Dothan tourism leader ordered to prison, resigns
That sentence will cost McCreight his job as Dothan’s top tourism official for which he had received glowing reviews
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA. (WTVY) - Visit Dothan Chief Executive Officer Aaron McCreight cried and begged for mercy in an Iowa courtroom Thursday morning before a federal judge sentenced him to serve 18 months for bank fraud telling McCreight during rough times he “doubled down on his lies.”
That sentence cost McCreight his job as Dothan’s top tourism official for which he had received glowing reviews.
“The Board of Directors of Visit Dothan has accepted the resignation of Aaron McCreight as its President and CEO effective immediately. The Board appreciates the job that Aaron has done during his tenure here in Dothan,” Visit Dothan said in a statement from its attorney, Cliff Mendheim.
He will report to serve his sentence on a date not yet specified.
Despite receiving high marks for his job performance, robust tourism, and record number of visitors, McCreight could not shake his troubled past.
Dark shadows haunted him from the time he arrived in Dothan, where questions surfaced about his prior job performance in Iowa.
The colossal failure of Newbo Evolve, an arts and music festival, led to his firing at Go Cedar Rapids, a tourism group like Visit Dothan where he also served as chief executive officer.
That three-day event lost millions, leaving vendors and a bank holding the bag.
Things turned out so badly that Go Cedar Rapids shut down over $2 million in debt, blaming the fiasco on McCreight who, along with his co-defendant, face $1.4 million in restitution.
But, despite his Iowa woes, an embattled McCreight had landed in Dothan where he brilliantly navigated the pandemic.
Then, under his post-COVID leadership tourism set records.
But nagging Iowa wouldn’t go away, and in January 2022 McCreight and another former GO Cedar Rapids executive were charged with bank fraud.
Unable to pay headliner Kelly Clarkson, they provided false financial documents to obtain a loan that was never repaid.
The bank president who approved that loan lost his job.
McCreight pleaded guilty to cooking the books, but so impressed were his bosses in Dothan that they kept the convicted felon on.
But headed to prison, his tenure in Dothan is over.
“Aaron passionately and effectively lifted Visit Dothan to be the catalyst for visitor and sports growth in our area and instituted many positive initiatives. As a result, our organization and our community benefited tremendously from his work, dedication, integrity, and collaborative community support,” the Visit Dothan statement said of McCreight.
A search for a new CEO will begin immediately.
Before Iowa, McCreight spent seven years as CEO of Casper, Wyoming’s tourism bureau.
He also owned and managed the Casper Cutthroats, an amateur baseball club.
The story updated to reflect Visit Dothan statement.
KCRG, Cedar Rapids, contributed to this report.
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