ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Executive director Nanci Liles announced in September that she would be retiring after 36 years of service with the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). In that time, she has overseen 7,839 conventions, 2.6 million visitors, and $614.5 million in economic impact to the city.

Though she has built a reputation for herself and a legacy that will continue to affect Abilene for decades to come, Liles says she didn’t initially intend to stay in Abilene for as long as she has.

“No, this was going to be a stepping stone, you know, to a larger city. But what it turned out to be was a great foundation for me to plant myself and raise a family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Liles.

First coming to Abilene in 1982, Liles has lead the charge on many projects that resulted in the Abilene we know today.

“Tourism in our community is over $400 million a year now and we didn’t get that way overnight. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of due diligence, and Nanci has lead that effort,” says Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams.

“She’s literally put Abilene, Texas on the map of places to visit,” added Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Doug Peters.

One of Liles’s biggest passion projects was the downtown hotel and convention center. After years of advocacy and planning, that project recently broke ground.

“She continued to push that vision and others became infected by that over time, and within a year and a half we will see the result of Nanci’s dream,” Peters says.

Though Liles knows she will be missed, she says this is the right time and she feels good about the future of her position and the city.

“I’m at peace with it. I know I’ll miss working, but I will continue to be Abilene’s biggest cheerleader,” says Liles.

At the end of the celebration, Mayor Williams presented Liles with a key to the city to signify the great impact she has made.

Now that she’s stepped down, Liles says she will work as an advocate for Alzheimer’s research and awareness in loving memory of her late husband, who suffered from the disease for many years.