Ashland’s Trailblazing Visionary Brandy Clark’s Impact on the Revitalization of Ashland

Ashland’s Trailblazing Visionary

Brandy Clark’s Impact on the Revitalization of Ashland

By: Sasha Bush

The Ashland Beacon

Brandy Clark 4 copy

This week on "The Road," we delve into the concept of trailblazing and the power of embracing change, even if it's unconventional. Adapting to change opens doors to incredible opportunities within your community. What defines a "trailblazer?" To earn such a title is indeed a significant accolade. It signifies being recognized as a forward-thinking individual who pioneers new paths, sets trends, and creates innovative solutions to complex and often outdated problems.

Trailblazers are known for their courage, vision, and determination to explore uncharted territory and challenge the status quo. Challenging the status quo requires grit and a willingness to take risks, as it often involves confronting resistance, facing criticism, and overcoming obstacles. For many trailblazers, this road can be bumpy at times. However, it can also lead to meaningful progress, innovation, and positive change that can benefit individuals, organizations, and even entire communities as a whole.


No one understands how important being open to change is quite like one local trailblazer Brandy Clark, who is the Executive Director of Visit, Ashland KY. Clark was born in Misawa Japan, yet she was raised right here in the heart of Boyd County and is a graduate of Boyd County High School graduating class of 1995. It wasn’t until 2020 that Clark took over the position of Executive Director of Tourism. She shared, “I didn't start working for Visit Ashland until early 2020. A family member was part of the Tourism Board, and he recommended I get involved with the Tourism Commission that was going through some rebranding and changes at the time.  During that time, the current director decided to retire, and I applied for the position and was hired.”

 Prior to becoming the Executive Director of Tourism for Visit AKY, Clark worked a variety of different jobs growing up. Clark shared, “I’ve have worked several jobs since I graduated college.  I've cut grass at a local golf course, worked a register at Clark's Pump-N-Shop, and even worked from home as a software installer and support technician.” Clark is no stranger to putting in a hard day’s work.

For Clark, having the opportunity to serve the city of Ashland as the Executive Director of Tourism is one of the most rewarding experiences and something that she enjoys. “I am very passionate about our community and our city.  I absolutely love promoting my hometown, planning events, and working with my friends,” explained Clark.

City Commissioner, Josh Blanton spoke very highly of Clark during a recent interview stating, “Brandy took full ownership of tourism in Ashland from the day she started as director. She has taken our city to a new level using marketing standards such as branding and communication alignment to not just provide information but also to help citizens create events themselves. She came along at just the right time, and we are blessed to have her.”

 One of the most rewarding parts of Clark's job is witnessing the reaction of people within the community when they see all that our beautiful city of Ashland has to offer. “We have so many attractions here to be proud of:  The Paramount Arts Center, Sandy's Racing and Gaming, Rush Off-Road, the Highlands Museum, the Clark Family Discovery Center, Camp Landing, and The Ashland Town Center. Did you know that Ashland offers the only indoor shopping center in Eastern Kentucky?  Going west, the next location would be Lexington,” Clark elaborated.

Working alongside city, county, and regional tourism, Clark feels our area is extremely lucky. “We have different approaches to how we do things, but we complement each other well. Together, we have a community and a town that is truly worthy of being proud of.”

 Clark understands that true success lies in creating a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable community where all residents can thrive. Under Clark's leadership, the city of Ashland has witnessed a rather significant surge in visitor numbers and economic growth over the last few years. Hotels and restaurants have flourished, and local businesses have benefited from increased foot traffic. In addition, the city has gained a reputation as a model for what small-town revitalization should look like, attracting attention from tourism professionals and entrepreneurs across the country.

One of the things that has seemed to put Ashland on the map is the unconditional support that the city, locals, and visitors alike give to the area’s local artists. Downtown Ashland is full of vibrant murals everywhere you turn, and the city takes great pride in the fact that the area's local artists are doing more than just surviving… they are thriving!

With the City’s newly found slogan, “Create with Us,” Ashland Kentucky has truly become an artistic hotspot. “We have so much excitement and momentum in our area right now.  My hope is that we are looked upon as THE destination in the Tri-State area for creativity, entertainment, and adventure,” Clark shared. From revitalizing historic landmarks to supporting arts and cultural events, Clark has curated an authentic and immersive experience that showcases the best of what Ashland has to offer.

Another contributing factor to the city’s successful revitalization over the years is the unique, fun-filled events Clark has worked tirelessly alongside her Visit AKY team to bring to the area. Events such as the Fox Fire Music and Arts Festival, First Fridays, Market on the Square, and the countless shows that have been brought in to perform at the iconic Paramount Arts Center, just to name a few, have been wildly popular with not only the city’s residents but also residents from surrounding counties.

Coming up with amazing events requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work that most may not be aware of. “A lot of phone calls, paperwork, creativity, planning, preparation, coordination, and more planning goes into each of our events.  We put a lot of heart into trying to make our events unique, fun, and as inexpensive as possible. We just want locals and visitors to have fun and enjoy their time here in Ashland,” Clark stated.

Clark was quick to point out that without the support of local government, businesses, and the amazing individuals that make up this vibrant community none of this would have been made possible.  Clark noted, “While we are not affiliated with the City of Ashland Government, we work closely with them to promote the city as a destination.  We would not be successful if we didn't have the support and encouragement given to us by the officials and all the departments in the City of Ashland Government.”

In addition to support from local government, Clark wanted to note that citizen involvement is just as crucial. The best way for locals to support their hometown is to get out and support the people within it. Invest in a city that isn’t afraid to invest in you! Clark shared, “Some of our most popular events have come from the ideas of some of our citizen creators that don't have the contacts and the means to make an event come to life.  They bring the idea to us, and we help them make it happen.  Examples of Citizen Creator Events have been the Pink Weekend, Taylor Swift Night, Latin Night Live, Cosmic Holler Film Fest.”

            The most inspiring part about the legacy Clark is unfolding for the city lies in the spirit of optimism and possibility that she has instilled within the people of Ashland. A “sky is the limit” type of attitude if you will, has been instilled throughout the community and it has sparked a bit of a wildfire within the area’s locals. Through Clark's unwavering leadership, she has inspired residents to dream big, embrace change, and work together to shape a brighter future for their city. Her unwavering commitment to Ashland's success serves as a testament to the transformative power of visionary leadership and community-driven initiatives.

Mayor Matt Perkins commented, “Brandy Clark is a champion for Ashland and Eastern KY. Her dedication and efforts have undoubtedly enhanced our city, attracting more visitors, boosting local businesses, and enriching our community's cultural landscape. Brandy's leadership has been instrumental in showcasing Ashland's unique charm and ensuring its continued prosperity.”  The city’s best days lie ahead as Ashland continues to evolve and thrive under Clark's guidance. With a visionary like Clark at the wheel, Ashland is being driven down the path to achieve even greater heights of success, prosperity, and fulfillment for generations to come.

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