Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May June 2013
Who Will Be The Next Black CVB President/CEO?
By: Solomon J. Herbert
This year we are taking another close look at convention & visitors bureaus across the nation in our continuing effort to document the rate of progress that African-Americans are making in the hospitality/travel industry. Unfortunately we cannot report any substantial progress in the upward mobility of African-Americans since we last examined the ranks of CVBs in 2008.

When you consider that there are nearly 500 CVBs throughout the U.S., and we can only identify 26 candidates to fill the next opening at the president/CEO level (down from 33 in 2008), this does not speak very well about the depth of our industry’s commitment to the concept of diversity and inclusion. Add this to the fact that currently there are only seven CVBs in the nation headed by African-American presidents/CEOs (up from six in 2008), and the picture becomes even clearer. There is, to put it mildly, much more work to be done. Of course, we realize there are certainly more qualified Blacks out there in our industry that have not as yet come to our attention. Still, it’s not encouraging.

As we have reiterated in the past, this recurring feature is our effort to head off the use of that tired old phrase “We’d love to consider an African-American for this position, but we can’t find a qualified Black person to hire.” This cadre of eminently qualified, highly skilled and experienced hospitality industry professionals is ready, willing and able to take on the responsibilities of a convention and visitors bureau president/CEO should the opportunity present itself.

The list that follows is only the tip of the iceberg. It does not even include former bureau heads like Leslie Doggett (Baltimore Area CVA), Ron Davis (Oakland CVB), or Brenda Scott, the industry’s first African-American female to head a convention and visitors bureau in the nation (Mobile), all of whom have a proven track record and whose wealth of expertise would be an asset to any organization. Suffice it to say that there are many, many African-Americans and other people of color, who based on their qualifications, deserve to be considered for heading a CVB when an opening occurs.



LARRY ATCHISON
serves as associate director of Convention Sales for the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). Atchison has represented the ACVB for 20 years and oversaw Albuquerque’s sales activities in Washington, DC from 2003 - 2006. Atchison is a 32-year veteran of the hospitality and meeting industry, working for the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau and Budget Rent a Car Systems of New Mexico.



CLEO BATTLE
was appointed executive vice president of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau in January 2013. Battle’s responsibilities include developing relationships with clients in Washington and Chicago, representing the Louisville Bureau at industry tradeshows and conferences and providing strategic leadership and oversight of the Bureau in all aspects of its fiscal and daily operation.

Battle has worked in the hospitality industry for 27 years. Prior to coming to the Louisville Bureau, Battle spent the last 12 years as vice president of Sales & Services for the Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau in Richmond, VA. He also held the positions of director of Sales and sales manager at the Richmond CVB. Battle began his hospitality career in the hotel industry working for Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn and Sheraton Hotels.



STEPHANIE MAYS BOYD
has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She currently serves as a member of the Senior Management team as vice president of Sales, Marketing and Convention Services at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority (PCCA). In this role, Boyd is responsible for managing day-to-day operations for the short term sales team to produce meetings and conventions, and oversee the operations of the Center’s Concierge and Convention Services Departments. She is also responsible for managing the marketing and advertising efforts for the Authority.

A native of Macon, Georgia; Boyd started her career path at the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau in 1990 as a convention marketing representative. There she was very active within the community serving on various boards; Boys and Girls Club of Central Georgia, Macon Arts Alliance, Society of Government Meeting Planners, and a graduate of Leadership Macon.



RONNIE BURT
, a seasoned sales and marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry, serves as vice president of Sales and Services for Destination DC. In this role, Burt oversees a team of 25 people that include leading strategic sales and service efforts and housing and business development for the nation’s capital and its growing convention facilities. Specialties: Sales driven, customer focused, consensus and relationship builder.



DVORAH A. EVANS, CMP, CMM, CTA,
heads the Conventions, Tourism & Special Events Department for the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, which at 88 years and over 2,000 members is the oldest and largest Black chamber of commerce in the nation. Evans works to bring more minority conventions and tourists to Dallas with a focus on increased economic opportunities for the community. She is also in charge of the planning and implementation of all of the chamber’s major meetings and events.

Evans has been active in the meetings industry for nearly 20 years, holds membership in several industry associations, has written/contributed to articles for national publications and has served as a speaker at top conventions around the world. Her past leadership roles include two terms on the MPI International Board of Directors, ASAE Diversity Executive Leadership Scholar (first from Texas), countless business/association boards and committees and is a recipient of the Black Meetings and Tourism magazine APEX Award for Distinguished Service in the advancement of the meetings industry.



MICHAEL D. GUNN, CMP, serves as vice president of Convention Sales for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. With more than 30 years of industry experience, Gunn is responsible for the operation of the convention sales staff in booking state, regional, national and international convention business for the Birmingham area. He supervises a staff of 15 sales and administrative professionals.

In addition to his supervisory responsibilities, Gunn oversees a multimillion dollar budget for the convention sales department and compiles monthly, quarterly and annual sales and marketing business plans. He also directs placement and media buys for the CVB’s million dollar advertising budget.

Gunn is a member of the board of directors of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and serves on the board of Certified Meeting Professionals. He is a past member of the Destination Marketing Association’s International Foundation Board.



SARA B. HAMLIN
has been in the tourism industry for more than 20 years. She has been vice president of Tourism for the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau for nine years.
Hamlin is responsible for promoting and booking motor coach business, family reunions, implementation of the tourism division’s marketing plan and budget for the greater Birmingham area. She also supervises the operations of three Birmingham area visitor centers.

Hamlin serves on the Board of the American Bus Association. Hamlin serves on the Board of Governors of ABA Foundation. She is involved in the following organizations: Destination Marketing Association International, Bank Travel, National Tour Association, Ontario Motorcoach Association, African-American Travel Conference, YWCA, and The Women Network.



AL HUTCHINSON serves as vice president of Convention Sales & Marketing at the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. Passionate about winning, Hutchinson’s focus is bringing together a group of people willing to sacrifice individual goals to achieve success as a team. He is especially motivated to showcase how Virginia Beach can be the right destination for any meeting. He leads the Virginia Beach team with a strong vision for excellence.

An active industry leader locally and nationally, Hutchinson has been a long-time member of Destination Marketing Association International, the American Society of Association Executives, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, the Professional Convention Management Association and Meeting Professionals International. A graduate of the University of Alabama - “Roll Tide” Hutchinson has over 20 years of hospitality industry experience in hotel and CVB sales leadership positions. He is a 2008 APEX Award for Distinguished Service recipient, presented by Black Meetings & Tourism magazine and was recognized by the publication in 2011 and 2012 as one of most influential African-Americans in the industry.



JAMES JESSIE
is the senior vice president of Sales at the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, where his responsibilities include overseeing the daily operations of the CVB’s 20-person sales team and guiding the agency’s sales efforts for the Phoenix Convention Center. An 18-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Jessie has also held positions with the Lane County Oregon CVA and the Portland Oregon Visitors Association. He began his tenure at the Greater Phoenix CVB as a sales manager in 1999. Jessie serves on the board of directors for the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission and the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce.



CHARLES JEFFERS
, senior vice president of operations and executive director for East Point, sales and marketing of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB), is leading the partnership between ACVB and the City of East Point. Jeffers oversees the destination sales and marketing for East Point to boost hotel demand and visitation for the city.



CONNIE W. KINNARD
is the senior vice president of Multicultural Sales & Development for the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Kinnard’s career has evolved with the NCVB for 17 years where she heads the organization’s increased efforts in marketing and securing large multicultural conventions. Her responsibilities also include creating multicultural marketing programs involving special events, community development, product development, membership and general diversity marketing for the city. She is a current board of trustee with the Destination & Travel Foundation International, National Museum of African American Music, and is involved with many other professional, civic and service organizations. Kinnard is a recipient of many awards and accolades to include the APEX Distinguished Service Award by Black Meetings and Tourism magazine and the NELA (Nashville Emerging Leader Award). Lastly, Kinnard recently graduated from Leadership Nashville.



NOELLE C. LEVEAUX has been appointed as the new senior vice president and chief marketing officer (CMO) for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau (Dallas CVB). LeVeaux is responsible for planning and executing a complete Public Relations and Marketing program as well as developing and managing a new brand strategy for the bureau. She will report to Dallas CVB President /CEO Phillip Jones and serve as the liaison to the marketing committee, chaired by Bob Moore, former chief sales officer at Freeman Companies.

Prior to joining the Bureau staff, LeVeaux served as interim vice president and senior director of Public Affairs for Children's Medical Center in Dallas where she was responsible for advertising, media relations, brand and clinical marketing, marketing events, web marketing and emerging strategies.



ROBIN A. MCCLAIN has been appointed vice president of Marketing and Communications for Destination DC. A seasoned travel marketing professional, McClain has led the marketing team over the last six months as the interim vice president of Marketing and Communications. In May 2011, McClain joined Destination DC as the director of Communications, after moving from Los Angeles where she worked for LA INC. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau (now LA Tourism) for several years as the senior director of Media Relations.

In her role as director of Communications at Destination DC, McClain has been instrumental in gaining publicity about the changing landscape of Washington, DC as a leisure and convention destination, highlighting the $8.5 billion worth of development currently underway in the city and the $4.8 billion economic impact of tourism on the District. In her Post McClain will oversee the marketing and communications team, a staff of twelve.



MICHAEL D. MUNN was appointed chief of staff and director of Business Development for the Boston Convention Marketing Center (BCMC) in the spring of 2004 by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. Munnl is responsible for financial business management and developing programs in support of the BCMC and implementing diversity initiatives that focus on Boston's multicultural and multinational qualities.

During his 25-plus years in the Meetings and Conventions industry, he has held positions with the National Managed Health Care Congress; vice president of Sponsorship Programs, International Data Group (IDG); show director for ComNET DC and ComNET San Francisco and international sales director at MecklerMedia – producer of the Internet World Events.

In 2010, he was selected as a recipient of the Black Meetings & Tourism magazine’s Tenth Annual APEX DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD, presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their particular field of endeavor that have positively impacted travel and tourism, and was recognized this year as a Tourism Executive of Distinction for 2013 from the African Diaspora World Tourism Awards.



LAURIE NELSON-CHOICE joined Visit Baltimore in May 2010 as director of Diversity and National Sales. Her focus is on developing the multicultural convention market for the city of Baltimore, as well as working with select association and government organizations in the Washington, DC area. Prior to Visit Baltimore, Nelson-Choice worked with VISIT Milwaukee for over 10 years as director of Eastern Regional Sales in Washington, DC. Nelson-Choice has a BS in Communications from Ohio University and is a founding member of two industry organizations: Just Because – a networking group for meeting planners of color in the Washington, DC hospitality industry and the Network of Latino Meeting Professionals, a non-profit industry organization for Hispanic meeting planners.



WANDA PAUL is senior vice president of Finance and Administration for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. Paul’s responsibilities include administration of the Bureau’s $15 million budget; oversight of all financial operations and technological improvements. She oversees administration for 64 full time employees and the coordination of all office purchasing, administrative and legal matters.\ Paul is the recipient of numerous awards and serves on various civic boards over the last 30 years.



MICHELE PONDEXTER joined the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau-Choose Chicago in September of 2012 as director of Diversity Sales. A proud native of Chicago, Pondexter knows the city well and appreciates its rich culture and diversity. Her mission is to ensure that groups have a great experience during their stay and that they leave Chicago truly understanding why she is so proud of Chicago and that they too will love the city so much that they return again and again.

Pondexter’s career path in the hospitality and tourism industry began a few years after college. She has spent many years on the sales teams of several great hospitality organizations, all of them in Chicago. Those companies included: The Ambassador West, Choice Hotels, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and Intercontinental Hotels Group holding positions as sales manager, senior sales manager and director of sales.



AVA POPE serves as director of sales for the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. A long term veteran of the hospitality industry, Pope has held her current position at the bureau for over 20 years. Pope’s duties/responsibilities include (but are not limiteded to): managing, assisting and training five sales managers and three sales assistants; implementing a strategic sales/marketing plan each fiscal year; creating and maintaining a complex budget annually; servicing key accounts; and participating in and attending various conferences, meetings and tradeshows.



CHERYL RICHARDS serves as senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO) for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau (Dallas CVB). The 24-year Bureau veteran creates and implements a strategic plan to elevate the DCVB as a leader in diversity and inclusion at the local, national and international levels. She reports to Dallas CVB President and CEO Phillip Jones and serve as the liaison to the newly formed Diversity & Inclusion Ad-hoc committee, chaired by Monica R. Alonzo, Councilmember, City of Dallas.

Richards most recently served as Dallas CVB’s vice president of Strategic Alliances responsible for establishing the membership sales and service standard for the bureau, overseeing corporate partnerships, member-based publications and daily operations of the member services department.



PEGGY B. RILEY is director of Multicultural Sales for the Greater Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau and is a Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME). She has been with the Bureau for 18 years.

Her responsibilities include: assisting with the solicitation of minority conventions, meetings and group tourism; minority marketing and community affairs, enhancing employment opportunities within the convention and tourism industry for minorities; and providing access to the lucrative travel, meetings, conventions and tradeshow market for minority-owned businesses.

Riley received her B.A. degree in Communications from the University of Louisville, her Kentucky Tourism Certification from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY and her CDME from Destination Marketing Association International.

She is a member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners; The International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Bates Memorial Baptist Church, Louisville, KY.



JOHN ROLFE
was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. Since March 2012, John has served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau (GHCVB). Before joining GHCVB, John was the CEO and President of Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau. He also has served as the Vice President of Economic Development for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and as Deputy Secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce. During his eighteen years in the hospitality industry, he has served as Director of Finance and Administration at both the Wichita and San Jose (CA) Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Rolfe is a graduate of Wichita State University, Wichita, KS, holding a bachelor’s degree in business administration and has been involved with various boards and civic organizations. He currently serves as a Board of Director for the Texas Travel Industry Association and Destination Marketing Association International.



GARY SIMON joined the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau in 1996. In 2001 he was named director of the newly created Multicultural Affairs department. The department’s goal is to work with multicultural and ethnic based associations and organizations to drive convention and meeting business to Sacramento. Also in 2001, Simon’s department coordinated Sacramento’s first Juneteenth Festival – a celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The festival has become a staple community event, drawing more than 10,000 people annually.

Simon is committed to promoting the diversity and cultural heritage of the Sacramento region. His work includes establishing partnerships with local organizations to promote culture and civic awareness, including Native American Day, Pacific Rim Festival, MLK Celebration, Black Expo, Festival De La Familia, Juneteenth Festival, Chinese New year, Russian American Festival, Hmong New Year and the Chinese Mall Celebration to name a few.



ZITA STEGLICH-ROSS serves as director of Convention Sales at Visit Orlando, where she is responsible for the organization’s day-to-day sales operations. Steglich-Ross, a Certified Meeting Professional, works closely with a 30-person sales and support team on all aspects of the sales process for Visit Orlando, the No. 1 most visited destination in the U.S. She also sits on the boards of the American Diabetes Association of Central Florida and the Florida Hall of Fame Highwaymen Artist, Inc. In addition to her community involvement, she is also a member of numerous key industry organizations such as the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, Meeting Professionals International and the Professional Convention Management Association. Previously, she has served as a committee member of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida, both the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences and as a board member for the Urban League of Central Florida. Her commitment and passion to sales and marketing are seen in her numerous accolades throughout her 30 year career.



CALVIN TAYLOR is vice president of Government Relations for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he works closely with state government, city officials and the local hospitality industry in Memphis in enhancing the development and growth of Memphis tourism. In addition he serves as the bureau's director of the Memphis tourism education foundation, which administers the city's official hospitality tourism training program.

Taylor is co-founder of the Beale street development corporation, the organization that reintroduced the historic district as a tourist destination. He also worked as publicity director at Southland Racing Corporation, the southeast's largest pari-mutuel waging center. Additionally he is a member of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and is a past chairman of the Tennessee Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Besides being a major player in the state's tourism industry for many years, he has also served the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable (TTR) faithfully as a board member, TTR Government Relations Committee member and chair, and chair of the annual TTR salute to the legislature. Last year he served as chair of TTR after serving as vice-chair during 2010.

Taylor was named as the recipient of the 2010 Tennessee Tourism Roundtable Knight of the Roundtable Award, an award given in recognition of an individual for their outstanding contributions of leadership, service, and professionalism to the Tennessee tourism industry and for their involvement with and service to the Tennessee tourism.



ALBERT TUCKER serves as vice president of Multicultural Business Development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB), where he is focused on ensuring that organizations and families of diverse backgrounds select Greater Fort Lauderdale as the destination of choice for conferences and family reunions. It is Tucker’s vision to expose ethnically diverse individuals and groups to Greater Fort Lauderdale so that GFL becomes the destination of choice for individuals of color.

Over the past 4 years Greater Fort Lauderdale has been a magnet for Family Reunions, where that segment of the market has increased by more than 45%. Group business has expanded in a major way and the destination is primed to welcome prestigious organizations such as the American Tennis Association (ATA) 2013, Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) 2014, National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) 2014, 100 Black Men of America in 2014, and the National Urban League (NUL) in 2015.



FLOYD WILLIAMS, JR., CMP, serves as director of National Accounts and Tradeshows for the Jackson (MS) Convention & Visitors Bureau. Williams’ professional work includes organizations such as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, NAACP, National Conference of Black Mayors, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Society of Black Academic Surgeons, The National Black Caucus of State Legislators and The USSSA Black American World Series.

He serves on the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated Time & Place committee to project future locations for the biennial national convention and the fraternity’s involvement with the Congressional Black Caucus activities. He serves in a similar capacity on the district and regional levels.

Williams is active in the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Leadership Jackson Alumni Association and Jackson State National Alumni Association; he currently serves as a board chair for Our Community Salutes of Mississippi and the Alpha Foundation.



AHMEENAH YOUNG, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, leads the development of policies supporting a customer-focused experience. She oversaw a $786 million expansion, ahead of schedule and under budget, with a women- and minority-owned business participation rate of 32%. Young managed Philadelphia’s Independence Visitor Center Corp. and she sits on the boards of Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Wawa Welcome America!; Hahnemann University Hospital; Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality; and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
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