People News: Huntington Place, The Toy Association, Freeman and More Appoint New Leadership, Welcome Staff 

January 24, 2022

The year 2022 has kicked off with a bang as event-related organizations continue their hiring and promotion frenzy, filling positions and recognizing top-performing staff with more senior titles. Take a look!

Huntington Place 

Becky Bixby has been appointed assistant general manager of Detroit’s Huntington Place (formerly TCF Center). Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) with 29 years of event experience leading teams in customer service training and new technology implementations, she will be responsible for all day-to-day operational aspects of the venue, including ensuring client needs.  

Bixby will assume a key role in helping the venue work towards LEED Platinum certification and in all sustainability initiatives crossing over multiple departments; assessing all emergency response plans and establishing safety and security measures; working toward resolving any client union or staffing concerns; and ensuring all operational departments are on track with their budgets and financial goals for the year. 

Previously, Bixby served as senior manager, client services for Informa Markets, where she oversaw 20 trade shows and more than 20 digital events comprising over $150 million in revenue. Prior to Informa, she held the role of vice president, exhibitor services for Freeman.   

The Toy Association 

The Toy Association has promoted 20-year toy and youth entertainment industry veteran Adrienne Appell to executive vice president of marketing communications. As part of the association’s executive management team, Appell is responsible for the development, implementation and oversight of the organization’s communications strategies, key messaging and brand integrity programs.  

Having joined The Toy Association’s communications department in 2004, Appell most recently served as senior vice president of marketing communications, leading the organization’s safety, advocacy and toy trends communication programs while maintaining close contact with toy companies to stay abreast of what’s new, next and cutting-edge in toys and games.  

Prior to joining The Toy Association, Appell worked in the corporate communications division of Scholastic, Inc., beginning her career at global public relations agency Weber Shandwick. 


Freeman has tapped Alan Grottle as its new CFO, responsible for leading its finance organization focused on accounting, financial planning, tax, treasury and business analysis. He brings a background of strong financial planning and leadership experience to his new role.

Prior to joining Freeman, Grottle served as CFO of full-service food supply chain provider National DCP (NDCP), where he lead a team of nearly 100 focused on finance, inventory control and IT, and oversaw logistics for 9,500 stores, a network of nine distribution centers and a fleet of 500 trucks.  

Destinations International  

Jane Cunningham is joining Destinations International as the director of European engagement, effective Jan. 24. Residing in Stockholm, Sweden, she will be responsible for overseeing and developing a long-term engagement strategy for European destination organizations.

Cunningham boasts extensive global experience across the meetings and events industry, including 20 years of experience working at hotels, a convention center, a destination marketing organization and a professional conference organization. Most recently, she held the director of community engagement position at BestCities Global Alliance. 

Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp

As part of its recent leadership restructure, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp (NCVC) has made several senior level promotions and added a new marketing lead to its team.

Deana Ivey has been elevated to president of the organization, with Butch Spyridon retaining the title of CEO. Ivey, who has been with the organization since 1997, previously served as executive vice president and chief marketing officer, while Spyridon has held the dual title of president and CEO since 1991. 

Twenty-year CVB marketing veteran Scott Schult has assumed Ivey’s former role of CMO. He comes to the NCVC after spending 12 years as executive vice president of marketing for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and nine years with the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

Additionally, four additional staff in senior positions have been promoted, including Andrea Arnold, elevated from senior vice president, public affairs to chief public affairs officer; Adrienne Siemers, from senior vice president, sales to chief sales officer; Marie Sueing from senior vice president, diversity and inclusion, to chief diversity officer; and Heather Middleton, from vice president, PR to senior vice president, marketing.

Sodexo Live!  

Sodexo Live! has hired industry veteran Colleen Brzozowski as its new director of venue sales. Bringing more than 25 years of hospitality industry experience to this newly created role, Brzozowski is responsible for driving event bookings for the hospitality company’s extensive venue portfolio. She most recently served as the director of national accounts with ACCESS Destination Services and previously served in high-performing sales functions with KSL Resorts, Krisam Group and the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.  


ASAE has named Debra Zabloudil vice president of learning. She will be responsible for building a learning team to develop and deliver content for some of ASAE’s signature events and new initiatives, working with the ASAE leadership team and volunteers to create a balance of in-person and digital learning for ASAE’s market.  

Zabloudil brings deep experience in learning and instructional design to her new role, including leading educational consulting firm The Learning Studio for the past 17 years. During her years serving clients in the association space, she provided expert advice in education strategy, offered a catalog of leadership and management courses for associations and designed programming for clients across the world. 

Prior to launching The Learning Studio, Zabloudil served in a number of senior learning positions with the Association Forum, The Joint Commission and the American College of Healthcare Executives. 

Los Angeles Convention Center

The Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) has promoted Ben Zarhoud from vice president of finance to assistant general manager. Zarhoud joined the facility in 2018 with a background in accounting and finance management, and prior to joining the downtown Los Angeles facility, spent six years in senior management at AEG and AXS Group and six years at Deloitte & Touche.

Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau (PWCVB) has recently announced the appointment of a new board member and two staff promotions. 

Chris Marsella, president of Marsella Development Corporation, has been appointed to the PWCVB board of directors. He brings more than 20 years of experience in real estate investment and development and has long been active in the downtown community, serving on the boards of the Providence Foundation and the Providence Preservation Society for nearly two decades.

Additionally, 30-year hospitality industry veteran Anissa Ladd has been named director of sales after serving as director of national accounts since joining the PWCVB in 2018, while Jonathan Walker has been promoted to sports sales manager within the RI Sports Commission (RISC). He brings more than eight years of experience in the Rhode Island hospitality and sports markets and most recently served in a coordinator role since joining the RISC in 2019. 

MSM Inc.

Live and digital experience agency MSM Inc. has promoted Gary Collins to vice president of operational excellence. In addition to his previous responsibilities as director of operations, Gary now oversees quality managementas well as the agency’s procurement and project management departments.

Since beginning his career with MSM nearly 17 years ago in the warehouse, where he focused on shipping and receiving, including inventory control and barcode management, Collins has gained invaluable experience in multiple departments including procurement, production, project management and operations. 

Owensboro Convention Center 

Spectra, provider of venue management to the Owensboro Convention Center in Owensboro, Ky., recently made several staff promotions and welcomed new members to its team. They include:

·      Josh Gann as the new director of sales, who brings more than 20 years of sales experience10 of them in a sales leadership roleto the team. 

·      J.T. Pedley, returning to the facility as senior sales manager. He previously worked in the convention center’s sales department for four years before moving to Townsquare Media. 

·      Kaitlyn Alvey, as social sales manager, responsible for working with the facility’s party and weddings business. She recently graduated from Brescia University with a Bachelor’s Degree in business. 

·      Jerry Jeffries, tapped as the new operations manager. He comes to the convention center from Franklin, Tenn., where he was the director of facilities for a wedding venue and an amphitheater. 

·      Lexi Lundy, joining the team as event coordinator. She obtained her degree at Murray State University in nonprofit leadership management, specializing in special event planning. 

·      Rena Hamilton, promoted to banquet manager. She began working at the convention center as the team leader with a non-profit organization and later as a part-time bartender.  


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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