a challenge.

“We need to understand what the community wants, what the leadership of the city wants, and we have to look at what we do and find a path that not only brings visitors but also will elevate the community.”


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