Community organizations

OCBA hires new executive director

Helena Stevens, second from right, has been named executive director of the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association. Also pictured are, from left, Rudy Austin, OCBA president, Tom Pahl, Ocracoke’s county commissioner, Melinda Sutton and Martha Garrish, OCBA board members. Photo: P. Vankevich

The Ocracoke Civic and Business Association has hired Ocracoke Islander Helena Stevens as executive director following a four-month search. 

Stevens was selected from among six applicants and three finalists by a panel consisting of representatives from the OCBA and its major funding sources, the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board and the Ocracoke Tourism Development Authority (TDA).

The OCBA board of directors voted unanimously to hire Stevens with Board Member Chip Stevens, spouse to Helena, recusing himself from the vote.

Stevens is the current travel and tourism director for the nonprofit group whose mission is to promote the island.  She has held that position since January 2016 and has overseen the implementation of a major marketing research project by Magellan Strategy Group and the subsequent logo design and advertising partnership with Element Advertising, both of Asheville, N.C.

“This is a new era for the OCBA from its humble beginnings in 1991 as a volunteer civic organization doing what it could to promote Ocracoke,” said Rudy Austin, OCBA president in announcing the appointment. “The growth of our budget has necessitated the hiring of fulltime staff. Helena has brought real-world experience to the travel and tourism job and we are pleased to offer the leadership position to her.”

As executive director, Stevens will continue to oversee overall island marketing in conjunction with the TDA, with which the OCBA recently signed a contract. 

The Hyde County commissioners authorized the establishment of the TDA last year and a subsequent raise from 3 to 5 percent in the Occupancy Tax levied on all island lodging.  The TDA’s objective is to increase visitation and economic betterment to the island with a focused strategic marketing initiative. This increased effort necessitated the hiring of a full time executive director.

“As a newly formed Tourism Development Authority, we realized that we needed to join with the established Ocracoke Civic and Business Association to hire an experienced director to help with the new marketing program to promote our island” said Amy Howard, TDA chair.  “Helena brings with her years of experience in marketing as well as an in-depth understanding of Ocracoke and its unique challenges and opportunities. We are excited to be working with Helena in all realms of Ocracoke programming.”

As the OCBA chief executive officer, in addition to overseeing island advertising,  Stevens will manage all OCBA activities, such as contributor relations, the annual Ocracoke walking map, the visitocracokenc.com website and events, such as July 4 activities, Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree Oct. 25 to 28, the Boat Parade in November and more.

Jeff Dippold. Photo: P. Vankevich

Stevens has a professional marketing background, having previously worked for 15 years as a marketing specialist for BMC Software, Vinson & Elkins and Imaging Technology Solutions.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing and an MBA from Loyola University New Orleans.

In addition to Stevens, the OCBA hired islander Jeffrey Dippold as a part-time bookkeeper for the OCBA.  Dippold is a CPA who retired after 30 plus years with the finance division of Bank of America.  He has also previously served as treasurer/bookkeeper for other non-profit organizations.

Originally from Maryland, Dippold lived near Charlotte prior to moving to Ocracoke last year.