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Bull City booster hands off reins

Posted December 29, 2009

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— Reyn Bowman, who has worked tirelessly over the past two decades to promote Durham to outsiders, is handing off the job of the Bull City's top booster this week.

Bowman has been president and chief executive of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau since it was formed. He retires Thursday, turning the CVB over to Chief Operations Officer Shelly Green.

Durham CVB sign Leaving Durham with a polished image

"It's just humbling to represent a place like this," Bowman said Tuesday, noting Durham now has a reputation as an artsy, eclectic city. "We never made it out to be something it wasn't."

Still, he had to battle the image of Durham as a crime-ridden, blue-collar town.

"First of all, we've lowered the crime rate a lot (over the years)," he said.

The Durham Police Department reports that violent crime is down 11 percent from last year.

Bowman said the media has done a better job in recent years of reporting positive stories about Durham in addition to the crime news.

"It's never about holding troubling information back. It's just the balance," he said.

When he started, some people didn't even realize Durham landmarks were in the Bull City, he says.

"Duke (University) was often referred to as being in Chapel Hill, even on national stories," he said, adding that many stories also didn't acknowledge that Research Triangle Park is primarily in Durham County.

"A lot of it was just getting the name right. getting on the right list," he said.

Durham now boasts the Streets at Southpoint mall, a revitalized American Tobacco Campus, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the new Durham Performing Arts Center. It also attracts more than 6 million visitors a year –  almost three times the number as when Bowman started the CVB.

He said he would like to see work continue on a better sign system throughout the city and on beautification of certain areas.

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