People News: New CEOs for Global DMC Partners, San Diego Tourism and More

February 24, 2020

The latest round of people announcements is all about girl power. Check out the latest promotions, new hires and appointments of (mostly) women across the industry this month: 

Catherine Chaulet is now president and CEO of Global DMC Partners, a network of independently owned destination management companies. Serving as president of the company for six years, her promotion to CEO came as a result of her strong leadership skills. 

Julie Coker, president and CEO of Philadelphia CVB, will depart from her role in March to take on a new position as president and CEO of San Diego Tourism Authority. She has been with Philadelphia CVB since 2016.


Destinations International has hired Gail Mutnik for a newly created position of director of meetings within the organization. She will begin on March 19 and brings more than three decades of experience to her new role.

Sonia Fong has been named vice president of convention sales for the Greater Miami CVB. She’s been with the organization for 20 years, and her main focus will continue to be selling the Miami Beach Convention Center for citywides. 

Womenswear trade event COTERIE has appointed Colleen Sherin to lead as president. She was most recently vice president of wholesale at Alexander McQueen. 

Crystal Kennedy is now senior national accounts director at Philadelphia CVB. With 17 years of hotel sales experience, she was most recently associate director of sales at Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas. She’ll be based in Dallas to focus on customers in the Western U.S.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB welcomed Mike Sophia as vice president of sports business development. He’ll oversee efforts to draw professional, collegiate, amateur and recreational sporting events to Broward County.


Karin Gillard has joined CSI DMC as senior account executive. She was most recently director of catering sales at Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas and will be based in Las Vegas for her new role. Also within CSI DMC, Morgan Alexander has been promoted to director of event management in the Chicago office.

Elizabeth Yienger is now a national sales manager at Louisville Tourism, where she is responsible for Northeast sales territories. She’s held previous regional director roles with Hilton and Starwood Hotels in the region.

Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority Board of Directors in Chicago has named Larita Clark, the organization’s previous CFO, as active CEO and CFO. She has been with the Authority since 1984.

In combining its Learnings and Meetings department functions, ASAE has appointed Amy Ledoux as chief learning and meetings officer to oversee this new combined operation. She’s been with ASAE for 15 years and brings 30 years of industry experience to her new role.

Detroit Metro CVB has restructured its leadership organizational structure, promoting four directors to newly created vice president positions: Harriet Carter is now vice president of customer/partner services; Renee Monforton is vice president of marketing and communications; Susan Richardson is vice president of group and convention sales; and Jessica Strasser is vice president of talent resources. 

Exhibition and event services company Fern has hired Mark Shadwick as senior national sales manager. He’ll be based in the Alexandria, Virginia, office and brings more than 30 years of industry experience to his new role.


Kari Morehead has been named special events and partnerships coordinator for New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where she’ll be responsible for coordinating all activities related to special events.

Washington, D.C.-based trade show marketing agency Fixation Marketing has a new hire and two promotions. Sydney Bowker has joined the company as senior account executive, and both Rachel Gellman and Julia Ruxer have been promoted to account manager.

CEDIA Expo, an event for technology within the intelligently built environment, has brought on Ron Trznadel as account executive.

Edmonton, Canada-based event rentals company River City Events has appointed a new general manager, Marnie Gomes. She has more than 25 years of experience in the events industry.

Debbie Megna has joined Travel Costa Mesa as destination sales executive, where she’ll be focused on bringing in new group business to Costa Mesa in Orange County, California.


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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.