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Tom Pugh, GM of Chattanooga's Marriott, Elected President
 of the Greater Chattanooga Lodging Association
By Bob Gary Jr., Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Dec. 15, 2005 - People who feel like they never leave their workplaces have nothing on Tom Pugh.

The general manager of downtown Chattanooga's Marriott hotel may depart his workplace at day's end for a run or a workout, but he always returns. Until his family moves from Austin, Texas, he's living at his hotel and, therefore, extraordinarily prone to the occasional after-hours interruption.

"There have been a couple of times when it's been good that I was right here," he said, "but our people are a lot smarter than I am. They generally have things taken care of before it comes to involving me."

In his second year at the downtown Marriott, Mr. Pugh is set to take over next month as president of the Greater Chattanooga Lodging Association. His predecessor in that position, Bill Mish, said the association could go "to the next level" under Mr. Pugh.

"What I've seen is that he's the consummate professional, through and through," said Mr. Mish, director of operations for the Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality Group.

"He participates in our board meetings, and when he expresses an opinion, everyone stops and listens. He's a very welcome addition to the community," Mr. Mish said.

Mr. Pugh said he likes what he's seen of the association.

"One strength of this organization is its very high level of involvement," he said. "We have 34 hotel members and 30-plus associate members, such as vendors and suppliers.

"That's a very high level of membership for an organization this size, and I want to raise awareness of our association in the community," he said.

A Tulsa, Okla., native, Mr. Pugh said he's spent the biggest chunk of his 30 years in the hotel business with the Shaner Hotel Group, which owns the downtown Marriott. He said he spent four years as a regional vice president in the chain's Austin office but left to run a hotel in Shreveport, La.

"Technically, that's a rung down on the organizational chart," he said, "but in terms of job enjoyment, it was about three rungs up for me.

"When I was in an office, I really missed the contact with associates and guests that you have at a property. That's much more gratifying for my personality. I have no plans to go back to the corporate level," he said.

Mr. Pugh said he'd been to Chattanooga twice prior to taking the Marriott job. In late 1997, he said, he could see downtown beginning to take shape. When he returned three years later, he said, downtown had grown significantly.

The city dazzled him again when he came to stay last year.

"Chattanooga is so far ahead of the curve for a city its size," he said. "I recently spoke with a colleague from Knoxville who said he was envious of the vision in this city and the ability of its public and private sectors to work together to make happen what's happened here."


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