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The AH&LA Recognizes 19 Winners of the 2009 State Leadership Awards

Washington, D.C., March 17, 2009 – The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) announced the winners of the 2009 State Leadership Awards yesterday during the first day of the association’s annual Legislative Action Summit (LAS).  These awards, formerly known as the Most Valuable Volunteer Awards, were created in 1998 to honor standout volunteers who help implement and strengthen programs spearheaded by both AH&LA and its partner state associations. 
“It’s with much pride that we honor these individuals who’ve dedicated countless hours to improving both the local and national hospitality communities,” said AH&LA president/CEO Joseph A. McInerney, CHA.  “Their drive and leadership strengthen the power and impact of our associations and make the industry better for both our employees and our guests.”
The awards were presented to the following:
Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association: Greg Bryan, CHA, General Manager of the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn
Greg is the consummate volunteer, serving on countless committees, as chairman of the Arizona Lodging board, and as the AH&LA board delegate.  Greg has demonstrated a life-long commitment and dedication to both associations and the industry.  He also serves on the AH&LA Audit Committee where he watches closely how the association spends its members money!

Arkansas Hospitality Association: Jed Bullock, Owner of the Best Western Eureka Inn in Eureka Springs
Jed is President and a longtime board member of the Arkansas Hospitality Association.  He has served as a governor for Best Western International for the past five years, and is currently the chair of the Arkansas Best Western Cooperative.  Jed is also responsible for Best Western as a major Arkansas ProStart and Lodging Management Program sponsor, dedicated to getting other Best Westerns involved in AH&LA membership.

California Hotel & Lodging Association: Jim Beazley, Owner of The Beazley House in Napa Valley 
As a board member of the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CH&LA), Jim's influence has been essential to the integration of the California Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns (CABBI) into CH&LA and the success of the bed & breakfast inns segment.  He is chairman of the CABBI Council, on the InnSpire Conference, and also involved in CH&LA’s Legislative Awareness Task Force. 

Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association: Navin Dimond, CEO of Stonebridge Companies in Englewood 
Since founding Stonebridge Companies in 1991, Navin has been an active and vital supporter of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association (CH&LA).  In the crucial first five years while building his portfolio of hotels (which has now grown to include more than 40 properties and 6,300 rooms nationwide), he still found time to serve on the CH&LA board and was chairman in 2003, bringing in the highest amount of reserve capital in the association’s history.  As past chairman he remains involved in CH&LA committees, attends functions, and donates his time and money to political efforts.  This past year, Navin was elected to the CH&LA Hall of Fame, a distinction shared by only 35 hoteliers before him.

Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association: John Weit (White), Area General Manager of the Marriott Atlanta Airport in College Park 
John has been with Marriott for 34 years, 10 of those years at the Marriott Atlanta Airport.  John is a Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association (GHLA) board member and serves as chair of the GHLA Atlanta Airport Hotel Council. He generously gave his time and leadership to spearhead an initiative to protect hotels in the Atlanta airport area from paying a proposed $2.50 per trip fee each time their shuttle vans traveled to the airport. John formed a committee and engaged the support and involvement of his peers to educate key decision makers in an effort to circumvent this proposed fee.  Under John’s leadership, this effort has been successful in delaying the implementation of the proposed fees and lowering the amount charged by 50%.  John’s group engaged a lobbyist to support their efforts; then he joined forces with the Cab Drivers Association and the Limo Drivers Association for added clout against the Airport Authority’s plans. 

John’s days are extremely busy with responsibilities managing a 625-room hotel and overseeing several other Marriott brands in the market.  Despite his full plate, he chose to give unselfishly of his time and talent to lead an effort that not only benefitted him, but his entire local hotel community.  This is just one example of John’s invaluable leadership on the local level in Georgia. 

Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, Robert (Bob) Habeeb, President of First Hospitality Group in Rosemont
Bob was selected by the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) to be the recipient of this award in sincere appreciation for his commitment and dedicated work to the association and for his outstanding leadership and contributions to the hospitality industry.  Bob has chaired the IHLA Governmental Affairs Committee for several years. He has attended LAS consistently during the past several years as well as the IHLA Legislative event in Springfield. Bob has given countless hours of his time in representing IHLA at political and industry events. He and his company generously support every IHLA event and fundraiser. Bob leads by example and because of his strong leadership, Bob was the first IHLA Chairman of the Board to be elected for a second term in 2009.

Iowa Lodging Association, Rick Funke, General Manager of the Sheraton West Des Moines in Clive
Rick Funke, general manager of the Sheraton West Des Moines, will become president of ILA at their fall conference.  He has been a tremendous asset to the Iowa Lodging Association, giving countless hours of his time and energy.  He also provides his property and staff to assist in ILA seminars and conferences.

Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association, Patrick Leary, General Manager of Fairfield Inn/Hospitality Partners in Bethesda 
Whenever and whatever is asked of Patrick, he is always ready to help the Maryland association.  From political action at both the federal and state level to organization of the association's golf tournament; from state Stars of the Industry Awards judging to speaking on a panel, Patrick is always willing to help.  The Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association, and Mary Jo McCulloch, wishes there were 50 members like him.  

Montana Innkeepers Association, Sandra Johnson-Thares, CHA, General Manager/Co-Owner of the O’Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls 
Sandra is deeply respected in the Montana Lodging industry for her extensive record of achievements and for being a unique individual who is active in both her local area lodging association and in her state association.  She has successfully spearheaded many cutting edge policy issues, all while running her family-owned inn. Sandra is an active member of the Montana Innkeepers board of directors and is currently serving as treasurer.  She sits on the Montana Innkeepers Executive and Legislative committees and  is also very active in the Great Falls Lodging Association and the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association, John C. Tsunis, Chairman/CEO of Long Island Hotels LLC, in Hauppauge 
John is co-founder of Long Island Hotels LLC, a hotel company that develops, constructs, and manages hotels for both the business and leisure traveler.  He has served on the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association’s board of directors since 2002, and is currently chairman of the Legislative Committee.  In addition to his committee work, he is a key participant in the association’s PAC.  John is also committed to serving the community, joining with others - from executives to front desk receptionists - to support a number of worthwhile charitable organizations.

North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, Sterling Webster, Partner and General Manager of the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk 
Sterling has been an outstanding board member, traveling long distances across the state to attend industry meetings and North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA) events.  He always supports the PAC and is an effective ambassador to the local members in the Outer Banks area.  He has been instrumental in obtaining new membership and strengthening the state lodging association’s voice in this important, but seen by some, as remote area of the state.

Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association, John Williams, CHA, General Manager of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City 
John arrived in Oklahoma City in 2006 and immediately began to play a substantial role as an Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association (OH&LA) volunteer and director.  Since that time, he has chaired the Lodging Management Program and excelled in his leadership as a member of the OH&LA Executive Committee - recently accepting his new role as secretary. John's vast lodging and previous experience as an AH&LA partner state association leader has greatly aided the OH&LA in it's strategic planning efforts. John and his hotel are special to the staff of AH&LA because he was a vital force in helping to make the association's 2008 Summer Summit, held at the Skirvin, a great success. 

Oregon Lodging Association, Jim Kinney, General Manager of the Seventh Mountain Resort in Bend 
Jim is engaged with the association in a very tangible way, giving his time and expertise in service as a member of the association's Government Affairs Committee and also the 2009 board of directors.  Last fall when a county board of commissioners wanted to raise local room tax to fund maintenance for what they called a “tourism road,” Jim, along with the Oregon Lodging Association and other lodging operators in central Oregon, stood up to oppose the attempt to fund a local government service on the back of the lodging industry.  Jim was a clear industry voice on the issue, taking a leadership role from the start.  When the county board ultimately referred the issue to voters, Jim continued to engage in the process, speaking on behalf of his business and others.  Just a few days prior to the vote, Jim took a risk and decided to participate in a live, on-air interview with a local radio station to discuss the ballot measure and provide the lodging industry perspective. 

Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association, William D. Kohl, CHA, CFBE, President of the Harrisburg Hotel Corporation in Harrisburg 
William is a 24-year veteran of the hospitality industry.  He is the recipient of the 2001 Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association Manager of the Year award and has served as chairman of the association and chair of the Food & Beverage Conference Committee.

Rhode Island Hospitality Association, Mark Gervais, General Manager of The Hotel Viking in Newport 
Mark is always the first volunteer to get involved, the first to raise his hand, and the first to respond to any request.  He is generous, supportive, and he empowers his employees, according to the Rhode Island Hospitality Association.  The best word to describe Mark is “magical.”  For all Mark does, he has undoubtedly earned the State Leadership Award.

Tennessee Hospitality Association, Dee Lundy, Owner of Lundy and Associates in Knoxville 
Dee is the owner of Lundy Public Relations and publishes the Tennessee Attractions & Accommodations Guide and the Tennessee Buyer’s Guide.  Her involvement with these publications has taken a tremendous amount of time and pressure off the limited staff of the state association and allowed them to focus on member activities.  Additionally, Dee uses her sales and marketing skills as vehicles for creating new membership opportunities for the association.  She works diligently with the sales team to open new doors for membership and to solidify existing relationships.  Dee has just completed a three-year term on the board of directors and has served on the Communications and Membership committees during her tenure.  Her selfless attitude and desire to make the Tennessee Hospitality Association a stronger organization endears her not only to the staff, but to those who come into contact with her on a daily basis. 

Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association, Chris Canavos, CHA, Owner of the Country Inn & Suites in Williamsburg 
Chris has been a dedicated and committed Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association (VHTA) member since 1997.  He has served on various committees, as president of the hotel/lodging component, as member of the board of directors, and currently serves on the Executive Committee.  Chris is also integral in building a strong partnership between VHTA and the hotels in Williamsburg.  As a member of the Government Relations Committee, he continues to work on issues that impact the lodging industry on both the local and state levels.

Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, Mark Johnson, Vice President and General Manager of the Best Western Milwaukee Airport Hotel & Conference Center in Milwaukee 
Mark is the 2009 chairman of the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, which is comprised of a 37-member board of directors and more than 1,200 members.  He has served in numerous leadership positions on both the state and local levels, ensuring the lodging industry is well-represented in Wisconsin.

Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association, Ken Patel, Owner of the Comfort Inn Laramie in Laramie 
Ken served as co-chair of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association (WLRA) Government Affairs Committee the year a political action committee (PAC) component was added.  Not only did he participate in raising money, he helped organize the candidate interviews to determine who would receive PAC allocations for the first time.  In addition, he participated in all the discussions to determine what issues would most affect the association.

Award recipients are determined by AH&LA’s partner state associations.  For more details on each 2009 State Leadership Award winner, please visit the AH&LA Volunteer Webpage.  For pictures of the award winners, please contact Jessica Soklow at (202) 289-3153 or at 

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.


Jessica Soklow 


Also See: The American Hotel & Lodging Association Names the Recipients of the 2008 State Leadership Awards for Outstanding Leadership; Leo Vogel Presented with the John Whitaker Award / April 2008

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