People News: Choose Chicago, OVG360, Visit Jacksonville and More Select New Leadership, Promote Team Members

March 24, 2022

The hiring and promoting trend continues its strong trajectory as event-related organizations – convention and visitors bureaus, in particular – scoop up new talent and reward top-performing staff with more prestigious titles. Take a look!

Choose Chicago 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Choose Chicago have tapped Lynn Osmond as the CVB’s new CEO, effective May 9. As the first woman to helm the city’s tourism agency, Osmond brings deep knowledge of Chicago’s tourism and hospitality community to her new leadership role, most recently serving as president and CEO of the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC). 

Under Osmond’s 25-year leadership, the CAC grew from a $2.4-million operation in 1996 to a $25-million organization in 2019, making it one of the city’s top cultural attractions and the largest architecture center of its kind in the world. A former Choose Chicago board member, she has also held key leadership positions with theater, symphony orchestra and architecture nonprofits.

Osmond was appointed after a global search overseen by a 13-member committee of Choose Chicago Board members representing a cross-section of the tourism hospitality community. She succeeds David Whitaker, who resigned last summer after five years at the helm, and was appointed president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Since then, Choose Chicago has been under the leadership of Interim CEO and CFO James Meyer. 


Full-service venue management and event programming company OVG360, a third-party, service-oriented division of global venue development, advisory and investment company Oak View Group, has appointed Gregory A. O’Dell as president, venue management. He will begin his new role in April as he departs his current position as president and CEO position of Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia. 

Bringing more than 25 years of experience in sports, entertainment, hospitality, management and development to his new role, O’Dell will lead OVG360’s venue management line of business, overseeing venue operations for more than 230 global properties including stadiums, arenas, convention centers, performing arts centers, cultural institutions and state fairgrounds. His responsibilities will include setting strategy to bolster sustainable operations; booking and content development; premium and sponsorship sales; public safety; public health and sanitization; parking and transportation; and many other venue competencies. 

In his prior leadership role with Events DC, O’Dell oversaw three lines of business: conventions and meetings, sports and entertainment, and special events. His primary responsibilities included oversight of the creation and promotion of hospitality, athletic, entertainment and cultural activities, as well as managing Events DC’s development portfolio.

Previously, O’Dell served as CEO and general manager of the Washington Convention Center Authority; president and CEO of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission; and chief development officer for the Government of the District of Columbia.  

Visit Jacksonville

Visit Jacksonville recently welcomed four new team members to support its meeting and convention efforts.

As the new national account manager, Laura Gonzalez is focusing on the sports tourism market to promote Jacksonville as a premier destination for youth, amateur, collegiate and professional sports as well as sports conventions. Prior to this role, she served as director of sales and marketing at Tru by Hilton in Jacksonville. 

Lauren Hickox has been appointed assistant destination experience manager, responsible for assisting visitors through Visit Jacksonville’s numerous Visitor Centers, as well as those visiting as a part of a conference or group, with requests for information, maps and brochures, referrals and trip planning services. Most recently, Hickox was an events and marketing intern at the American Heart Association in Jacksonville. 

As destination experience manager, Paloma Martin works as a liaison between local businesses and provides referrals and amenities to individuals, groups and meeting planners coming to Jacksonville. Previously, she worked as an event manager at Hyatt Regency Jacksonville-Riverfront. 

Certified Meeting Professional Kelly Sanderson has assumed the role of convention sales marketing manager, responsible for marketing initiatives and strategies associated with helping the sales team bring conventions and groups to the city. Most recently, Sanderson was the destination service director for PRI Productions.

Sodexo Live! 

Venue hospitality and management partner Sodexo Live! has promoted Paul Pettas from PR and communications director to vice president, brand and communications. 

In his new role, Pettas will be tasked with developing a clear and effective internal and external communications strategy; continuing to promote thought leadership, SMEs and key executives from the Sodexo team; working with media; and rolling out the next phase of Sodexo’s brand identity to the market.

A new manager-level role has not yet been named.

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) has hired 20-year hospitality veteran Anthony Molino as director, Chicago area sales, responsible for attracting citywide conventions of 1,200 room nights or greater on peak from the Midwest market.

Molino most recently with Choose Chicago as director of hotel sales and national sales manager after joining the destination marketing organization in 2017. Prior to that role, he held positions as director of national accounts with Hilton properties in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and began his career in event services at Chicago Marriott Downtown in 2004.

Molino currently serves as chair of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Global’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee, and sits on MPI Global’s customer advisory board, as well as multiple committees with Destinations International.

THesis Hotel Miami 

THesis Hotel Miami has appointed seasoned hospitality professional Marijana Simmons as its new director of sales and marketing, responsible for leading the hotel’s sales and marketing team, devising strategic sales and marketing strategies and overseeing revenue management for the property. 

Bringing more than 15 years of experience in hospitality sales, hotel management and real estate to her new role, Simmons recently served as director of sales and marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group at EVEN Hotel in New York City, and prior to that, as director of sales and marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group’s Hotel Indigo in Downtown Brooklyn. She has also held roles at real estate firms Bouklis Group and Douglas Elliman, where she coordinated residential rentals and sales throughout the New York City area.

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) recently expanded its sales team with several promotions and a new staff member. 

Bringing more than 20 years of experience working in the Philadelphia tourism and hospitality industry, Shane Jacksonhas joined the PHLCVB as national accounts manager for the Northeast market. He previously served as senior sales executive for the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, and before joining Marriott in 2007, worked as marketing manager for Talley Management Group and national sales manager for the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Caryn Mousley has been promoted from destination services coordinator to destination services manager, devoted to servicing the PHLCVB’s large convention groups and citywides, liaising between clients, vendors, city services and hotel partners.

Anthony Nelson has been promoted from national accounts manager to national accounts director, responsible for booking citywide conventions for the Western half of the U.S., focusing primarily on association and corporate markets. He is also handling the Southeast market and a vertical in the sports market.

PHLCVB has promoted Nicholas Rigas from manager, convention sales to director of events and experiences., a role in which he will lead a dedicated events team to coordinate and execute events for partners, clients and external stakeholders. 

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