2018 Conference Speakers 

Abrams, Stacey
Alford, Cathy

Bremer, Karen
Broadus, Jade
Brown, Lindsey
Buice, Brent
Cantrell, Kim
Curry, Bill
Deal, Governor Nathan
Dhougde, Shatakshee 
Dugan, Senator Mike
Farrar, Jody
Gurney, Amrita
Hughes, Lee
Johnson, Cosby
Kemp, Brian
Langston, Kevin
Lopez, Eric
Love, Lisa
Margerum, Marcus
Markwalter, Jay
McKay, Rich
Moore, Katherine
Moore, Kelsey
Morgan, Jay
Price, Derek
Sanchez, Tracie
Schutz, Cheryl
Shapiro, Steak
Skidmore, Kate
Sprouse, Jim
Stephens, Representative Ron
Suckow, Shawna

Stacey Abrams
Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia - Atlanta, GA

Former House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School. Dedicated to civic engagement, she founded the New Georgia Project, which submitted more than 200,000 registrations from voters of color between 2014 and 2016. Under the pen name Selena Montgomery, Stacey is the award-winning author of eight romantic suspense novels, which have sold more than 100,000 copies. As co-founder of NOW Account – a financial services firm that helps small businesses grow – Stacey has helped create and retain jobs in Georgia. And through her various business ventures, Stacey has helped employ even more Georgians, including hundreds of young people starting out. And as House Minority Leader, she has worked strategically to recruit, train, elect, and defend Democrats to prevent a Republican supermajority in the House, and has worked across the aisle on behalf of all Georgians. During her tenure, she has stopped legislation to raise taxes on the poor and middle class and to roll back reproductive healthcare. She has brokered compromises that led to progress on transportation, infrastructure, and education. Most recently, she passed legislation to improve the welfare of grandparents and other kin raising children and secured increased funding to support these families.

Stacey and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi with three tenets: go to school, go to church, and take care of each other. Despite struggling to make ends meet for their family, her parents made service a way of life for their children – if someone was less fortunate, it was their job to serve that person. This ethic led the family to Georgia. Stacey’s parents attended Emory University to pursue graduate studies in Divinity and become United Methodist ministers. Stacey and her younger siblings attended DeKalb County Schools, and she graduated from Avondale High School.

Cathy Alford
Facilitator, The Leadership Institute at Columbus State University - Columbus, GA

Cathy Alford, MA, PCC, is a Leadership and Strengths Coach credentialed with the International Coach Federation. She works with individuals and teams to identify strengths, team dynamics and growth opportunities for success. She is the CEO of LifeWorks Coaching in Columbus, Georgia, and is a founding member of the Columbus Coaching Collaborative. Her certifications include: Myers-Briggs, Clifton StrengthsFinder®, Prepare-Enrich and Workshop Facilitation. She is a facilitator for The Leadership Institute at Columbus State University, has taught Coach Training at CSU and served in pharmaceutical sales management for over 23 years. She is a contributing author in the book, Inspired Women Succeed and the author of If Only We Could Talk: 3 Simple Steps to Parent-Teen Conversations. 

Caitlyn  Blizzard
Director of Communications, Destinations International - Washington, DC

Caitlyn Blizzard is currently the director of communications at Destinations International where she is responsible for the strategic communications that promote the association's mission and goals.

Prior to joining Destinations International, Blizzard spent five years at the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau in Georgia leading the organization’s public relations and communications efforts which included working with local, regional and national media to promote the city as a premier destination. She also led the bureau’s social media efforts.  Prior to joining the destination organization world, Blizzard worked with a technology company and in the Public Information Office with the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners.  Blizzard is a Florida native with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts from the University of West Florida.

Karen Bremer
CEO, Georgia Restaurant Association - Atlanta, GA

With over 35 years in the hospitality industry, Bremer is the CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA), representing one of the largest industries in the state. The GRA serves as the unified voice for over 17,000 foodservice and drinking places in the state of Georgia with total sales in excess of $18 billion which provides more than 438,900 jobs.

Bremer was the former owner of Dailey’s and City Grill restaurants and was a top executive with the Peasant Restaurant Group, starting out as a manager and ultimately being named its president. Bremer is a founding member of the GRA and the past president of the GRA Board. She serves on the board of directors for the National Restaurant Association, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB), the DeKalb Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Council of State Restaurant Associations. She also sits on the Industry Advisory Board of Georgia State University's Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration and is a trustee of the Arby’s Foundation. She is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier International and the International Women's Forum. In 2015, she was inducted in the ACVB Hospitality Hall of Fame.

Bremer has garnered numerous awards including the ACVB Member of the Year Award in 2002 for her role in founding Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week. In 2009, Bremer received the Lifetime Achievement GRACE (Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence) Award for her outstanding contributions to Georgia's restaurant industry. In 2016, Bremer was named one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Georgians of the Year” in addition to being listed as a notable Georgian by Georgia Trend Magazine in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Jade Broadus
Vice President & Creative Director, Travel Mindset - Chicago, IL

Jade Broadus is the Vice President & Creative Director at Travel Mindset, an influencer marketing agency that specializes in the tourism industry. Jade is responsible for the ideation and management of more than 300+ influencer marketing campaigns for clients like Fairmont Hotels, Virgin Atlantic, Celebrity Cruises, Airbnb, and countless DMOs from all over the world. 

In addition to her role at Travel Mindset, Jade is an award-winning travel blogger with more than 75,000 Instagram followers. Jade’s unique background grants her the rare ability to understand both the marketer’s and influencer’s perspective. Learn more at www.travelmindset.com.

Lindsey Brown
Wildlife Resources Division Training Specialist, Georgia Department of Natural Resources - Atlanta, GA

Lindsey Brown is the Wildlife Resources Division Training Specialist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  Lindsey’s work brings him into contact with Georgia’s best spots for outdoor activities.  Prior to joining the Department of Natural Resources, Lindsey worked in education, nonprofit management, and with museums and historic sites.  He is a graduate of Berry College and resides in Atlanta, GA.

Brent Buice
Georgia + South Carolina Coordinator, East Coast Greenway Alliance - Savannah, GA 

Brent Buice is the former Executive Director of Georgia Bikes, a nonprofit organization working to promote and improve bicycling for transportation and recreation throughout Georgia. With Georgia Bikes, Brent led successful campaigns for a three feet passing law, a state DOT "Complete Streets" policy, and he helped increase the state's number of Bicycle Friendly Communities, Businesses, and Universities.

In February 2017, Brent joined the East Coast Greenway Alliance as its first Regional Coordinator for Georgia and South Carolina. In his role, he connects key decision makers, advocates, and community stakeholders from the coast of both states to further the development of the Greenway, an envisioned 3,000 mile trail connecting cities from Maine to Florida. Brent lives with his family in Savannah's historic district, where he enjoys the city's neighborhoods, squares, and parks on foot and by bicycle. 

Kim Cantrell
CEO, 2 Impact; Facilitator, The Leadership Institute at Columbus State University - Columbus, GA

Kim Cantrell is an experienced Senior Executive, with an extensive background in leadership, non-profit operations, strategic planning, team building and finance. She currently serves as the CEO of 2 Impact, a coaching and consulting firm dedicated to equipping individuals and businesses to reach their maximum growth potential.

Kim was previously the Senior Vice President of Mission Services for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers, (GWISR), headquartered in Columbus, Georgia. She joined the organization in 2000 as the Chief Financial Officer, after a successful career in retirement plan administration.  Kim holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting and a Masters in Organization Leadership with a concentration in Servant Leadership from Columbus State University. She holds the designation of Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coach Federation. Kim is a firm believer in the value of servant leadership and is committed to its practices.  Committed to the local community, Kim serves on the boards of: Enrichment Services Program, Boy Scouts of America (Chattahoochee Council), Wells Fargo Advisory, and North Columbus Rotary.  

Coach Bill Curry - Atlanta, GA

Bill Curry has spent his entire adult life as a leader and communicator. His NFL career included two Super Bowl titles and a stint as the President of the NFL Players Association. Bill served as head football coach for Georgia Tech (’80-’86), the University of Alabama (’87-’89), and the University of Kentucky (’90-’96). In 1989, Bill was recognized as the nation’s top coach with the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year Award.

From 1997 to 2008, Bill came into millions of homes each football Saturday as an analyst for ESPN. In September 2006, the American Football Coaches Association announced Bill as the recipient of the 2007 Amos Alonzo Stagg Award in honor of his outstanding service toward the advancement of the best interests of football.

In June 2008, Bill was selected to be the inaugural head coach of Georgia State University’s new football program. Bill’s book – “Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle” – was released in August 2008 by ESPN books and was praised by author Pat Conroy as “the best book about the NFL” that he ever read.

In 2014, Bill joined former player Pete Wellborn and communications expert Jeff Battcher to form AIM Sports Reputation Management, LLC (“AIM”). AIM provides crisis handling and leadership and success training to universities, professional franchises, and other members of the sports industry.

Governor Nathan Deal, State of Georgia

Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Nathan Deal has led Georgia to become the No. 1 state in the nation for business for four years in a row - a first in Georgia history - and helped create nearly 600,000 private sector jobs. In the last six years, Georgia’s job growth has outpaced the national average while its population has jumped from 10th to 8th nationally.

Through tax reform, workforce development initiatives and investment in education and infrastructure, the state continues to grow local small businesses and attract top companies from around the world. During Gov. Deal’s tenure, Georgia has become a global destination for companies in a wide range of industries. Under Deal’s leadership, Georgia has produced seven balanced budgets, saved millions of taxpayer dollars by maintaining Georgia’s AAA bond rating and grown the Rainy Day Reserve Fund to more than $2 billion.  Read more...

Shatakshee Dhongde, PhD
Associate Professor of Economics, Georgia Institute of Technology - Atlanta, GA

Shatakshee Dhongde is an Associate Professor of Economics and a Provost Teaching-Learning Fellow at Georgia Tech. She obtained her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Riverside. She is also a research affiliate with the Institute of Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her research has focused on analyzing economic growth and its impact on income inequality, poverty and multidimensional deprivation. She has conducted several economic impact studies for the Georgia Department of Transportation. She was awarded the Nancy and Richard Ruggles Prize for young researchers by the International Association of Review of Income and Wealth (IARIW). Her research has been published in several leading economics journals and has been highlighted in national media, including NPR. She is the recipient of multiple teaching awards at Georgia Tech. 

Mike Dugan
Chairman, Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee, Georgia State Senate - Carrollton, GA

State Senator Mike Dugan, a Republican, was elected to the State Senate for Georgia’s 30th District in early 2013. Senator Dugan represents portions of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties.  Senator Dugan serves as the Chairman of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Department. Senator Dugan is the Secretary of the Veterans, Military, and Home-land Security, Public Safety and Transportation committees.  Sen. Dugan served as a Governor’s Floor Leader from 2015-2016. Prior to being elected senator, Senator Dugan was President of the Carrollton Kiwanis Club, served on the Ex-ecutive Board of the Carrollton Housing Authority and West Georgia Athletic Foundation Executive Committee.

Sen. Dugan enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from college with his Bachelor’s Degree. He was later commis-sioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. He became an Army Ranger and a Master Paratrooper. Sen. Dugan is proud to have spent more than 20 years in the Army before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2008. During his career, he was deployed to more than 32 countries, including hostile fire deployments in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Senator Dugan is a local contractor at the Carrollton branch of RA-LIN and Associates. RA-LIN maintains a reputation as one of the most respected providers of construction services in the Southeast.

Jody Farrar
Social Media Consultant; previously Vice President of Marketing, Chute - San Francisco, CA
Jody has been in marketing and social media for over 15 years, most recently running marketing at Chute. Prior to Chute, she worked for digital pen company Livescribe where she ran global communications and social media. Prior to this she spent nearly a decade in public relations and advertising agencies, including Edelman and PRACO, where she managed clients including The Broadmoor Hotel, Symantec, Adobe and the Colorado Tourism Office.

Jody presented at Phocuswright, Florida Governor's Conference for Tourism, Mountain Travel Symposium, ITB, Eye for Travel, Travel Tech Con and the Digital Travel Think Tank.

Amrita Gurney
Vice President of Marketing, CrowdRiff - Toronto, Canada

Amrita Gurney is the Vice President of Marketing at CrowdRiff, where she leads a team responsible for brand, content, product marketing and demand generation. Prior to CrowdRiff, Amrita served in leadership roles at Audiobooks.com and innovation design firm Normative. Amrita holds an MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, MA. She loves digital marketing, contemporary art, drinking tea and travelling. You can find Amrita on Twitter @amritagurney

Lee Hughes
Partner, Hughes Public Affairs & GACVB Lobbyist - Savannah, GA

Lee began his career at the State Capitol in 1986 as a bill reader and data clerk, learning the legislative process from the inside. In 1989 he joined State Senator Pierre Howard’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor, handling a wide range of duties and traveling the state with the candidate. After the candidate emerged victorious from a field of 15 candidates, Lee was named to the Lt. Governor’s staff where he helped to manage the day-to-day operation of the Senate as well as coordinating his environmental legislation.

In 1993, Lee left the Capitol and Atlanta to become Regional Public Affairs Manager for what is now Georgia-Pacific Corporation. Lee handled local and state government affairs in as many as 8 eastern states, including Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas and the Virginias. Working in the state and local government affairs arenas, Lee successfully focused on tax relief and tax incentive initiatives, employment law and environmental policy. He has served in several leadership positions in his professional life including as President of the Georgia Pulp and Paper Association, Vice President of the Georgia Industry Association and on the Board of Directors for The Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He is a 1998 graduate of Leadership Georgia, and was named to Georgia Trend Magazine’s prestigious 40 Under 40 list in the Year 2000.

After almost ten years with the company, Lee left Georgia-Pacific in 2003 to create Hughes Public Affairs. After 20 years of working with state and local governments in various roles, Lee maintains his reputation as a resourceful, effective and trustworthy individual that is extremely familiar with the process. Lee currently provides legislative representation for the Georgia Association of CVBs.

Cosby Johnson
Director of Government Affairs, Georgia Travel Association - Atlanta, GA

Cosby is the Director of Government Affairs for the Georgia Travel Association (GATA), where he leads state level lobbying efforts. Additionally, Cosby represents the tourism industry through the Chamber’s Government Affairs Council, a coalition of over 450 government affairs professionals dedicated to achieving the policy objectives of the Georgia Chamber and its Affiliates, including GATA.

Before joining the Chamber, he worked on regional issues throughout Georgia on behalf of retired Senior U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss. He also worked in the public affairs department for current Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Cosby is a graduate of Valdosta State University and resides in Woodstock, Georgia.

Brian Kemp
Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia - Athens, GA

Brian Kemp is a conservative small businessman with a proven record of fighting – and winning – for Georgia.  In the State Senate, Kemp fought to cut fees, taxes, and mandates on job creators and Georgia families. As Secretary of State, Kemp used technology and innovation to cut bureaucratic red tape, slash spending, and streamline government. Kemp fought the Obama Justice Department and countless left-wing organizations attempting to undermine Georgia’s elections.

Kemp is not finished fighting for Georgia. As our Governor, Kemp will fight to make Georgia #1 for small business. He will ensure that all parts of our state – including rural Georgia – have opportunities to grow and thrive. Kemp will fundamentally reform state government and will always put Georgians first - not the special interests. While serving in public office, Brian Kemp has remained a small business owner with companies in agribusiness, financial services, real estate management and investment.

A lifelong resident of Athens, Kemp is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. Kemp, 53, is married to the former Marty Argo of Athens. They are the proud parents of three daughters and are active members of Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Kevin Langston
Deputy Commissioner, GDEcD's Tourism Division - Atlanta, GA

Kevin Langston is Deputy Commissioner for the Tourism Division at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Working with the Commissioner, Kevin oversees the activities of the department’s Tourism Division. Mr. Langston has served as Assistant Commissioner for theTourism division since May 2007, returning to the division after serving as Director of International Operations and Director of Projects, managing the state’s offices in ten locations around the world.

Mr. Langston previously served as Assistant Deputy Commissioner for the Tourism Division, where he oversaw marketing, sales and product development initiatives. He has also previously served as Director of Communications for the agency and in a number of roles in the department’s International Trade Division. Originally from northeast Missouri, Mr. Langston graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kansas State University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgia State University. Kevin serves on the board of directors of Travel South USA, and is the chair of their international committee. He is also a member of the National Council of State Tourism Directors. Kevin is an active member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association, a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional, and serves with numerous other industry and civic organizations.

Eric Lopez
Government Research & Survey Program Coordinator, Georgia Dept. of Community Affairs - Atlanta, GA

Eric Lopez joined the Office of Research at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in 2014, and has worked broadly with the various local government surveys and reports conducted by that office. He is directly responsible for overseeing reports and responding to questions involving the Hotel Motel Tax, as well as the Report of Local Government Finances and Report of Authority Finances. Eric also oversees the tax-exempt bond allocations program for DCA. 

He holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and International Affairs from Auburn University, and a Masters of Public Administration from Kennesaw State University, graduating Summa Cum Laude. During his final semester of Graduate School, he served as the policy intern for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), where he remained on staff in a fellowship role until receiving his current position as the Government Research & Survey Program Coordinator for DCA.

Lisa Love
Division Director, Georgia Department of Economic Development's Tourism Division - Atlanta, GA

Lisa Love is the Division Director for the Tourism Division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) overseeing operations. Prior to that, she spent six years managing music marketing and development initiatives for both Tourism and GDEcD’s Film, Music & Digital Entertainment division. For more than 12 years, she served in successive capacities, including executive director, at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame museum in Macon, and she spent two years as Director of Marketing and Communications for the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Love is the guiding force behind the Georgia Music Foundation’s Board of Directors and is a member of the governing board for DREAM Academy, a music- and arts-integrated charter school.

Marcus Margerum
Vice President, Government & Community Affairs, Atlanta CVB - Atlanta, GA

Marcus Margerum joined Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) as vice president of government and community affairs in March 2015. In this role, he represents the interest of ACVB and its members in government issues which impact the hospitality industry.

Margerum is the recipient of the 2018 APEX Award for Distinguished Service from Black Meetings & Tourism for his contributions to the industry. He is also a member of Leadership Atlanta’s class of 2019 and sits on the board of directors for Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation, Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and Georgia Travel Association. He previously served as vice president of marketing and communications during the launch of Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame. Prior to that, he worked as vice president of marketing and sales for Zoo Atlanta. Margerum also served on several boards including Hospitality Industry Professionals, Association of Zoos & Aquariums and ACVB’s attractions taskforce.

Margerum is a graduate of Hampton University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business management, and Clark Atlanta University, where he received his Master of Business Administration in marketing.

Jay Markwalter
Executive Director, Georgia Association of CVBs - Augusta, GA
Jay Markwalter, TMP, is the Executive Director of the Georgia Association of CVBs.  Jay has served in the DMO industry for over 15 years and is a leader in tourism-based economic development. Prior to GACVB Jay was the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Director of Marketing Communications and then Director of Sales where he was an active member of the Georgia Society of Association Executives.   His previous positions include Executive Director of the Lawrenceville GA Tourism & Trade Association and Tourism Director at the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau.

A 2007 Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College graduate, Jay has earned his Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) designation as well as certification as a Festivals and Events Planner. He has also received his GACVB Leadership Excellence Certification (LEC) and is a graduate of Leadership Georgia.  Jay served as a member of the GACVB board since 2013, most recently as the organization's President, before becoming their Executive Director.  Jay is currently serving on the Georgia Tourism Foundation and Southeast Tourism Society’s Boards of Directors.

Rich McKay
President & CEO, Atlanta Falcons - Atlanta, GA

Falcons President and CEO, Rich McKay, has been a fixture in the National Football League for more than 30 years. One of the League’s most influential executives, McKay is entering his 15th season with the Atlanta Falcons. During McKay’s tenure, the Falcons have been to the playoffs seven times, been to three NFC Championship games and participated in Super Bowl LI.

McKay was hired by Owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank in 2004 and served his first four years as the team’s general manager. He was promoted to president and chief executive officer in 2011. McKay played a key role in the coaching search that resulted in the hiring of Dan Quinn as Atlanta’s new head coach in early 2015. That same year, national columnist and creator of Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB), Peter King, named McKay number 10 out of the 100 most influential people in the NFL.

McKay was the point person in the negotiation, development and progress of building Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a process that began in earnest in 2008. Working closely with Blank, the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, McKay helped to secure approval and financing for Mercedes-Benz Stadium and created a true public-private partnership. The club broke ground on Mercedes-Benz Stadium on May 19, 2014, and it was completed in August of 2017 and serves as the home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. He is the only executive to have led two successful stadium negotiations (Atlanta and Tampa Bay). In April of 2014, McKay was named President of AMB Sports & Entertainment (AMBSE) which oversees the Falcons, Atlanta United and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Read more...

Katherine Moore
Sustainable Growth Program Director, Georgia Conservancy - Atlanta, GA

Katherine Moore, AICP leads Georgia Conservancy’s Sustainable Growth program. Sustainable Growth has worked with Georgia communities of all sizes, over 25 years, to increase sustainability in the built environment. The program offers education and training, technical services, and advocacy around the topics of small town redevelopment and infill, schools as public infrastructure, and quality urban design. 

Kelsey Moore
Executive Director, Georgia Travel Association - Atlanta, GA

Kelsey is the Executive Director of the Georgia Travel Association (GATA), the leading statewide advocacy organization for the hospitality and tourism industry in Georgia. Prior to joining GATA, Kelsey was the Director of Economic Development & Special Projects for the Georgia Chamber. In that role, she focused on strengthening the Chamber’s influence statewide, and developed the Georgia Chamber Federation, a grassroots network of 147 chambers of commerce and 45,000+ small businesses across Georgia. She joined the Georgia Chamber in 2012, and was instrumental in the significant expansion of the Chamber’s non-dues revenue streams, and its investor benefit products, programs, and educational offerings.

Prior to joining the Georgia Chamber, Kelsey worked for the Durham Chamber (N.C.) as the Director of Member Engagement. She holds a B.A. in Communication Media from North Carolina State University, and in 2016 earned her IOM designation for Nonprofit Organizational Management. Kelsey is a proud resident of Atlanta, active in the Junior League of Atlanta and serves on the board for Inherit Georgia, an initiative of the Georgia Trust for Historical Preservation.

Jay Morgan
Principal, J.L. Morgan Company - Atlanta, GA

In his role as an advocate for some of the Fortune 500’s leading corporations and business organizations, Jay Morgan has developed a reputation for building strong coalitions to withstand controversy on tough issues. Politicsmagazine.com named him a “Top 10 Georgia Influencer” for 2010 and commented, “He is at the top of his game." In his first announcement as Governor-elect, Nathan Deal appointed him as the co-chairman of the 2011 Inaugural Committee and a senior advisor to his transition team. J.L. Morgan Company serves as the lobbying team for the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association.

In January 2007, the Atlanta Journal Constitution drew distinction with his colleagues by saying, “lobbying when Democrats were in charge, he has continued to have success now that the Republicans run things.” Morgan was heavily involved in the 2007 video services legislation which passed both houses overwhelmingly as well as telecommunications deregulation legislation at both the federal and state level. Also during 2007, he successfully “quarterbacked” tort reform legislation (successor liability relief). In the 2003 session of the Georgia General Assembly, he provided strategic and tactical leadership in passing legislation that began the process known as public private partnerships (P3) to address pressing infrastructure needs. He was the lead strategist in passing tax legislation that resulted in securing Philips Arena, a top-rated concert and professional sports facility, for the city of Atlanta at no cost to the taxpayers. 

Derek Price
Director, North America; Expedia Media Solutions - Miami, FL

Derek’s focus as Director for North America at Expedia Media Solutions is working with his team to develop and deliver on custom designed digital media campaigns. The team works with travel and non-travel advertisers and their strength comes from their deep partnerships and relationships with DMOs, Airlines, Hotels and Attractions and being able to exceed their expectations utilizing the vast network of Expedia’s travel brands and global points of sale.

Derek has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. The last 10+ within the online space, much of it at OTAs, including Travelocity, Orbitz, and now Expedia. Derek has previously held roles from travel product manager, hotels sales, market management to media sales at OTAs and travel marketing companies including Sojern, in locations from San Francisco, New York City, Las Vegas and South Florida.

Tracie Sanchez
Tourism Product Development, Georgia Department of Economic Development

Decades of exploring trails are living proof that ‘all who wander are not lost’ because here she is. Tracie also happens to be a map lover (hence the not getting lost part).  Her career path to Tourism Product Development at GDEcD includes roles as a graphic designer, Lake Tahoe park ranger and ski bum, UGA leadership coordinator, and Georgia Trail Summit director, with an MPA from UGA. Noting the gap in trails leadership and the need for statewide resources, she aims to support all of Georgia's trail endeavors. Her daily bike ride or run with her husband Jeff is along the South Peachtree Creek Trail in a Decatur neighborhood connected to Emory University.

Cheryl Schutz
VP, Products and Services, DK Shifflet - Mclean, VA

Cheryl has worked in market research for more than 20 years, currently as Vice President of Products and Services at DK Shifflet, an MMGY Global company, where she is also a member of the MMGY Management Committee. Cheryl is responsible for the DK Shifflet business, which has provided the highest quality research to the travel and tourism industry for the more than 30 years.

Cheryl’s research expertise is in syndicated and custom qualitative and quantitative market research methods as well as consulting with clients on all aspects of research and analysis. Cheryl is a regularly invited speaker offering insights and opinions on U.S. resident travel behavior.

Before coming to DK Shifflet, she was Vice President of Research at PERQ/HCI, a Kantar company, specializing in syndicated and custom media research in the health care industry. Cheryl holds an M.S. in industrial psychology from California State University at Long Beach and a B.A. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Steak Shapiro
CEO, Bread n Butter Content Studio - Atlanta, GA

Steak Shapiro is one of the most respected and dynamic personalities in Atlanta. Along with being the longest running radio and TV host in the city, he has also served as CEO and founder of two of Atlanta’s most popular media companies.
In 1997, Steak built one of the country’s most successful sports talk radio companies, Big League Broadcasting. Steak served as president, CMO, and morning drive talent at 790 The Zone in Atlanta and was instrumental in the purchase of additional sports radio stations around the country. Steak sold his company to Lincoln Financial Media in 2011.
In 2013, Steak founded Bread n Butter LLC, a company that sits at the forefront of the "content marketing" explosion. Bread n Butter has also developed award winning local and regional television programs (Atlanta Eats and Dish Worth The Drive), creates state of the art video content for national and local companies (Anheuser Busch, Kia, Las Vegas Sands) and built a robust distribution network that connects brands to their consumers.
Steak continues to be a larger than life local and national personality with shows on the Food Network (Food Truck Face-Off and Best Ever) and frequent contributor to CNN, FOX NEWS, FOX BUSINESS, and MSNBC. In Atlanta, his hometown, he serves as host of TV’s Atlanta Eats, Dish Worth the Drive, and the #1 sports talk show in the city, “The Front Row” on 680 The Fan. There are few people that understand the business, marketing and entrepreneurial world with the depth of Steak Shapiro.

Kate Skidmore
Senior Director of Membership Engagement, Destinations International - San Diego, CA

Kate Skidmore joined Destinations International as Subscriber Services and Engagement Manager for the empowerMINT product in October 2013. Prior to her role at Destinations International, Skidmore spent seven years at the San Diego Tourism Authority. Her background includes marketing, digital media, advertising sales, IT implementation, and CVB/Hotel sales training for iLead. Skidmore is responsible for growing the adoption of member engagement, resulting in increased number of engaged individuals within a member organization and an increase in use of Destinations International  products, educational events and research.

Jim Sprouse
Executive Director, Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association

Jim Sprouse, CAE, is the Executive Director of the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association (GHLA), a membership trade organization comprised of lodging facilities and suppliers from all across the state. As head of GHLA, Sprouse oversees hoteliers who work together to drive business to their markets and become involved in community and civic affairs such as public safety, development, and government affairs. GHLA is also involved in orchestrating local, grassroots efforts of hoteliers who work alongside elected officials to promote the welfare of Georgia’s tourism industry. Sprouse served two terms as chair of the International Society of Hotel Executives. He has served as Board member and a member of the Executive Committee for the American Hotel and Lodging Association. In addition, he serves on the board of two Convention & Visitors Bureaus in Georgia and is on the board of the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University. Jim received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Clemson University. 

Ron Stephens
Chairman, House Economic Development & Tourism Committee, Georgia House of Representatives -  Garden City, GA

State Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) represents the 164th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. Rep. Stephens is the Chairman of the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee. Rep. Stephens has been a member of the House for twenty-one years. Rep. Stephens is also a member of the Appropriations, Rules, and Ways and Means Committees. May 24, 2013 Governor Nathan Deal appointed Rep. Stephens to the Georgia Tourism Foundation.

Representative Stephens is a graduate from Armstrong State & Mercer University with a degree in Pharmacy. Representative Stephens has spent thirty-eight years as a pharmacist. Before being elected to the House, Rep. Stephens earned a seat as a City Councilman in Garden City. Proven a consensus builder and a member who can reach across party lines, Rep. Stephens was selected as the Vice-Chair of the Appropriations Health subcommittee and as a member of the Economic Development subcommittee, under a democratic majority and leadership.

Rep. Stephens was selected as the Chair of the Economic Development & Tourism Committee because of his experience of seventeen years in the General Assembly. Representative Stephens is passionate about protecting and strengthening Georgia's tourism business. He has served on the Appropriations Committee for nineteen years. Representative Stephens is the co-author of the first floating homestead exemption in Georgia now applying in more than 50 taxing districts in the state which effectively freezes property taxes for the homeowner. It is known as the STEPHENS-DAY Bill HB 350. He also served and was pioneer on the original tourism study committee that led to the formation of the current Economic Development and Tourism Committee, which earned him the Leadership Award for efforts to bring non-traditional tourism industries over to the tourism side.

Shawna Suckow, The Buyer Insider - Minneapolis, MN
Shawna Suckow, CMP, was a million-dollar buyer in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. In 2008 she founded an association of B2B buyers, which now has over 2,500 members across North America. She began studying buyer behavior in earnest in 2009, and speaking to audiences of salespeople who were frustrated with the shifting marketplace and the influences of technology. She wrote her first book on the subject in 2012. Her third book is an Amazon best-seller called Don’t Become Extinct – Join the Sales Evolution.

She now has spoken on 5 continents in 15 countries, helping salespeople and businesses to understand the ever-evolving buyer landscape.  Honors include being named to the Global Top 100 Women Business & Tech Speakers, Planners' Favorite Speakers lists of 2014 and 2015, and Top 8 Speakers of 2013.