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The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association
Honors Eleven as Stars of the Industry

Russ Cole, General Manager of the Best Western Four Seasons, Traverse City
Named 2008 Hotelier of the Year

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — April 17, 2008 - Eleven shining examples in Michigan hospitality and tourism were recently honored as “Stars of the Industry” by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association. The awards were presented during the Stars of the Industry Dinner on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Duane Brandt of Boyne Highlands Ski Resort, Harbor Springs
2008 Attraction Employee of the Year 
Duane started out doing ground maintenance raking, planting flowers, and maintenance of irrigation systems. Whenever help is needed, he is on the way.  When helping a shorthanded food and beverage department he always gives 100% to the task is at hand.  He also is the proud recipient of over 225 of the attendant’s in house appreciation certificates.  This star is a utility player; he fulfills many different roles throughout the season at Boyne Highlands Ski Resort.  He is always first to volunteer for jobs and each year suits up as the Avalanche Bay Mascot for the annual parade.

Russ Cole, General Manager of the Best Western Four Seasons, Traverse City 
2008 Hotelier of the Year
Russ Cole is a versatile leader who has gained national attention from Best Western for his elite financial performance placing his hotel in the top 3% of Best Westerns in North America.  Russ’s attitude truly embodies the spirit of hospitality.  During the Christmas season, Russ made the thoughtful effort of placing Christmas trees in each of his guest’s rooms. In his five years as the GM, the property has NEVER had an insurance claim.

Milagros Comacho of the Hyatt Regency, Dearborn
2008 Room Attendant of the Year
Milagros is truly a miraculous employee. Not only does she provide the cleanest rooms on a consistent daily basis; she also seeks to serve the needs of fellow team members.  She translates for her team members to help them better understand job expectations and enhance their own level of performance. In addition to her full-time job at Hyatt Regency Dearborn, she also attends night school. Milagros Comacho has a contagious smile and always brings a positive outlook to her hotel.

Jim and Joy Cordray of White River Campground, Montague
2008 Seasonal Operators of the Year
This husband and wife team has been active in the community for up to 35 years. These seasonal campground and canoe tour operators are grass roots supporters of Michigan tourism.  Jim and Joy volunteer as the mentor for new campground operators in an effort to continually improve our industry.  They remain politically active and are founding board members of the Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds of Michigan.  

Erin Ernst of Boyne Mountain, Boyne Falls
2008 Sales and Marketing Star of the Year
Erin expresses many excellent qualities of a true champion in the facilitation of sales and marketing.  She is characterized by drive, creativity, and flexibility. Erin is always filled with such grace and enthusiasm, and it makes such a great impact on fellow team members and skiers at Boyne Mountain.  In addition to her magnetic personality, she is a dedicated worker, resulting in over a 200% increase in media exposure over the last two years. 

Linda Hoath of the Sault Sainte Marie Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB)
2008 CVB Star of the Year 
Linda Hoath truly provides a phenomenal standard of customer service.  Linda treats every question and comment as an opportunity to motivate and expanded team member knowledge.  Linda has a perpetual presence with a dynamic personality; this star rises above the rest.  Linda drove from Sault Sainte Marie to attend House Tourism Committee hearings, which increased state funding for tourism in Michigan.  She has consistently responded to calls for grassroots support and involvement.  Linda epitomizes the very best in our industry’s governmental affairs effort.

Swiss Imfeld of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids
2008 Food and Beverage Star of the Year 
Swiss is a mentor, a teacher and a professional with inexhaustible zeal for life.  For five decades, Swiss has provided culinary experiences, while going above and beyond to find specialty foods that meet the unique needs of Amway’s guests. A strong believer in service to both guests and team members ensures that everyone with whom he comes in contact is treated well.  Swiss is a role model for: dedication, loyalty, and service.  This year he celebrated 50 years with the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, a truly amazing accomplishment.

Bill Mathews, Sous Chef of Sweetwater American Bistro Clubhouse Grille at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, Traverse City
2008 Culinary Star of the Year
For over eight years, Bill has been working at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. He has stepped up and helped whenever needed; his optimistic attitude makes him an excellent leader but at the same time, very team oriented. Bill continues to heighten guest satisfaction and service to the next level, no matter the request, Bill does everything in his power to meet guests’ expectations.  Bill is an all around five star team player. He always focuses on providing the highest possible food service and quality for the customer.  Bill displays the essence of teamwork and his positive winning attitude makes him an outstanding team member and perfect example.

Zach Smith of Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, East Lansing
2008 Guest Relations Star of the Year 
Zach Smith, is outstanding in his own right.  Zach makes it his business to know all the buzz around MSU and East Lansing.  Zach has built a wonderful network throughout the community that allows him to meet some extraordinary guest requests.  Guests at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center will regularly ask for Zach by name.  He is a welcoming presence and ambassador of Kellogg Hotel’s Front Desk.

Andrea Scheckel of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids
2008 Student Star Intern of the Year 
Andrea, a student at Grand Valley State University, is so eager to learn about the business, so she could be a rising star in the hotel.  This winner is all about the experiences that she provides to guests and her fellow teammates. Andrea Scheckel is a bright young student who has a magnificent future in our industry.

Julie Swanson of Country Inn and Suites by Carlson, Marquette
2008 Guest Relations Star of the Year 
Julie Swanson has turned the Country Inn and Suites from just a nice place to stay to a place like home.  Every day she comes in early to work with kind encouragement for all of her teammates.  Julie really steps up to the plate; she is always the first to volunteer and the last to take credit.  Nothing can rattle her; she is able to handle adversity with poise and grace. When it comes to creating a great work environment she has made countless contributions.  A strong work ethic leads those around her and her warm demeanor welcomes both associates and guests.  Her behavior and personality exude the essence of hospitality; it is this inexhaustible list of qualities that Julie exhibits which have helped her to achieve this great success.  

The award dinner concluded a two-day Michigan Lodging and Tourism Conference, “Driving Tourism 2008”. The two day event was held by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, Travel Michigan and Michigan State University. The Conference included many seminars related to this industry as well as an expanded trade show.

The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association is a 100 year old trade association which represents, promotes and educates Michigan’s lodging industry.


Andrea Miller
Phone: 517-267-8989

Also See: Mike Woitas, Country Inn & Suites Albert Lea, Named Minnesota Lodging Association Hotelier of Year / February 2008
Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association 2007 Hotelier of the Year Award Presented to Peter Kacheris of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resorts / December 2007


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