COLUMBIA — Growing up in the small town of Shelbina in northeast Missouri, Amy Schneider always saw Columbia as the big city.
Schneider lived in Shelbina, population 1,704, until she came to Columbia in 1989 to attend MU. Now, 22 years later, she is director of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
City Manager Mike Matthes announced his choice in a news release on Monday, as reported in a previous Missourian article.
Schneider wasn't very good at keeping the secret. Beth Mead, tourism marketing manager at the bureau, said that as soon as she saw Schneider on Monday, she knew her friend had won the position.
"Amy has the worse poker face," Mead said.
The first thing Schneider did when she heard the news was to call her husband, Bill.
"He is been right by my side the whole time, my husband, my mother, my daughter," she said. "Without them I wouldn't have been able to accomplish anything."
In her office, a bouquet composed of purple and pink flowers rested on a table. They were sent by her husband and daughter.
Schneider earned a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management at MU, graduating in 2000. After taking some of her classes, she took a break from school to begin working at hotels.
Schneider said she realized that the thing in the world she likes most is being around people and helping them.
She has a strong background working at hotels. At the beginning of her career, she worked as the assistant general manager at several hotels such as the Ramada Inn in Manhattan, Kan., and the Holiday Inn in Columbia.
From 2003 to 2005, she was the sales manager at the EconoLodge in Columbia. She then worked in the same job at the Hampton Inn in Columbia until 2007. That's when she became sales manager for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. She remained in that position until February, when former director Lorah Steiner left the position and Schneider was appointed interim director.
In her application for the permanent job, she explained her main objective: "To secure a leadership position in the Destination Management field utilizing my experience in the hospitality and tourism industry."
Steiner, who now is tourism director for Charlotte County, Fla., said Schneider brings two important elements to the position: a good understanding of the market and a good relationship with the hotel industry.
"I think, considering the challenges that the current economy presents, that those attributes are critical," Steiner said.
She is a great listener, Steiner added. "When she speaks with someone, she is very good at pulling out the important points."
Schneider said that the most important lesson she has learned in the industry is that "you never know everything and you should always listen to people."
Mead also said Schneider has a very good understanding of the hospitality business. “You can't be in this industry for a long time unless you have a passion for it,” Mead said. She and Schneider have been working together since 1992.
“She has a good perspective of Columbia because she has been a student and a resident,” Mead said.
Kristi Ray, executive vice president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said that she has known Schneider since high school and that they worked together in hotels in the late 1980s. Ray said she is proud of Schneider because she has worked hard for this position.
"I am glad to get to see Amy in a leadership role," she said.
Schneider said her first priority for the bureau is to work on a long-range plan. She said she has a lot of ideas to improve the department.
"Let's make this Convention and Visitors Bureau the best in the state of Missouri," she said.
One of her main focuses is to make Columbia more friendly for tourists. She believes each resident is an ambassador. The Certify Tourism Ambassador is a nationwide program intended to boost tourism by training employees and residents to know how to welcome new visitors and make them feel comfortable during their stay.
“It is a big idea right now, and I have to think how to make it workable and successful,” she said.
What motivates Schneider each day is having the chance to help Columbia grow and to help the community where she lives. There is no better way to do that than working in hotels and restaurants, she said.
"You meet so many different people from different places," she said.
Working in hotels, Schneider said she has had the chance to meet the owners of hotels from different countries outside the United States.
“I may not get to travel to all these places in my lifetime," she said, "but from where I sit, I may be able to have these people — these places — travel to me, and I am able to learn.”