A news release issued by the State Fair Board Thursday corrects a misconception about a meeting earlier this week and makes it clear that Lori Cox is still the fair’s executive director.
The release points out that the board met on Tuesday. The timing of that meeting was customary because the fair board routinely holds its August meeting throughout the fair, recessing each day and coming back out of recess the next day. Although the news release doesn’t refer directly to it, at least one media outlet referred to Tuesday’s meeting as an emergency meeting.
“It was reported that the Board went into executive session to discuss personnel matters and this is correct,” the release says. “It is our responsibility to address all staff issues brought to our attention and to make any recommendations or decisions based on facts, not on emotions or rumors. The Board has a process to follow and that was the purpose of our sessions.”
The release notes that Cox and the fair’s staff “have had a challenging couple of weeks plagued by inclement weather. But, through those challenges, they provided a successful 150th Fairabration for the residents of the state.”
The news release, only three paragraphs long, concludes by saying “Ms. Cox is the Fair’s executive. The Board is committed to building the best team and supporting the future success of your Nebraska State Fair.”
Cox, interviewed Thursday evening, said she serves under an annual contract, which began on her hiring day of Jan. 19, 2018. The contract has an option for renewal each year at that time.
Well before that time, Cox will meet with the board to evaluate her performance “and the potential renewal of that contract,” she said.
Such a practice is normal in the fair industry, she said. She expects the conversations to begin in late October or November. The timing depends on the schedule of the board chair and the executive committee.
Does Cox feel secure in her status as executive director?
“I would not ever want to make a comment about whether or not a board would feel that way or not, because that’s of their concern,” she said. “I just would tell you that I love serving for Nebraska State Fair and of course I hope I continue in that capacity.”
On Wednesday morning, one person wrote on the internet that Cox had been fired.
“That is incorrect,” she said.
She also agrees that Tuesday’s gathering was not an emergency meeting. She also said she often doesn’t attend executive sessions.
“Oftentimes I am not present for executive sessions,” Cox said. “The executive director is only present by invitation.”
Is there anything about this year’s fair that Cox would do differently?
“We are always tweaking our game, right? Naturally, there are things from an operational standpoint and a programming standpoint that we review heavily.
And that’s the fun part, right? We get a chance to go into a deep dive and go ‘This didn’t work or this worked.’
“I think you can expect us to be really be talking about the shuttling, not only from a crisis perspective going into future years and needing those shuttles, but imagine the opportunity for us to continue to shuttle folks in that manner with a proper fleet at our will. That could be really tremendous to help us grow the fair. That’s probably something that I’m most excited about.”
It is “very difficult to put a fleet together in such a way that could really serve customers at the last minute because it takes about a six-month lead time,” Cox said. “So we’ll be looking at that closely and saying ‘Hey, is it an opportunity of making lemonade out of this, to be able to put together a full fleet similar to the numbers we had this year on the big weekend,” when 23 or 24 buses were used.
“Is it possible to do that in the future, and what might that look like?”