At today's American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) Stars of the Industry Awards luncheon, hotel employees were honored for their outstanding accomplishments, service, and leadership in the hospitality and lodging industry. The awards, held at the association's Summer Summit at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, were presented to Outstanding Lodging Employees, Managers, and General Managers in three property size categories, as well as to the winner of the Women in Lodging Connect Leader of the Year Award, the Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year Award, and the Student Member and Student Chapter of the Year.

Winning Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Small Property, is Laurie Desmarais, guest services representative, Holiday Inn Elmira Riverview. Laurie has assisted numerous guests with emergencies or out-of-the –ordinary requests that are above and beyond the scope of her job. In addition, she volunteers for numerous local community service organizations.

The winner of the Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Medium Property, is Olivia Fierro, front desk agent, Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North. Olivia originally joined the staff as a pool server. She has received countless guest experience accolades and is regularly recognized by her colleagues for outstanding service to the guests and team.

The winner of the Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Large Property, is Jim Catlett, official golf starter, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. For the last 45 years, Jim has provided outstanding service and, in a five-diamond culture, has an uncanny sense of remembering little details about each player. In the area's golf community, Catlett's name is synonymous with the hotel. He leads the golf department in guest recognition and is a leader on the team.

The two winners of the Outstanding Manager of the Year, Small Property are Molly Mooney, guest services manager, Homewood Suites Champaign, and Mickey Wescoat, chief maintenance engineer, Days Inn & Suites Jekyll Isle Oceanfront.

Molly is a strong leader who regularly goes beyond the scope of her job is assisting other associates and guests. Additionally, she assists each week at a local soup kitchen.

Mickey oversees four pools, all of the landscaping, and a staff of five. In addition, he played a pivotal role when the 50-year-old hotel recently underwent a renovation that included several rooms, meeting space, and major repairs to the exterior.

Winning the Manager of the Year, Medium Property, is Dan Evert, chief engineer, Embassy Suites Loveland. Dan was brought on six months before the hotel's opening to oversee the final stages of development, reviewing countless plans inspections and making every deadline in order to have the hotel open on time. He also leads an extensive sustainability program resulting in the property composting 100 tens and recycling 81 tons, as well as donating 5,000 pounds of soap.

Winning the Outstanding Manager of the Year, Large Property is Wayne Hirabayashi, executive chef, The Kahala Resort. Chef Wayne is responsible for all of the culinary operations of the luxury hotel, including four restaurants, banquet and catering programs, and the hotel's in-room 24 hour food and beverage dining service. He also serves as a mentor to students at a community college and local high schools.

Winning the Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Small Property, is Jeffrey Fouste, Best Western PLUS Savannah Historic District. With the hotel since 2007, Jeffrey developed a partnership with the first department to ensure fire victims have a safe place to stay after being displaced. The company that owns the hotels rolled out a reservation shop call program and the team has scored a 100% seven times and is the only hotel in the company to do so. To date, the hotel has had no Customer Care complaints and is ranked in the top 20% of all Best Westerns.

The winner of the Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Medium Property, is Denise Vickerman, Ramada Spokane Airport. Denise joined the property in 1984 and was named as general manager in 2007. The hotel was highlighted as one of seven Spokane companies named a great place to work, and the hotel has been a top feature in the Spokane area on TripAdvisor for the past three years. The hotel also was one of only 33 Ramada hotels to be chosen for the company's Best of 2012 awards.

The winner of the Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Large Property, is Jeff Brown Hotel Arista, Naperville, Illinois. Jeff joined the property in 2011, which had been open for more than three years, but had yet to turn a profit. He created a Leadership Summit to engage the management team and an Associate Engagement Committee and Associate Development Program to link line-level employees with directors in a mentorship program. He also launched three employee recognition programs. He has revitalized the food & beverage area and the hotel's brand image, as well as seen an upswing in revenue and profitability and guest satisfaction scores.

Winning the Women in Lodging Connect Leader of the Year is Marissa Edwards, Director of All Fun Things, Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Since joining the hotel in 2009 prior to the resort opening, Marissa has been an exceptional leader to her team, many of which are young students employed at their first job. She also is actively involved in Wings to Fly, which is a program for girls age 12-17 with a mission to promote lifelong self-esteem.

Winning the Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader is Wes Santos, general manager, Fairfield Inn and Suites Charlotte. Recently recognized as one of Hotel Management's 30 Under 30 Outstanding Leaders, Wes was named general manager to a low performing hotel for its year in operation. The hotel was ranked 78 out of 176 hotels in Charlotte; under his leadership, it has moved up and is now ranked number 2.

Winning the AH&LA Student Member of the Year award is Clare Becker, University of New Hampshire. Clare graduated in May from UNH with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management, cum laude, from the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. While at UNH, Clare was a Paul College Dean's Ambassador, Peer Advisor, University Scholar, a member of the Hospitality Honors Society, and the sole student member of the University of New Hampshire's International Hospitality Advisory Board.

The winner of the AH&LA Student Chapter of the Year is Purdue University. Founded in 2010, the group has grown from five members to almost 70. The chapter has had a very busy year offering many opportunities to tour and shadow managers at some of the best hotels in Chicago and Indianapolis, including Trump Hotel & Towers and the largest JW Marriott in the country. The group launched a AH&LA Speaker Series, inviting local industry managers to speak at meetings and classes.

Many of AH&LA's partner state associations choose their own employee award winners, which are submitted to the association for national judging. This year's national judges are Patrick Maycock, editor-in-chief, HotelNewsNow; Megan Sullivan, managing editor, Lodging magazine; Stefani O'Connor, executive news editor, Hotel Business; and Vail Brown, CMHS, vice president, STR.

The awards ceremony was sponsored HD Supply. For more information on AH&LA's Stars of the Industry Awards program and a complete list of employee and property winners, please visit

About the American Hotel & Lodging Association

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the sole national association representing all segments of the U.S. lodging industry. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AHLA focuses on strategic advocacy, communications support and workforce development programs to move the industry forward. In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality was the first industry impacted and it will be among the last to recover. That is why AHLA is committed to promoting safe travel while also creating a standardized safety experience nationwide through the Safe Stay initiative. With an enhanced set of health and safety protocols designed to provide a safe and clean environment for all hotel guests and employees, hotels across America are ready to welcome back travelers when they are ready to travel. Learn more at

Rosanna Maietta