People News: Freeman, PCMA, Clarion UX and More Make Hires

April 3, 2019
Robert Haas

Companies within the events and tourism world continued with a flurry of hires in March, showing the economy and outlook for the industry looks strong.

Freeman has named a new president: Phil Molyneux, a technology engineer with deep experience driving major consumer brands like Sony and Dyson, succeeds Bob Priest-Heck, who is now CEO of Freeman. In addition, Carrie Freeman Parsons, granddaughter of Freeman founder Buck Freeman, will succeed her father Don Freeman as the next chair of the company. She’s been involved with the business since 1985. Following her transition, her father will become chairman emeritus later this year.

Phil Molyneux
Phil Molyneux

Robert Haas has been appointed chief administrative officer for PCMA, the first time this position has existed within the organization. Most recently chief innovation officer for PCMA, he will now oversee the IT, human resources, data and finance departments. In addition, Delores Hudson has been promoted to vice president of finance from her previous role as director of finance with the organization, where she will oversee financial infrastructure and accountability.

In March, experiential marketing agency Access TCA promoted Bill Smith to executive creative director. Smith, who’s been with the company for almost two years, is based in San Francisco and has significant expertise in interactive technologies, lighting, AV and communications.

Kevin O’Rourke has been hired as executive vice president of global sales for events marketing platform RainFocus, following a $40 million investment in the company from JIM Equity. O’Rourke will focus on driving sales strategy as well as expansion into new markets.

NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization and CVB for New York City, promoted Jerry Cito to executive vice president of convention development from his previous role as senior vice president over the same division. He’s been with the company since 2001. The organization also hired Laura Petrower as sales manager for convention development. She will focus on bookings from the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions as well as New York City for groups requiring 10-150 room nights on peak. 

Jerry Cito
Jerry Cito

MaryBeth DeWitt has been promoted to senior vice president of operations for North America for Clarion UX, which produces and manages more than 40 trade and consumer events. DeWitt brings 17 years of leadership experience to her new position and will oversee all of Clarion UX’s North American events, as well as events for North America Energy Group.

Tori Barnes is now executive vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association, following the departure of Jonathan Grella. Barnes was previously senior vice president of government relations for the organization. In her new role, she’ll oversee government relations, communications, research, marketing and grassroots/PAC departments.

National Association of Convenience Stores welcomed Suzanne George as meetings and events manager in March. She previously served as an industry consultant for meetings and events for organizations such as Plastics Industry Association and National Association of Broadcasters.

Cincinnati USA CVB had several announcements regarding its diversity and sales inclusion initiatives last month. Jenell Walton, an accomplished broadcast journalist, was hired as vice president of communications and strategic development, completing the significant reorganization of the leadership team at the CVB. In addition, Portia Alyce Lawrence was named national manager of diversity sales; Nyirah Jackson’s role was expanded to diversity sales and inclusion program specialist; and Chaka Buraimoh was named diversity sales and inclusion department coordinator.

Jenell Walton
Jenell Walton 

Johnnie White will take over as executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Appraisers on April 15. He was previously senior director of global education, meetings and strategic partnerships at the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery.

ANSA Productions, producers of the Los Angeles Auto Show, announced one promotion and two new hires in March. Terri Toennies, previously executive vice president and general manager with ANSA, is now president of the organization. She will continue her efforts leading the LA Auto Show and AutoMobility LA. In addition, Elly McCloud is now vice president of marketing and communications for both shows, and Maureen McGrath has been hired as vice president of sales and partner relationships.

Former FBI agent Todd Temple began his new role as director of public safety and guest services for San Diego Convention Center Corporation this week. A 22-year FBI veteran, he has managed crisis response teams and was responsible for large-scale special events around the city of San Diego.

Oklahoma City CVB has expanded its team by two. Alyssa Baier, previously marketing manager for Six Flags theme parks, is now digital marketing manager, overseeing the bureau’s website and assisting in digital marketing efforts. Caroline Roach, most recently an account executive with Oklahoma Media Company, has joined as social media marketing coordinator and will be promoting the city across all the CVB’s social media platforms.

Charae Foust has joined the senior corporate leadership team at HelmsBriscoe as vice president. With 17 years’ experience with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, she most recently served as a senior regional director of sales. In her new position, she’ll provide leadership support, strategic direction and guidance for HelmsBriscoe associates and clients.

Event registration technology company Eventcore has hired David Beckett as senior vice president of professional services. Joining the team in 2018 in an advisory capacity, Beckett is now in a full-time role that will involve overseeing the overall quality of service delivery with Eventcore’s partners and clients.

Mary Bender
Mary Bender

Mary Bender is now vice president of sales and corporate operations for Taffy Event Strategies, an Arlington, Va.-based full-service trade show management firm. In her new role, she’ll oversee sales activities and collaborate with the leadership to streamline corporate processes and promote growth. She was most recently with U.S. Boat Shows, a division of Informa Exhibitions. 

Live events services provider GES has appointed Patrick Lukan to senior vice president and general manager of GES Canada. He was previously COO of GES Middle East in Dubai. In his new role, based in Toronto, he will focus on accelerating growth of the Canadian market for the company.

Patrick Lukan
Patrick Lukan

Louisville Tourism promoted Jordan Skora to marketing communications manager from his previous role as marketing communications assistant. Darlene Starks, who has 19 years of experience with the bureau’s convention development department, filled his vacant former position.

DuPage CVB in Oakbrook, Ill., hired Dee Dee McDevitt as content marketing manager. Her primary focus will be working with the CVB’s leadership team on development, management and execution of its marketing strategy across all media and marketing channels.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.