Chamber’s tourism director gets noticed for job she does in promoting Brownwood

As tourism director for the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, Sunni Modawell can recite numbers and statistics.

Such as:

In 2015, visitors to Brown County spent $50.5 million, which generated $990,000 in tax receipts. There are 610 travel industry jobs in Brown County that earn more than $16 million annually.

Modawell sees another aspect of being tourism director.

“I love to market Brownwood,” Modawell said in her office at the chamber of commerce, where she’s worked for 10 years. “I love sharing our community with people who have normally just passed through, or if you were looking for a great get-away, this is a great place to come.

“I love being a part of families coming here to create memories, because that’s something money can’t buy.”

Modawell prefers to avoid attention, and likes working as a behind-the-scenes person. Quiet-spoken but with a frequent smile, Modawell said she’s very much an optimist with a sunny disposition — sunny, like her name.

“My name fits my personality,” she said.

Modawell was unable to avoid attention at last Tuesday’s Brownwood City Council meeting, when the chamber’s executive director, Ray Tipton, surprised Modawell with accolades and a sculpture.

Modawell was preparing to give a report to the council when Tipton interrupted, noting the 10-year anniversary of Modawell’s employment at the chamber. Modawell is one of the foremost experts in tourism in central Texas, Tipton said.

Mayor Stephen Haynes added, “I know that as a good salesman, you can’t sell something you don’t believe in, and I know you that you believe in Brownwood.”

Tipton noted that Modawell tends to “fly under the radar” but makes a big impact in how she does her job.

Modawell said Tipton’s words at the council meeting were “a total surprise. It was very, very kind.”

But Modawell wasn’t ready to join Tipton in proclaiming herself as a tourism expert. “That’s his opinion,” Modawell said. “I still have a lot to learn. I don’t think that will ever stop. No matter how long you’re in the industry, that will never stop.

“Times change. It’s not the same market it was 10 years ago. … I couldn’t do my job without everybody else in the office. I don’t do it by myself.”

Modawell, who is married to Barry Modawell, has two daughters and a son. She grew up in Early and graduated from Early High School in 1991.

She got married, had children and started classes at Howard Payne University and later at Tarleton State University, planning to become a teacher. She also had jobs including working in church administration.

Modawell was a year away from a degree when she abandoned college. It was “just a little difficult” keeping up with classes while caring for her family, taking care of her ill grandfather and working, Modawell said.

“It was a bit much.”

Modawell learned there was an opening for a receptionist at the chamber of commerce, and she applied. “I needed employment at the moment, and they hired me,” Modawell said.

She was hired by then-tourism director Emily Crawford and went on to become the events coordinator. After Crawford left the chamber of commerce, Modawell became the tourism director.

“Helping Emily, and being from here, it just seemed natural, when people were looking to come to Brownwood, to share about the community with them,” Modawell said.

Modawell said she hasn’t lost her sense of optimism despite the decisions of corporate offices to close several area businesses.

“We have so many great local businesses here,” Modawell said. “The corporate businesses that have left catch more attention, but we have a lot of great mom-and-pop shops around here that make for a unique experience.”

Modawell said the city has great leadership that is very proactive in making things better. In some communities, the cities, convention and business bureaus and economic development organizations “don’t all play nice together,” Modawell said.

“We have a great relationship with ours, and we’ve very, very fortunate and blessed,” Modawell said.