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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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact