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Texas Travel Summit 2014 - Speaker List
Texas Travel Summit 2014 Speakers & Facilitators
(updated 9/12/14)

Darcy Bontempo
Marketing Director
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department 

Darcy Bontempo is the Marketing Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife. Darcy oversees the Marketing Group, which develops and implements various revenue-generating and other communication efforts to promote visitation to state parks and increase participation in hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation and nature tourism. The Marketing Group oversees the consumer research, email marketing and business function of the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Darcy also provides expertise and management of various sponsorship relationships for the Dept. and provides policy and strategic guidance in this area. Prior to coming to the Department in 1998, she worked in the private industry where she gained extensive experience in marketing, consumer research and advertising. Darcy was an account supervisor at McCann-Erickson in New York, where she worked on well-known package goods accounts such as Coca-Cola, Nabisco and Unilever, and GSD&M in Austin, Texas where she ran the $35 million Texas Lottery account.  She also gained sponsorship and direct marketing experience while working at Dell where she was Manager of Cooperative Marketing for their home and small business unit. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from Tulane University and a B.S. from University of Texas-Austin.

Aaron Demerson
Director – Office of Employer Initiatives
Texas Workforce Commission

Aaron Demerson currently serves as the Director of the Office of Employer Initiatives at the Texas Workforce Commission.  In this position he provides leadership and direction to engage employers, business organizations and the economic development community in the ongoing development of a customer-focused, market-driven workforce system. Prior to employment at the Texas Workforce Commission he served as a Senior Advisor to Governor Rick Perry and Executive Director of the Economic Development & Tourism Division in the Governor’s Office leading a team that marketed the State of Texas as a premier destination for both business and travel. Demerson has a BBA in Finance from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.  He also received a general banking diploma from the American Institute of Banking, and is a ‘91-‘92 graduate of Leadership Austin.

Kelly de Schaun
Executive Director
Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees and CVB

A native Texan, Kelly graduated from the University of Houston in Hotel/ Restaurant Management with a minor in Spanish.  After completing her bachelors degree, Kelly enlisted in the US Peace Corp where she completed two years of service in the Dominican Republic. Upon completion of service, she was hired by the country’s preeminent tourism company, Grupo Punta Cana where she served as the Executive Director for the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, a privately supported nature tourism reserve.  She returned to Texas to obtain a Masters at the University of Texas in the area of Community and Regional Planning, with a focus on economic development and environmental planning. Upon graduation, she returned to the Caribbean to accept the position of Executive Director of the La Romana Hotel and Tourism Association, a destination management organization representing an exclusive region on the southern shore of the Dominican Republic.  In this position she was awarded several local and regional accolades for her work, including commendations from the Ministry of Tourism and from the National Hotel & Lodging Association.In 2011, she returned to Texas to assume the position of Executive Director of the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees, the local governmental entity responsible for the Galveston Island CVB and the Island’s most popular beach parks.  

Tim Fennell
Tourism Deputy Director
Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism Division.

Tim Fennell, Tourism Deputy Director, Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism Division. Tim directs the "Texas. It’s Like A Whole Other Country.” advertising program and has been with Texas Tourism since 1995. Under his direction the advertising campaign has recorded the highest awareness, ROI and inquiry numbers in its history. The most recent campaigns have received numerous awards, including five 2014 ADDY’s, two 2013 Telly Awards, the U.S. Travel Association Odyssey Award, a Gold Effie, and Best Broadcast Advertising, Best Special Promotion and Best Overall Program from the National Council of State Travel Directors. 

Nate Gieryn
Travel Research Manager
Office of the Governor, Economic Development & Tourism Division 

Nate Gieryn has been with the Texas Governor’s Office since 2005 and is currently serving as the Travel Research Manager within the Economic Development & Tourism division. Ongoing research in the division includes domestic and international visitor estimates for travelers to Texas, the economic impact of travel spending, hotel performance reports, and advertising effectiveness and accountability studies for the Texas. It’s Like a Whole Other Country® campaign.  Nate is active within the Travel and Tourism Research Association serving on the international board of directors and previously as president of the Texas Chapter. He holds a Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of the Arts in Geography with Honors from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  

David W. Hagy
Executive Director, Community Outreach
Texas Central Railway

David Hagy has 20 years of experience managing projects, conducting strategic planning, formulating policy and leading outreach for state and local governments and federal agencies.  Immediately before joining Texas Central Railway, David was a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton.  His work at the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on developing policy to facilitate information sharing between federal, state, and local governments and the private sector. Prior to Booz Allen, David spent over four years at the U.S. Department of Justice.  He was confirmed by the Senate as Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the office that conducts research and develops technology for the criminal justice community.  Before leaving for Washington, David spent nine years in local government in Harris County and Houston, Texas.  He served as Chief of Staff to County Judge Robert Eckels, managing and promoting policy initiatives in the areas of economic development, transportation and emergency management, among others, and overseeing the Judge’s legislative agenda, community affairs and press relations.  David also served as Senior Aide to a Houston City Council Member and as Deputy City Controller. David holds a Ph.D. in Political Science (International Relations) from Tulane University and a B.S. in Economics from Texas A&M University.  He lives in Houston with his wife Sarah and their four children.

Erik Hansen
Senior Director of Domestic Policy
U.S. Travel Association

Erik Hansen serves as Senior Director of Domestic Policy for the U.S. Travel Association where he leads the development of the Association’s domestic policy agenda and represents the travel community before the Executive Branch and Congress. Mr. Hansen focuses on issues related to aviation, surface transportation, infrastructure, and federal travel. Mr. Hansen also serves as the General Manager for the Connecting America Through Travel conference, which convenes travel industry leaders, transportation experts and policy influencers to help shape the discussion on revitalizing America’s travel infrastructure. Before joining U.S. Travel Association, Mr. Hansen worked for five years on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and for the office of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Prior to his work on Capitol Hill, Mr. Hansen served as Field Director for the reelection campaign of Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and worked in the government affairs office of Prudential Financial.

Melissa J. Hargis
Vice President of Human Resources
SeaWorld San Antonio

Melissa is currently Vice President of Human Resources at SeaWorld ® San Antonio.  The park is one of the 11 parks operated by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment and is a leading theme park and entertainment company delivering personal, interactive and educational experiences that blend imagination with nature and enable our guests to celebrate, connect with and care for the natural world we share. Melissa is responsible for all facets of Human Resources supporting both a year round and seasonal work force. Prior to joining SeaWorld in 2008, Melissa worked in human resources for Kingsmill, a 4-diamond resort property in Williamsburg, Virginia.   Melissa’s 10 years of hotel/resort experience was primarily in hotel operations prior to transitioning to human resources.Melissa currently serves on the board of the North Chamber of Commerce and is involved in various local human resources organizations.  She previously served on the Hospitality Advisory Board at East Carolina University.In 2011, she was recognized by the San Antonio Business Journal with the CorporateExecute Leadership Award. Melissa grew up in Virginia and received her bachelor’s degree from Christopher Newport University.  Melissa and her husband have two sons. 

Rachel Massey
Senior Account Executive
Slingshot, LLC

Rachel Massey is a Senior Account Executive at Slingshot, LLC, based in Dallas, Texas and for the past two and a half years she has resided in Austin, Texas, and is dedicated to the Texas Tourism account. Rachel received her B.S. in Advertising from The University of Texas at Austin. She started her career at LEVELTWO, based in Dallas, and worked on several accounts including LegalShield, Galt Medical, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and MetroPCS. She has experience in account management as well as digital, social, experiential and traditional campaign development. She's had a kidney stone, she's fallen off a ladder twice, she's torn her ACL playing Ultimate Frisbee. Two of those are truths, one is a lie.

Casandra Matej
Executive Director
San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau

As the executive director of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau (SACVB), Casandra Matej leads San Antonio’s $12 billion hospitality industry to welcome more than 30 million visitors annually. The SACVB is the key marketing driver for this industry, which is a leading economic sector, employing approximately 112,000 San Antonians. Her 20 years of experience in the tourism industry has spanned convention and visitors bureaus, and hotels. Most recently, she served as the Senior Vice President of Sales and Services for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, during which time Casandra restructured the sales divisions, resulting in a 40 percent growth of convention room night sales. Casandra is currently on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Travel Association and the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA), and Texas Society of Association Executives (TSAE). Locally, Casandra is involved with San Antonio Sports Foundation, Valero Alamo Bowl, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council and serves on the Board of Directors for Boysville, Inc. 

Brady McCarthy
Regional Vice President, Partner Marketing
Orbitz Worldwide

Brady McCarthy is a Regional Vice President on the Partner Marketing Team at Orbitz Worldwide, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Communications from Miami University.  Brady began his career in the advertising world working on both print and digital campaigns at OMD and Mindshare in Chicago.  He has been with Orbitz for 7 years, helping to promote destinations, hotels, and attractions through digital media.  Brady’s spare time, which is limited due to 3 young kids at home, is spent traveling, golfing, and rooting for his beloved Chicago sports teams (Sox not Cubs)

Anina Moore
Director of Communications
Texas Commission on the Arts

Anina Moore has been on the Texas Commission on the Arts staff since 1996. Among many other duties, she works with artists on the Texas Touring Roster and the grant program that helps communities present those artists.  In 2013, Anina became the agency’s Director of Communications. She has a BA in poetry from Bard College and an MFA in poetry from Texas State University.

Frank Morogiello
Senior Client Partner
Korn Ferry

Frank Morogiello is a Senior Client Partner in the Dallas office of Korn Ferry International. He is a member of the Firm’s Industrial Practice, and specializes in aviation recruitment efforts. Previously Mr. Morogiello was a Partner at a global executive recruiting firm.  He served Industrial clients globally, focusing on key relationships within aviation and the broader business community; he also leveraged his experience in the travel and tourism segments, as well as his considerable sales and marketing experience. Prior to joining Korn Ferry, Mr. Morogiello served nearly three decades at American Airlines in multiple roles spanning operations and corporate functions. Most recently, as Vice President of Global Sales, he led a large team and was responsible for building partnerships with and growing revenue from global corporations, travel agencies, government agencies and other key airline customers and audiences.

Bradford Patterson
Director, Community Heritage Development
Texas Historical Commission
Bradford Patterson is Director of Community Heritage Development at the Texas Historical Commission, overseeing the Main Street, Certified Local Government, and Texas Heritage Trails Programs. He has significant experience in historic preservation and architecture, having completed work at Miami University and a Masters of Architecture from UT Austin. Mr. Patterson previously coordinated staff reviewing projects under federal and state laws; federal tax incentives, ADA compliance, and Texas Preservation Trust Fund grants. He also oversaw the restoration of numerous historic courthouses through the nationally recognized Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. In addition, Mr. Patterson has helped lead post-fire and disaster related response and recovery efforts for historic structures, including at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.  

Caitlyn Perry
Digital Marketing Manager
Growing up in the digital age, Caitlyn Perry fell in love with the fast-paced, ever changing nature of online and social media. In her position as the Digital Marketing Manager for Texas Monthly (winner of 13 National Magazine Awards) she combines that enthusiasm with her passion for creativity and marketing. Perry assisted in the re-launch of, a site that saw traffic growth of 114% in its first year. She supports a team of over twenty account executives, in over 7 major markets, working with their clients to create and produce high-impact interactive campaigns. Perry currently lives in Austin, TX: home of her alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. When she is not brainstorming creative marketing you can find her taking her Boston Terrier to the park, sharpening her skills as an oboist or enjoying all that the Live Music Capitol of the world has to offer. 

The Honorable Joe Picket
Texas House of Representatives
Representative Joe Picket is currently serving his 10th term in the Texas House of Representatives for the 79th district (El-Paso). In addition to serving as the chair of the House Select Committee on Transportation Funding, Expenditures and Finance , Rep. Pickett chairs the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.  He is a member of the House Research Organization Committee and the House Transportation Committee and the House Redistricting Committee. He previously chaired the House Transportation Committee, the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and the Appropriations Sub Committee on General Government. He has served as Governor Perry’s appointee to his Anti-Crime Committee. Rep. Pickett brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from his distinguished tenure to lead efforts in resolving our transportation challenges. In addition to his significant involvement with the various transportation committees, he has served on the national board of directors of the American Metropolitan Planning Organization, a national non-profit planning organization dedicated to serving the needs of Metropolitan Planning Organization for spending federal highway or transit funds in urbanized areas. He also has served several terms as Chairman of the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization. Between the 81st and 82nd Legislative session he served on the Texas Transportation Council in Austin, which was a non-partisan independent forum to research, organize and promote a new direction for transportation that is based on transparency, accountability and efficiency in order to improve mobility and restore public faith in the management of our state’s transportation infrastructure.  Surely, he demonstrates a love for effective transportation planning and infrastructure.

Ronnie Ramirez
Marketing Communications Specialist
Office of the Governor, Economic Development & Tourism

Ronnie Ramirez is the Marketing Communications Specialist for the Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism team.  In her role, Ronnie is responsible for overseeing domestic public relations and assists with Texas Tourism's advertising and promotional campaigns that uniquely brand Texas, while differentiating the state as a travel destination.  Ms. Ramirez also manages digital marketing elements for Texas  Tourism including social media marketing and #TexasToDo. 


Margo Richards
Director - Travel Information Division
Texas Department of Transportation 
Margo Richards serves as the director of the Travel Information Division at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). She is responsible for the department's state- produced travel literature, including Texas Highways , the state’s official travel magazine, Texas State Travel Guide, Texas Highways Events Calendar and Texas Official Travel Map. In addition, she oversees the state’s litter-prevention and clean air initiatives, Don’t mess with Texas®, Adopt-a-Highway, Sponsor-a-Highway and Drive Clean Texas. Richards leads efforts related to the Texas Travel Information Centers and DriveTexas™, the department’s highway conditions reporting system. In promoting Texas as a premier travel destination, Richards coordinates with the Office of the Governor, Economic Development & Tourism, Texas Commission on the Arts, Texas Historical Commission, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  Before joining TxDOT in January 2012, Richards served as the director of tourism at the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.  From 2005 to 2010, Richards served as public relations coordinator for the Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism.

Ian Ross
VP Sales
Travel Spike 

Ian is currently VP Sales at Travel Spike, a pioneer in digital travel media. Previously, he was Regional VP at Orbitz Worldwide, where he headed up all online ad sales efforts in the East, Canada and the Caribbean.  Ian was also Senior Sales Director at Disney Online., and held several senior sales positions with the online properties of travel industry leader Sabre. There, he opened the East coast sales office for Preview Travel, the predecessor of Travelocity, and built the media sales unit for Ian is a founding board member of both Boston Interactive Media Associate and 212, where also served as President.  Ian has spoken at several Travel & Tourism conferences.

Brad Smyth
Director of Tourism
Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism Division

Brad Smyth is the director of the Texas Tourism program in the Economic Development & Tourism Division of the Office of the Governor.  As director, he manages the state’s primary program for advertising and marketing the Texas travel experience domestically and internationally. Enjoying more than twenty years of tourism industry experience in the public and private sectors, Brad is honored to work with one of Texas’largest industries and lead a team that generates non-Texan travel to the state, creating revenue and jobs for Texas.  Prior to being promoted to director, Brad served as Texas Tourism’s deputy director, helping to create and oversee marketing and public relations campaigns for domestic and international markets. Brad is active in the U.S. Travel Association, the Texas Travel Industry Association, and National Council of State Tourism Directors.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Amber Stock
Account Coordinator
Slingshot, LLC

Amber Stock is an Account Coordinator at Slingshot LLC, based in Dallas, Texas, and for the past year has resided in Austin, Texas, dedicated to servicing the Texas Tourism account. Born, raised, and educated in Houston, Texas, Amber received her BBA and MBA in Marketing from the University of St. Thomas. She started her career at Marketing Plus, based in Houston, working on accounts including BP America, Zachary-Odebrecht Parkway Builders, and Joel Osteen's Generation Hope Project. She has experience in account management, event planning, brand strategy, and traditional campaign development.Amber's words-to-live-by include: "Everything is interrelated" and "Simple is beautiful."

Elizabeth A. Taylor
Waco Convention Center and the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau

Liz is the Director of the Waco Convention Center and the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau, where she has the privilege and responsibility of leading a team of 37 talented professionals who provide top-notch convention and tourism sales and service, a comprehensive convention and tourism marketing program, the operation of the Waco Tourist Information Center, and the operation of the Waco Convention Center — a 144,000-square-foot multi-use exhibit and meeting facility.  The Waco CVB enjoys a budget of $3.5 million, is an enterprise fund budget (self-supporting) in the City of Waco’s departmental system. Prior to coming to Waco Liz served as Director of the City of Georgetown Convention & Visitors Bureau from 1988 - 1993.  In that role she began a tourism development program that was a catalyst in its utilization of a successful Main Street program and toward the development of a full-service convention and visitor sales and marketing program. Throughout her career, Liz has participated in various volunteer leadership roles for the travel industry.  She served on the Board of Directors of the Texas Travel Industry Association; on the state tourism marketing advisory committees; and is a Past Chair of the Texas Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus. She has a B.A. in Speech, Communication and Drama, with a specialty in Radio/TV/Film, and a Master of Journalism from the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.

Ian N. Wadsworth
Chief Commercial Officer
Houston Airport System 

Ian Wadsworth is Chief Commercial Officer of the Houston Airport  System.  He oversees the commercial activities at the Houston Airport System’s three airports, including air service development, airline affairs, concessions, parking and real estate. He joined the Houston Airport System in November 2008 as Deputy Director, Finance and Administration.  In that position, Mr. Wadsworth was responsible for the finance, properties, human resources, and procurement functions. Prior to joining the Houston Airport System, Mr. Wadsworth served in various finance, planning, and marketing roles for over 15 years while working at American Airlines, Capital One Financial, and Global Aero Logistics, the parent company of ATA Airlines, World Airways, and North American Airlines. Mr. Wadsworth received a BA degree in International Affairs from George Washington University and an MBA degree in Finance from the University of Michigan Business School. 

Beth Ann Williamson
Account Executive
Slingshot, LCC

Beth Ann Williamson is an Account Executive at Slingshot LLC, headquartered in Dallas, Texas.  She services the Texas Tourism account and works from Slingshot's satellite office in Austin, Texas.She received her B.S. in Marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi and her M.A. in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austin.  She began her advertising career at Peter Mayer Advertising in New Orleans, Louisiana and serviced the Louisiana Economic Development account. In her spare time, Beth Ann loves to travel, dabble in creative writing, run around Lake Austin and test her limits with Acro Yoga (might want to Google that one). 

James D. Yarbrough
City of Galveston

James D. Yarbrough served as the Galveston County Judge from January 1, 1995 until December 31, 2010. He was elected Mayor of the City of Galveston in May 2014 and will serve a two year term. He is a native of Galveston and graduate of Ball High School. Jim attended the University of Texas at Austin on an athletic scholarship and captained the Longhorn Southwest Conference football championship team. He was also named to the All-Southwest Conference football team and the first player in the NCAA to play as a graduate student. Under Judge Yarbrough’s leadership Galveston County adopted a unified County Road System. The County has developed partnerships with the National Weather Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety- Division of Emergency Management and the Galveston County Emergency Communication District (911) to bring various agencies under one roof. Even after the devastation of Hurricane Ike the Bond Election in 2008 to continue to improve roads, facilities and flood control projects passed successfully. 


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