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AH&LA Honors Ten Hotel Employees at
Annual Stars of the Industry Awards

Randall Williams First Recipient of the Stevan Porter Emerging
Hospitality Leader of the Year Award
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 Chicago, Illinois, June 24, 2009— At today’s American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) Stars of the Industry Awards luncheon, 10 hotel employees were honored for their exceptional accomplishments, service, and leadership in the lodging industry. 

The ceremony at the association’s Summer Summit at the Hilton Chicago included the debut of the new Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year Award, honoring an outstanding member of AH&LA’s Under 30 Gateway and late industry icon Stevan Porter, former president of the Americas for the InterContinental Hotels Group.  Annual awards were also presented to Outstanding Lodging Employees, Managers, and General Managers in three property size categories.

The creation of the Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year Award coincided with the launch of AH&LA’s membership initiative for young professionals on July 1, 2008 and Porter’s untimely death.  As a testament to his long list of accomplishments, the award recognizes a young member who exemplifies the same traits Steve embodied: superior dedication to improving the industry, leadership, fresh personal and professional perspectives, and a devotion to community service.  The first recipient, Randall Williams, Tampa-based area general manager for the Roberts Hotels Group, made history not only as the first honoree, but also as the individual who received more nominations than anyone else in Stars of the Industry history. Twenty-three people nominated him, describing him with praise including, “unquestionably serious about career growth in hotel management,” “the epitome of a gentleman and a hospitality professional,” and one who has “implemented a family-oriented concept to running daily hotel operations.”  Williams has been influential on the Under 30 Council and the Multicultural Diversity Advisory Council, also serving as one of the judges of the annual Prism award for diversity.

The Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year award winners are: 

  • Victor Medrano, Best Western Westchase Mini-Suites, in Houston, Texas; 
  • Shareef Smith, Courtyard by Marriott – Downtown Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and 
  • Edmund “Buster” Civerolo, Jr., Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Honolulu, Hawaii. 
Victor Medrano, winner in the small property category (100 rooms or less), works as the director of maintenance and housekeeping and has never once called in sick during his nine and a half years with the property.  He acts as the driving force behind the property’s Zero Complaint policy, and reacts quickly and positively to address the needs of guests and colleagues, and has been influential in the property’s designation for various customer service awards.  Originally from El Salvador, Medrano also makes a point to assist other immigrants in his community by introducing them to career options in the hospitality industry. 

Shareef Smith, winner in the medium property category (101 – 300 rooms), has been the welcoming face of his property for two years as a front desk agent.  His high caliber service skills and genuine care for the guest has yielded countless positive customer notes and an 88.7 percent satisfaction score for overall guest service.  Smith’s attentiveness and proactive attitude has yielded additional sales leads and revenue for the hotel.  He is also actively engaged in employee community service initiatives.

Edmund Civerolo has dedicated thirty years to the industry, and truly embodies the definition of hospitality.  Winner in the large property category (301 rooms or more), he has been deemed the “Ambassador of Aloha” for his work as bell help based on his enthusiastic and service-oriented attitude.  Whether it’s teaching guests to surf on his days off or staying in touch with repeat guests via letters, Buster makes personalizing every guest’s stay his priority.  His positive outlook and desire to serve has earned him various recognitions over the years, and his humble and contagiously optimistic personality has made him an asset to the resort. 

This year’s Outstanding Manager of the Year award winners are 

  • Michelle Thom, The Historic Strater Hotel, Durango, Colorado; 
  • Thomas Kopaczynski, Best Western Inn at Longwood Medical  Boston, Boston, Massachusetts; 
  • Terry Jenkins, Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center, Seattle, Washington.
 Michelle Thom, winner in the small property category (100 rooms or less), is the director of operations for the property, but more affectionately referred to by her employees as their “Strater Mommy.”  When she began working at the property in 2006 as the administrative assistant to the CEO, her superiors say she truly breathed new life into the 120-year old property, bringing it into the 21st century in ways no other administrative assistant would be expected to.  She implemented fresh business strategies, improved employee communications and morale, and kept a cool head during times of crisis, earning her rapid progression to the hotel director of operations position. 

Thomas Kopaczynski, winner in the medium property category and director of human resources at his property, has organized many charitable initiatives for his employees to give back to the local community.  He retrained the staff to think about their ecological impact when he started “The Inn Goes Green” program; spearheaded the hotel’s second annual Thanksgiving food drive and single-handedly unloaded canned goods and 30 turkeys; and directed the Best Western brand’s “I Care Program” in both English and Spanish at the hotel.  Since he took his post, the Inn’s customer satisfaction scores have risen. 

Terry Jenkins, this year’s winner in the large property category, has made a positive impact on her property’s employees as assistant director of human resources in just 15 short months.  On the job, Terry is always willing to lend a hand regardless of what she has to do, assisting employees in their array of daily tasks.  She also developed a “Five Points of Service” initiative to aid in each employee’s service training.  Her genuine care for the hotel’s employees extends beyond the property walls, as Terry has supported her colleagues during difficult personal crises.

Additionally, the Outstanding General Manager of the Year award winners are 

  • Bill Rodasky, Arctic Caribou Inn, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; 
  • Andrea Anderson, Courtyard by Marriott – Downtown Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee;
  • Jim Durbin, San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, California. 
Bill Rodasky, who earned this honor in the small property category, has worked tirelessly to turn an aged, marginally viable hotel into the 2008 Alaska Hotel and Lodging Association Property of the Year.  Located in a relatively isolated area of Alaska that sees temperatures between 80 degrees below zero to 80 above zero, Rodasky signed on as general manager at a time when this 30-year old building was in need of serious help.  He assumed the role of maintenance project manager, implemented a number of large projects, and reduced the need for outside capital funding by more than $800,000.  Bill also created several employee programs including one to bring in native Alaskans via aircraft, thus stimulating the local job market.  For the Inn’s customers, Bill reorganized existing relationships with partners like Holland America and Princess Tours that increased revenues and also guest satisfaction scores. 

It’s been said that Andrea Anderson, who earned the medium property honor, has “her heart in every corner and on every floor of the hotel.”   A general manager for four years, she’s introduced a unique family-oriented leadership style that has lead to a decrease in employee turnover by 67 percent, along with a zero percent turnover rate for the front desk team.  She’s also established herself as a pillar of the local Chattanooga community by being involved with several local organizations and fundraisers, even earning the property the Marriott Community Service Hotel of the Year.  She also earned the Marriott’s Diamond General Manager of the Year honor in 2008.

Jim Durbin, winner in the large property category, believes that if you treat employees in a sincere, caring way, they will pass on this positive attitude toward every guest they encounter.  He makes sure he has one-on-one interaction with every single hotel employee, has revised policies, and facilitated a cultivating work environment.  Under his leadership, the property is in the top 10 percent of all Marriott’s 346 hotels nationwide in terms of overall guest satisfaction, and in the top 15 percent for associate satisfaction. 

Many of AH&LA’s partner state associations choose their own employee award winners, which are submitted to the association for national judging.  This year’s national judges are Stefani C. O’Connor, executive editor of Hotel Business magazine; Stephanie Ricca, editor in chief of Hotel & Motel Management magazine; and Ed Watkins, editor of Lodging Hospitality magazine.  The awards ceremony was sponsored by U.S. Foodservice.

For more information on AH&LA’s Stars of the Industry Awards program and a complete list of employee and property winners, please visit www.ahla.com/stars.  To contact any of the Stars of the Industry winners, contact Jessica Soklow, AH&LA manager of media relations, at (202) 289-3153 or jsoklow@ahla.com. 

Serving the hospitality industry for nearly a century, AH&LA is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added services to provide bottom line savings and ensure a positive business climate for the lodging industry. Partner state associations provide local representation and additional cost-saving benefits to members.

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Contact
Jessica Soklow 
(jsoklow@ahla.com
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Also See: American Hotel & Lodging Association Recognizes Nine Employees from Across the Country for Dedicated Service and Innovation / June 2008
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