Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Our Beautiful Community

Caskey Believes New Tourism Director Will Fit Well

The Kimball community will celebrate the retirement of Kimball County Tourism Director Jo Caskey on March 31 and welcome newly hired Jessica Rocha to the position.

Through her six years in Kimball, Jo has shined many new lights on tourism in the community of Kimball.

With hospitality playing a key roll in tourism and welcoming folks to new communities, her first job in the hospitality industry was while in college while working for a pizza place and as a part-time cocktail waitress at a country club.

"I worked in and out of the industry for many years before I went back to college in 1987 and earned my second degree, this time in tourism," Jo said.

"My first degree was a bachelor of science in education with majors in English and speech & theatre, with a minor in French. More than teaching the literature and the historical events that went into shaping it, I love actually visiting where it really happened. I've been piped across the drawbridge and Sterling Castle in Scotland, watched the changing of the guard in Athens, walked the Great Wall of China, and visited other wonderful sites."

Only lacking in the transportation area of the tourism industry, Jo has worked everything from a being dishwasher to a reservationist for Walt Disney World in Orlando.

"I've been a step-on guide, hotel night auditor, muffin baker and close to everything in between," she said.

In January 2013, Jo came to Kimball. After holding a position in Arizona for nearly two years, she found Arizona to be overly air-conditioned and was nearly sick all of the time.

"I missed the seasons and green," she said.

She started working connections in her tourism network, looking for a position back in the High Plains. There it was – the tourism director job in Kimball. She applied and was offered the job.

After six years calling Kimball home, Jo sees her future in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

"When my house sells, I plan to move to a state that is more retirement friendly, meaning no state income tax and good support programs for seniors. I am looking very seriously at Rapid City, South Dakota. I love the Black Hills. I earned my tourism degree there and worked in the hills for about 14 years. I have many friends in the industry and because it is such a big tourism destination, I can work part-time if I choose."

With not much time to relax, Jo is starting her own consulting firm April 1, specializing in organization management, entrepreneur development, customer service training, and grant writing.

"I have been doing all of these for many decades and am certified in each area," she said. "I already have a few clients lined up and several more I am speaking with."

With amplitudes of experience and large shoes to fill, Jessica took her next step as the Kimball County tourism director this past Monday, March 11.

"Jessica brings many talents to the position: creativity, intelligence, technology savvy, hospitality experience, marketing skills, business experience, and strong people skills. She will do well." Jo added.

From a small town in the northern Panhandle of Nebraska, Jessica grew up north of Rushville. She attended a one room country school from kindergarten through the seventh grade, then attended Rushville Junior Senior High for the remainder of her school years.

Staying close to home, Jessica attended Chadron State College for two years where she studied art. She transferred to the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree In photography.

"I met my husband, Juan, while working at a restaurant in Denver and convinced him to move back to Nebraska with me after I graduated," she said. "We were married in 2012 and now have a 14 month-old son, Cruz."

"I chose to apply for this position because I want people who don't know much about Nebraska to be able to see the beauty that locals see every day," she said. "I want to show off all of the amazing qualities that Western Nebraska has to offer, including the great people in our community."

With a background in art, Jessica hopes to be able to showcase the great state through photography and also to be able to assist in the design portion of the tourism director position.

Jessica comes to this new career position with a great deal of customer experience in customer service. She has a smiling face that locals and travelers can feel comfortable around.

"If I am able to show people traveling through Kimball how kind our community is, hopefully we will have more people want to visit," she said. "We live in a wonderful area and have some of the most genuine community members I have ever met."

With her love of travel, Jessica is excited to have the opportunity to visit other welcome centers, to see what she can bring back to Kimball to promote our hometown.

"I am looking forward to building off of what Jo started at the Welcome Center," she said. "She has been instrumental in getting it to where it is now, and I am blessed to be able to learn from her before she retires."

With many new ideas, Jessica is ready to dive head first into this new career.