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Kelly Turner says goodbye to Welcome Center

Welcome Center Director Kelly Turner stepping down on December 31. Photo by Tate Davis

By Tate Davis
Freelance Writer


The roar of passing traffic on Highway 421 seems to fade on entering the front door to the Johnson County Welcome Center and Museum.
Inside, warm wood is accentuated with wreaths, bows, and Christmas trees galore. The annual Festival of Trees is just one thing Director Kelly Turner will miss when she wraps up her last official day on December 31 and starts “Moving forward to a new chapter in my life.”
Fulfilling the center’s various missions can be difficult, but Turner’s people skills make it look easy. She has served as the primary contact for tourism information, the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, and the Johnson County Historical Society since 2015. “All three entities are great to work for,” Turner says. “People appreciate me.”
Surrounded by holiday décor, Turner chats about her experiences between frequent telephone calls from prospective visitors. Most callers are seeking suggestions on lodging, restaurant, or shopping options. But not all. “People call in and want to know where a cemetery is, or where great-grandfather had his house, and she literally will research it in the books there or call someone who may know where
to get the information,” Bob Morrison says. “She’s very thorough being an ambassador for Mountain City as well as Johnson County.”
“We have a lot to offer here,” Turner says. “We have mountains. We have the lake. We have great music. We have a
great Arts Center. I talk to people almost every day who are moving to the area.” Turner’s top reason to move here is “Because these are the best people I’ve ever met.”
When she’s not greeting visitors, Turner stays busy promoting local businesses and events on social media. “It really is important to bridge the businesses, Heritage Hall, and the Arts Council. I’ve tried to serve the better part of Johnson County with things that are going on,” Turner says.
Looking ahead, Turner hopes the next Director will carry on past traditions and keep building on success. Her replacement will be selected while the Welcome Center is closed during January and February. Turner’s advice for whoever takes over is simple. “Don’t take anything personally. People can be tough, but you can’t take it home with you. Leave it at the door. Treat
people like you want to be treated, with respect and kindness.”
Turner tears up when asked to reflect on her work. “It will be the hardest move I ever make.” She says she will miss working with Bob Morrison most of all. “Wonderful” is the word Turner feels best describes her time in Mountain City. It also best describes Turner’s service to our community.