Building Community Bridges: Tyson Compton

Angela Henderson-Bentley

    Growing up in Louisa, Kentucky, Tyson Compton couldn’t wait to leave the area, as he felt like he was born out of place. But, after a serious illness forced him to return home, Compton now can’t imagine living anywhere else. 

     Compton, who has been the president of the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for the past decade, has become so ingrained in the Tri-State community that most people don’t even realize he spent 10 years living and working in Los Angeles, an experience he truly enjoyed.

        But after being diagnosed with cancer, he chose to come home. “When I first came back from L.A., I thought I would get better and then go back,” Compton said. “But my whole perspective changed. I did love it here. I loved the people. Everyone knew who you were. I didn’t like that before, but now, it’s so nice.”

        Shortly after returning to the Tri-State, in December 1994, Compton was hired as the marketing director of the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland. “I truly believe the Paramount saved my life,” Compton said. “I was ecstatic. Something about being there made me feel like I was doing something for the community.”

        Compton went on to beat cancer — twice — and continued working at the Paramount for 14 years. But eventually, he decided it was time for a change and took the CVB job in Huntington. “I wasn’t looking to leave; it just happened,” Compton said. “I’ve been there 10 years now and I love it.”

        While he moved his office to Huntington, Compton’s home remains in Ashland. “I’m still part of Ashland and Huntington,” Compton said. “I travel easily between the cities. I still care about both cities.”

        That idea of traveling between cities and connecting communities is something Compton has given a lot of thought to over the years, including, in 1994, when he joined the advisory committee for a brand new magazine that eventually, thanks to Compton’s idea, would become known as Bridges.

        Compton’s idea for Bridges as the magazine’s title was inspired by the publisher John Gallaher and his introduction of the magazine to the committee. “I was thinking of an actual bridge,” Compton said. “Many of us travel those bridges every day. Also, that concept of bridging the community. It was John’s description of what he hoped he would accomplish that gave me those thoughts. This magazine was totally new to the community. He wanted to be certain it would be well-received.”

        Though Compton is no longer on the advisory committee of the magazine he helped name, he still finds himself thinking about those bridges — both literally and figuratively — every day as he continues his work at the CVB and in the community.

        “I encourage people to continue building these bridges and bringing people together to better our community,” Compton said. “Change is inevitable. It’s up to you whether you’re part of it or spend energy trying to stop it or you just step aside. I hope people take the first option. It’s what I’ve always worked to do.”