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Submitted by:
Jude Creamer
Manager, Global Accounts
Member since: 2016

August 2017

John Foster, Esq., CHME
Foster, Jensen & Gulley
Member since: 1990

John Foster, Esq., CHME is an attorney, speaker, author, and legal counsel whose firm Foster, Jensen & Gulley specializes in the legal aspects of meetings & conventions, trade shows & events, and association management. He has been an associate or general counsel for over 400 national and regional associations and companies since 1986. John has been named nine times as one of the 25 most influential people in the meetings industry by Meeting News.

That’s just the first paragraph of his distinguished professional bio. John’s road to serving the meetings industry started in the hotel industry. He served as hotel Sales Manager and Director of Sales with Hyatt and Marriott hotels, and was involved with MPI Georgia even back then. In his hotel role, he clearly saw the need for the importance of understanding contracts. Adding a law degree to his resume created a unique position for him in this industry. 

Foster left the hotel industry in 1986 after one of his best association clients asked him if he knew an attorney that could review the association’s hotel and convention center contracts. John spoke up and the rest is history.

That association is still a client today. For the last 30 years he has advised associations and corporations nationwide with in-house consultations and delivers 15-25 speaking engagements each year. When presenting a program to groups he finds his strong suit is the ability to explain complicated legal principles so that non-lawyers can easily understand. When preparing or revising industry contracts he finds his strong suit is understanding the players in this industry, and their relationships and responsibilities.

John’s career spring-boarded after a speaking engagement for a MPI annual meeting in Miami. He spoke on the importance of solid contracts in the meetings industry and within 2-3 days of returning to his hotel office, he had received a deluge of phone messages from meeting planners asking him to review their contracts. This was a loud and clear career message.

And as they say… the rest is history. Thank you, John, for your service to the Atlanta chapter and your many other MPI contributions.

Eventually when John retires he’ll be leaving this industry quite a legacy.  In fact, he’s currently in the process of writing “Hotel & Facility Contracts: A Field Guide for Meeting Professionals” which will be a valuable tool for meeting planners, filled with interesting articles and checklists.  It is slated to be published in 2018.


July 2017


Chris Yueh, CMP
Director of Programs
The Atlanta Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Member since: 2015


For the last three years, Chris Yueh, CMP, has been relishing his role handling meeting logistics for the AIA Atlanta Chapter’s monthly social and educational meetings, as well as annual signature events. His planning serves 1700 members in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. Prior to this position, Chris served as the Corporate Volunteer Coordinator for Hands On Atlanta.

Chris was introduced to MPI GA by former Chapter President, Eileen Roehl, CMP. He joined to learn more about the meetings and event industry, and stayed for the networking and educational aspects of membership. Most recently, he served as the Fall Classic Chair in 2015.

In three words, Chris is diligent, outgoing, and loyal. He says the best part of his job is the work itself: “I get jazzed planning and executing events and meetings, with the take-away being a sense of satisfaction seeing our programs accomplished flawlessly.”

Chris is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure his events comes off without a hitch, including giving the shirt off his back – literally. In 2015 the AIA held its national convention here in Atlanta. The opening party was held at the National College Football Hall of Fame. In keeping with the football theme, Chris had jerseys made and asked each of the three presenters to “uniform up” for the event. All they had to do was remember to wear their jersey. When one of the presenters forgot the jersey in the hotel room, he gave her the jersey he was wearing; and continued the event in his chic Hanes “tighty whitey” tee under a borrowed sport coat.

If Chris could create an event for any famous person in the world, he would choose former President Barack Obama.  Creating an event honoring the former president would be a true test of his meeting professional skills: theme, logistics, security, and venue selection. Chris would savor the challenge.

Editor’s Note from Ginger:  When you see Chris, please congratulate him for earning his CMP designation this May. When asked if there was anything else significant happening in his life at the moment, he shared this accomplishment as somewhat of an afterthought. A fourth word to describe Chris would be “humble.”


June 2017

Tess Vismale, CMP, DES
Chief Event Executioner
iSocialExecution, Inc.
Member since 2011

Tess describes herself as a “SupPlanner” (supplier planner) with a geek side. She’s a social creature with a love for educating people. Her biggest delight is what she calls seeing people have that “high-five moment” (because, she says, “It’s even bigger than an ‘a-ha’ moment”).

As Chief Event Executioner at iSocialExecution, Inc. Tess handles all aspects of events from the planning stages through execution. She is a talented meeting professional sharing her knowledge in both strategy and on-site operations. Ultimately, she chooses to release the stuff she doesn’t like, and take on only those tasks and challenges that help her thrive. Tess loves the freedom she has in her day-to-day activities – getting to travel and meet so many people along the way. 

The pinnacle is found in her love of helping others. Tess enjoys seeing the joy on the face of a person she has guided to post their first tweet or how to get their boarding pass on the airline app. As they say… “priceless.”

Tess has designed a business model that serves meeting planners in a few ways:

  • Speaking at conferences about apps, productivity, app deployment, and tech educational relevance
  • Engaging with teams for hi-tech, hi-touch experiences
  • Working with a meetings team as an extension of their staff

One of Tess’ gifts is her ability to thrive managing chaos and bringing peace to a crazy situation. She’s able to view an event from the role of an attendee, as well as the perspective of a meeting professional. Given her stage management background, Tess is also experienced working behind the scenes.

She feels her best contribution is often being a liaison between the planner and the A/V production team, which is an essential role but often overlooked in the planning stages. 

Tess has a stockpile of memorable event experiences. On her way to managing the first-ever, evening party on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for the Rainbow Push Coalition, she was challenged with a pop-up request. In addition to the evening event, she needed to coordinate a breakfast meeting at the former World Trade Center for the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. and other political figures. Not only did she manage the logistics of both events, she liaised with the Secret Service to ensure a secure environment for the sitting president and many high-profile dignitaries.

In the end, if Tess has been an example to people of how to live a life of true freedom, with no limits or bounds, and not being defined by gender or race, she feels successful. She truly believes it’s possible if one just centers oneself and allows themselves to live in this moment.

Tess confesses that over the years, these projects at which she has excelled have brought her to a clear vision of her next dream: to teach these skill-sets to other meeting professionals.   

May 2017


Allison Spicer, CMP
Manager, Events & Branding
The Home Depot
MPI member since2004
Joined MPI Georgia 2014

As Manager, Events & Branding at The Home Depot, Allison Spicer would describe her work style as creative, optimistic, and “Type A”. Weaving the company’s values and strong brand culture into every event requires focus and discipline, and is an essential part of her job responsibilities.
Having celebrated her third anniversary with The Home Depot last fall, Allison loves the travel that comes with her position as well as the planning of the event strategy and logistics. More specifically, creating an experience for people that they can’t provide themselves is the best part.
Of those experiences that Allison helps create, her favorite was an incentive trip for her former company’s Europe/Middle East/Asia Region, with a formal gala dinner in a see-through tent amongst the shadows of the Sydney Opera House as the pinnacle moment. Not only was the city down under picture-postcard beautiful with the nicest people everywhere, every day of the trip brought a new, bigger, and more wonderful experience.
Allison has been a member of MPI since 2004 – first in the Potomac (DC) Chapter and then actively in the NYC chapter. She joined our chapter in 2014 and serves on the Phoenix Awards Committee, with this year being her inaugural experience.
Last year her first child was born a week before the event and she was home recovering. Allison believes that MPI Georgia’s biggest contribution to the meetings world is the engaging, teaching, and connecting of the membership. Meetings are definitely in her child’s blood as her husband, Bill, serves as the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown. 

Allison’s legacy? To be known as kind and inclusive, and always connecting people. “Six degrees of Allison Spicer”. 


Submitted by:
Megan Perks, CMP, CMM
Independent Planner
Palm House Group
Member since: 2003

April 2017

Welcome to our newest members.

With more than 17,000 members in 90 chapters and clubs, Meeting Professionals International is the largest and most vibrant global meeting and event industry association.

Our chapter has 44 new members we’d like to introduce. At the next event, be sure to seek out these individuals with the 1st Year Member white ribbon. Welcome back, Natlaie Nardone. 



Mark Constantinou

Hyatt Regency Chicago

Cathy Jones

Hendeson Beach Resort

Alan Kleinfeld

Arrive Management Group

Kristina Oumedlouz

MGM Resorts International

Jeanna Searcy

Jamie Swift

Swift Incentives

Mamie Goldman

Amy Peralta

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

Cathy Taylor

Your Event Solution

Dorie Wirtz

Jaime Castro


Jennifer Smithwick


Cary Handy

Juice Studios

Lisa Hanson

Helen Taffet

Sensational Baskets




Natalee Anderson

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Jill Cohen

Cox Automotive

Chris Eldridge

Rachelle Goldstein

GA Department Economic Development

Regan Hansen

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Abby Hicks

Hotel Indigo Athens

Lydia Hires

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Devon McKenna

Photosynthesis Studio

Anne Racine

A T Kearney

Nickie Sears-Schroeder

Jeanette Stensgaard

James H. Rainwater Conference Center

Morgan Stincer

Sara Webb

InTandem Promotions

Cyndi Willis

Remington Hotels

Elizabeth Gaston

Meeting Advice

Kelly Nelson

L.E.D. Luminocity Holdings

Justin Page

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Karen Schroeder

Foxhall Resort & Sporting Club

Ebony Shanks

Joanna Gomez

Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek

Leslie Smith

Satori Wilson

St Joe Club & Resorts





Kathy Grashof

Orange Business Services

Kimberly Johns


Colleen Wogan

Q&A Events

Patsy Campbell

Yolanda Moix

Aria Las Vegas

Natalie Nardone

Nardone Consulting Group

Jazma Parker

Georgia State University/GWCCA

Monica Walters

Cox Automotive

Submitted by:
Jude Creamer
Manager, Global Accounts
Member since: 2016

March 2017

Jeff Holland
Vice President of Sales
Monalto Corporate Events
Member since: February 2004

Jeff is dedicated hard-worker and gets things done. He serves as MPI Georgia’s Membership Activation Committee Chair and is Vice President of Sales at Monalto Corporate Events.  For about a year now, when a chapter member expresses an interest in actively serving on a committee, he goes to work learning about that person and determining which committee might best suit their skills and interaction style.

In his role at Monalto Corporate Events, Jeff not only makes client connections and develops new corporate travel events for sales meetings, incentives, and entertainment; he jumps in and helps the operations team make sure all goes well for onsite program execution as well. He finds there is a feeling of accomplishment in seeing an event to conclusion. There’s an intangible reward in witnessing his clients’ reactions to his team’s work.     

Jeff is willing to do whatever it takes to solidify his connections and do everything to its fullest, including seizing an opportunity years ago, before his two and four-year-old children came along.  Unbeknownst to Jeff, on a small corporate event, the principals brought their children along to the event, and then decided they wanted to get away on an excursion. Jeff found himself in the role of “Manny” for the afternoon – with no previous experience watching young ones. A good example of his “not in my job description but I’ll tackle it anyway” attitude.  

Jeff lives in Roswell with his wife, Anne, and their two children.  His babysitting adventure in paradise was prior to becoming a father. 

February 2017

Lesli Castaneda, CMP
Senior Meeting & Event Manager
Cox Enterprises
Member since: 2004

Ever tenacious Senior Meeting & Event Planner, Lesli Castaneda, CMP with Cox Enterprises, would tell you that getting even the smallest details done on any one of the various programs she manages provide her with a sense of accomplishment. Earning her CMP designation, Lesli says, might be her biggest. So, receiving a “thank you” e-mail from the students she mentors on the CMP Study Group Committee after they’ve passed the big exam provides her with a full heart knowing that she has really contributed in a big way. She has also previously served on the Board of Directors of MPI Georgia, Education Committee. These are probably a few of the many reasons she was the 2016 recipient of the Hayward C. Cox, Jr. CMP Continuing Quality Award

Lesli joined our chapter in 2004, one year after getting her foot in the door at Cox Enterprises. In the past 14 years she has served in many capacities handling groups of all sizes and scopes: executive board meetings, incentives, large scale meetings, etc. She clearly loves what she does (arriving at her office by 7:00 a.m. daily) but if she could eliminate one element from her job profile, it would be gathering her attendees’ transportation details.

What transports Lesli to her “happy place?”

That would be her high-school sweetheart husband, their beautiful 10-year-old daughter, Maggiano’s “Rigatoni D”, and the beach. 


January 2017

Submitted by:
Megan Perks, CMP, CMM
Independent Planner
Palm House Group
Member since: 2003

January 2017

Karyn Evans, CMP, CMM, SMMC
Sponsoships, Meetings & Events
Allianz Life Insurance Company of NA
MPI Member since: 1996
MPI Georgia Member since: 2004

Karyn has been working for Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota since November 2000. Her role upon being hired at Allianz was to create a centralized meetings team – building the department from the bottom up in which all meetings and events were contracted, sourced, and managed internally by a team of ten. During the early years, the team planned as many as 1200 meetings a year.

An industry pioneer, Karyn created a strategic meetings management platform in 2000 in order to capture meeting data and spend. She remained in this role until 2004, when her family relocated to the greater Atlanta area and she began working remotely as a manager. 

 A rather unique attribute that remains today is this centralized team operates as part of an overall internal “ad agency” working in unison with creative, branding and media production counterparts within Allianz. The primary focus of the meetings and events planned by her direct reports is on incentive programs, board meetings, producer and employee events.

Karyn has been a member of MPI for 20 years and a member of MPI Georgia since 2004. She appreciates the value that MPI, as well as the Georgia Chapter, has to offer fellow meeting planners. A natural mentor herself, she is always open to help others learn more about our exciting industry.

Karyn is one of three global planners to have achieved the CMP, CMM, and SMMC designations collectively. 

She has been featured on the cover of several industry magazines over the years including Financial & Insurance Meetings, Meetings and Conventions Magazine, and Insurance and Conference Planners. In her personal time, Karyn focuses on family, community service, baking, and staying healthy.

December 2016

Reflections from the 1990s… Importance of culture in the workplace and our organizations.

The 1996 Summer Olympics brought a flock of young professionals in the hospitality industry to Atlanta. I transferred with a hotel group headquartered in Texas with two dozen colleagues. We were placed at seven different properties, and I was not one of the fortunate ones assigned to the Perimeter area which had two, newly renovated, mid-tier hotels. This was referred to as a businessman’s hotel; a prelude to the limited services concept. We were thrilled to come aboard accepting junior roles in sales, catering, and food & beverage, with promise of invaluable experience and swift advancement.

Boy, did they get their monies worth out of the new recruits. I was assigned to an airport hotel as a Conference Services Manager. Driving from Marietta on I-285 thru the downtown corridor to Virginia Avenue was not what I had in mind as a glamorous job in the capital of the South. As the “conference services chick,” I was quickly introduced to the SMERF (social, military, educational, religious, fraternal) market and selling a variety of a chicken banquet entrees for under $30.00 per person. If that seems intriguing – a gallon of coffee probably costed the same. Quite a difference from the catering prices we see today. 

But here’s the kicker… the Internet, Flip Phones, and Data Projectors were just being introduced at this time. Many of us used pagers. You submitted your Sales Contracts and Banquet Event Orders to the Office Manager to be typed. I even came across some contracts in the client files with carbon paper. This leads me to believe there was not a copier in the office. It was common practice to mail the documents because you weren’t allowed to tie up the fax machine for 20-minutes. And yet another sophisticated planning tool was the infamous function room diary. If you haven’t had your hand slapped or been “written up” for changing the diary – consider yourself lucky. 

What does this walk down memory lane have to do with corporate culture?

To this day, I can probably recite at least half of the core values imparted to us by the executive team which I learned at my first hotel job. The posters hung in the cafeteria, we discussed one topic each day in our pre-shift meetings, and sometimes you were stopped by a manager and asked on the spot, “Name three core values.” If you answered correctly you may have received early dismissal on a Friday or a coupon for the Ice Cream Shoppe.

Why did this company make the investment to transfer so many associates from Texas when there was a talented, experienced workforce in Atlanta?

  • To demonstrate the core values in action
  • To share the customer-centric philosophy
  • To instill the corporate culture

How does this story relate to do with MPI Georgia?

Our leaders and longtime members have developed, nurtured, and enriched our chapter’s admirable culture throughout the years. If you read the tributes to the former Chapter Presidents (see below) in last month’s edition, there are many common threads such as mentoring, business and job referrals, community service, celebration, and motivation.

MPI Georgia members are recognized in many personal, memorable ways such as our monthly programs and special events, the Quarterly Shining Star Award, the Annual Phoenix Awards, Membership and Educational Grants, and right here in the monthly newsletter.

Be a part of the MPI Georgia culture by recognizing a fellow member.

  • Invite to join a committee
  • Encourage to be a table host
  • Suggest to be featured in the newsletter: Member Showcase, Grapevine, New Member or Student Profile
  • Recommend for a volunteer or leadership position
  • Nominate for an award

In closing, we all have stories about first jobs, worst jobs, audio visual glitches, and crazy Manager on Duty (MOD) shifts. These tales are fun to divulge when getting to know someone at an industry event or reminiscing about the good old days. Here’s one thing from that job in the dingy, airport hotel I’ll never forget; and it doesn’t have to do with the working on weekends or negotiating with your fellow catering managers to secure meeting rooms with windows. My best takeaway? I met my husband. 

November 2016

Last month in the Leadership Corner, Eileen Roehl mentioned a great tool for networking which was to do a bit of research before an event to aid in your networking opportunities. Well, consider the next few pages your “little black book” of great conversation starters with the Past Presidents’ who shaped our “GaMPI” chapter we now refer to as MPI Georgia.

Before we toast (or roast) this impressive group of industry leaders, I’d like to share just how strong MPI connections can be. I personally know each President starting with Carrie Hurd, CMP, and a few more leaders from the 90s. In fact, I have worked for three of our Past Presidents, conducted business with others, and consider several mentors and close friends. 

Let’s start at the top…

  • Connie  spearheads our CMP Study Groups
  • Leigh Ann and Meredith shared their journey with stylish, maternity clothing 
  • Lance will get you in touch with the right Starwood contact in any corner of the globe within 90 minutes
  • Brenda never tires of providing information on the Nashville Honky Tonk Tour
  • Jeff and Larry can make a recommendation faster than you can share a name or company
  • Candace will have you working with a committee… even if you never said YES
  • Mike knows how to get a laugh and smile from anyone
  • and Annie will red-line your executive briefs (more about this later) while leading a conference call

There are so many stories to tell about the “Who’s Who” in our industry, and that’s why we’ve recruited more than (20) members to share their memories and appreciation of our past leaders. 

For our newer members and future chapter leaders, I sincerely encourage you to consider Eileen’s advice: Be Intentional with Your Networking, Surround Yourself with Like-Minded Peers, and Get Involved with MPI Georgia.

Happy Reading, 


That is the word that first comes to mind when I think of our past leaders. Not just for their countless hours of service to our chapter, but for the legacy of passion and professionalism that they launched early in their membership. And I am constantly amazed to see the impact their actions still have today. I hope you enjoy these fond recollections.

Eileen Roehl, CMP – Murfee Meetings Group
MPI Georgia 2016-2017 President

We Appreciate the Presidents’ who have served MPI Georgia

1991Connie Bergeron, CMP
The term “legend” should not be used casually, but in Connie’s case it’s most appropriate. Her commitment to the industry and to professionals, new and seasoned, is unsurpassed. Connie’s list of accomplishments requires a power stapler to hold it together. More people can say they knew about a training opportunity, got a job interview, picked up networking skills, or joined a committee because she reached out to them. And it’s 24/7/365. If your phone chimes with a new e-mail at three in the morning… chances are really good that it’s Connie.

Gregg Lauer, CMP –Equifax

1992 –Ricky Steele

I attended my first educational program in February of 1990. Believe it or not, there was an open bar… at lunch! Ricky was our President and I remember getting the warmest greeting and massive handshake. We realized many years later that he knew my father from when he was President of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. We are fortunate to have found our place in the hospitality industry.

Kathi Kelly – KSL Resorts

1993 –Lorraine Powell

Lorraine will live in our hearts forever. My personal life had taken a sad turn and I was floundering around trying to decide – stay in Atlanta or head out. Then Lorraine and Susie Beadle came to our office and suggested I attend a chapter social event, and I was hooked. That was in the late 80s... and the passion for the industry and making new friends was like fireworks that have not burned out.

Paulette Hopkins – The Hopkins Alliance

1994 –Lodi Palmer, CMP

Lodi was one of the first “true” meeting professionals that I encountered in my career.At the time in the mid-80s, she was the meetings and travel planner for American Software headquartered in Buckhead, and one of my largest clients when we opened The Ritz-Carlton.I was always in awe of her energy, enthusiasm, and ability to juggle what seemed like hundreds of consecutive meetings and events.She was one of the industry leaders who inspired me to forge ahead in this business.Though she relocated out of the Atlanta area and the industry, I think of her often and smile when I remember the meetings we pulled off together.

Ginny Izydore – Barnsley Resort

1995 –Susan Beadle

Susan, or as I have always known her, Suzy, was one of the first people I met when I came into this industry back in 1986. Yes, it is true. There wereopen bars and ashtrays on the tables at monthly luncheons. Do we miss those days?I was one of the "new guys" in the industry, and she was always quick with a smile and generous expressing positive thoughts. Suzy's leadership style set the tone for the comradery we enjoy today.

Russ LoPinto, CMP – ONstage

1996 –Patricia Hardy, CMP

When I think of Pat, I remember our long hours of working together on at least four Chapter of the Year submissions. We swapping out typing duties and composed content section by section. What a terrific friend and leader Pat has been to many. In 2000, she received theHayward C. Cox, Jr., CMP Continuing Quality Awardin recognition of her years as an MPI Georgia chapter volunteer. Pat has owned her own meeting planning company for more than 30 years. Her excellent listening skills and commitment to quality have made her a role model and mentor to countless young professionals. And her great laugh is a major asset as well.

Connie Bergeron, CMP –Site Selection Solutions

1997 –Robert Carr

Thank you for your contributions, Bob.

1998 –Vickie Slack

I have known Vickie for many years, and she has been in the hospitality industry as far back as I can remember. She is highly regarded in our industry, and has helped mold the MPI Georgia chapter from the beginning. I am fortunate to have worked with her along the way. Vickie is a good example of the kind of leader many in the hospitality industry strive to become.

Larry Greene – Greene Worldwide Transportation

1999 –Cynthia Askew Gomes, MBA, CHA, CMP

I think of Cynthia as a "steel magnolia." A strong, goal-oriented leader who is dedicated to seeing the chapter thrive, and communicates her vision in a charming, well-modulated, southern accent. Her passion for professional development is evident from her having earned an MBA in 2011. She passed the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) examinationtwice, after regretfully letting her first certification lapse when she relocated to North Carolina. Cynthia's calm and encouraging demeanor, and knowledge of the CMP process, are perfect attributes for supporting planners and suppliers in our chapter as they pursue their CMP designation. Cynthia is also an Adjunct Professor with DeVry University's hospitality management program.

Connie Bergeron, CMP –Site Selection Solutions

2000 –Carrie Hurd, CMP

What I remember most about Carrie was from my very first MPI Georgia meeting. I came from the Michigan MPI Board of Directors with meetings of about 50 attendees.On this day I encountered more than 200 people at the luncheon program held at Woodruff Arts Center and I knew not a sole. I approached Carrie after she spoke during the program and introduced myself. I told her I would love to get involved.Rather than steering me towards another board member or committee chair, she spent time talking to me. She had the biggest smile on her face and was so warm and welcoming.After she took time to ensure I felt welcome, she introduced me to Kenna Thomas, President Elect and a true “Southern Bell.” She in turn introduced me to Russ LoPinto for the Social Committee – go figure – and as they say, “the rest is history.”

Pamela Shepherd CIS, CHSC – USMotivation

2001Barry Wolfert, CMP

I have had the pleasure of knowing Barry since he was a young management trainee fresh out of Cornell Hospitality School and working hard to get into our business at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. His career grew quickly and it was great to see him evolve and succeed. Barry shared his passion and chapter involvement, which I would call contagious. As President, he proudly led us through enormous growth. Barry has since developed a prosperous career in the real estate world; yet his smile, presence, enthusiasm, and friendship continues. He is remembered fondly in our MPI circles.

Ginny Izydore – Barnsley Resort

2002 –Kenna Thomas, CMP

Kenna’s energy and passion for MPI was contagious and she presided over her board working hard and listening to the members. Those were the days when membership was close to 1,000, if not more, and making such a large group feel engaged and connected was something she did extremely well.

Kenneth Jones – dynami group

I joined in the early 2000s and was always impressed with how much enthusiasm the board members brought to each and every event. Kenneth and Kenna we’re always perfect… the “Ken and Barbie” of MPI Georgia.

Hayley Burch, CMP – Young Harris College

2003Kenneth Jones

What can you say about a man like Kenneth? He is a figurehead in the meetings and events industry in Atlanta and beyond: Founder and Managing Director of the dynami group, a father and husband to a beautiful family, and a leader to his team. But for me, he is one of the main reasons I chose the career I have today, and I will always look to him as a mentor. We are most fortunate Kenneth continues to be engaged in our organization, and I am lucky to have him as part of my story.

Ashley Izydore – Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

2004 –Eddie Potter, CMP

Eddie was a savvy volunteer leader who understood that in order to survive as an organization, the MPI Georgia chapter needed to urgently increase its top-line revenue. The Meetings Exploration Conference (MEC), first held in 1999, grew to become a signature event branded as Eventeract that is now known as the Tech Summit. One of my fondest memories? When the world-famous Marching Ducks from The Peabody Memphis were flown to Atlanta by David Berkoski for the monthly educational program. Eddie was privileged to be Honorary Duck Master as the ducks entered on a red carpet to the tune of John Philip Sousa's King “Cotton March.”

Connie Bergeron, CMP –Site Selection Solutions

2005 –Michael Hall

We’ve had many themes over the past years, and what I remember about Michael is that he brought, “We Are Family,” back with a vengeance to promote networking, resources, and opportunities. Even though I lived in Athens and couldn’t attend all of the events, I truly felt part of that exciting family. My standout memory was the year-end Phoenix Awards at the newly opened InterContinental Buckhead. I was thrilled to be nominated for an award and even more so that my “work family,” consisting of my boss and a colleague, were there to support me. Michael was one of those to first greet us and to ensure we felt at home on that special evening.

Tim Barrett, CMP – Destination South Meetings & Events

2006 –Leigh Ann Waters

I joined MPI Georgia in 2005 almost immediately after starting my first full-time planning job. I remember thinking how much I admired everyone in the room. Here I was a total newbie in the business with limited experience to begin with – I was a bit in awe – and completely intimidated to speak with anyone. Back then we assigned older members to connect with new members to help show them the ropes and introduce them around. Without my mentor, I’d probably still be too star struck today to have found my way. Thank you, Leigh Ann, for fostering an environment to encourage everyone to take that first step working with others through committees and special events. It works.

Heather Herrig, CMP – Every Last Detail

2007 –Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM

Lance is one of the MPI Georgia’s brightest stars.His many leadership positions, serving on the Board of Directors and as a Committee Chair, set a standard every volunteer hopes to live up to.His personality, wit, intelligence, and drive ensure peak performance and achievement.As a Past President, Lance has chaired multiple Phoenix Awards, helped co-create Eventeract, provided DJ services to liven up our events, and served as MC for countless programs.(You gotta love the interaction between Lance and Kate.) He creates volunteer experiences for chapter members to develop skills and gain confidence in their ability to succeed.Our chapter continues to thrive with Lance’s dynamic leadership.

Jeff Whitney –Event Transportation/Atlanta

2008 –Cynthia Alford, DCMP

Cynthia and I met over 28 years ago when she was with the Savannah Convention & Visitors Bureau and I was a newbie at the DeSoto Hilton Savannah. We have some interesting stories from that time which we will keep to ourselves for now. I have watched her grow through the years to become a successful business owner in this crazy hospitality industry.Happy to call Cynthia my friend, client, and colleague.

Carol Hall – Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center

2009 –Brenda Dempsey

Well, what can Inotsay about Brenda? She has poured her heart and soul into the hospitality industry and MPI Georgia.Brenda always has had a vision for where our chapter should be, and she participates in just about all of our special events. Brenda defines what volunteering is all about. Now that being said, she also is a fierce competitor when it comes to bidding on silent auction items. Our chapter would not be the same without Brenda as a longtime member. Thank you for mentoring many, many people along the way… including me.

Larry Greene – Greene Worldwide Transportation

2010 –Kate Demarest Lastinger, CMP, CMM

Kate is one of a few individuals who have both the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and the Certificate in Meeting Management (CMM) designations.She brought measurement and metrics to the chapter review process for the first time. Before joining NCR as Director Global Events, she founded her own company, Metaphrasis Group.Kate continues to be involved in the chapter and our industry through speaking engagements and as a Meetings & Event Management instructor at Kennesaw State University.

Brenda Dempsey – Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau

Kate will always be known to me as the president on the sofa. She had a "set" on stage for every meeting and it felt like you were in her living room or on a talk show. Her year was filled with a lot of fun with Lance as her sidekick DJ.

Allyson Wagner, CMP– Omnience

2011 –Meredith Martini

Meredith is one of the most engaging hospitality partners in our chapter. She has worked countless hours leading and encouraging members for the best possible outcomes to ensure individual fulfillment and chapter success.

Andrea Largay, CMP – Meeting Needs, LLC

We’ve adored Meredith as a single woman on the town, during her engagement, and also as a wife and mother. Her energy is boundless. What a powerhouse she continues to be through creative and strategic contributions to our chapter. I was so impressed with the “play” on words in creating her company name, because play… works. She created a niche market when teambuilding became the dreaded word we saw on a meeting agenda. Bravo, Meredith.

Megan Perks, CMP, CMM – Palm House Group

2012 –Jeff Whitney

One of my fondest memories of Jeff was when we were in New Orleans for a board planning retreat. Jeff, Larry Greene, Stephanie Henriksen, and I arrived early so we could explore the city. He once lived in New Orleans so we loved hearing his crazy escapades about this cool city. In all seriousness, Jeff is always top-of-mind when you think MPI Georgia.He always has the chapter’s best interest at heart.

Amy Hokkanen – Independent Meeting Planner

Jeff is a fantastic leader and colleague who always has a smile on his face and shares a warm greeting. He has affected so many members with his sense of humor and willingness to offer industry wisdom and guidance.

Andrea Largay, CMP – Meeting Needs, LLC

2013 –Larry Greene

Larry has always been incredibly friendly and welcoming to guests and seasoned members alike.He also has a pulse on encouraging future leaders and reached out to me several times suggesting I serve on the board.Whether it’s networking and bringing potential connections together or winning big around a craps table at the MPI conference, Larry is a great networker and example of an MPI leader in action.

Laura Steele, CMP – Hinman Dental Society

Larry is a great guy who consistently has a positive outlook and approach. He works tirelessly to connect chapter members for personal and professional success.

Andrea Largay, CMP – Meeting Needs, LLC

2014 –Candace Crossfield, CMP

Candace was president when I was a new member. I remember kicking it into high gear with volunteering immediately after joining. A couple of months in, Candace had nominated me for a shining star award. I remember being so touched by how she had taken the time to not only acknowledge the work I was doing for our chapter, but also to write such a thoughtful nomination letter. That kind of attention goes a long way, and it’s why I think Candace made such an amazing chapter leader.

ArielleGalimidi– dynami group

2015 –Mike Michel

Wow… Mike is one of our most positive chapter and industry leaders.His smile, energy, and sense of humor light up the room. Of course, the glare from his bald head might also be a major contributor. Mike’s style of leadership inspires his team to take ownership of their assignments, giving them the opportunity to further develop their own leadership skills, and to celebrate their successes in the process. He is a proud family man who adores his wife and children.

Jeff Whitney – Event Transportation/Atlanta

2016 –Annie Mullins, CMP, CHCP

Annie is the queen of grammar. I thought I was a stickler until I served on her board. She was, however, a thoughtful and generous leader and made everyone feel like they were special.

Allyson Wagner, CMP– Omnience

I’ve known Annie for quite a long time and she’s one of the most driven people I know. She leads with style, passion, and a strong sense of self.

Lesli Castaneda, CMP – Cox Enterprises, Inc.

October 2016

Jeff Whitney
Event Transportation/Atlanta
Member since 2002

This month we share our appreciation with one of our veteran members who needs no introduction.

Here are just a few of his accolades serving the MPI Georgia chapter which does not include double the years of active participation leading several committees. Jeff spearheaded the Membership committee for years and has touched many of us who have been with MPI GA for some time, but most importantly our newer members.

2015-16                        Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award
2015-16                        Chapter Leader of the Year
2015-16                        Membership Award
2014-15                        Supplier of the Year
2012-13                        Past President                                                                                         
2011-12                        President                                             

Faculty - Kennesaw State University, College of Continuing and Professional Education
Transportation Management Company for MPI 2009 MeetDifferent Conference Atlanta


Jeff is a Past President from 2012 and is still very involved in every facet of our chapter. He is truly committed to MPI Georgia and continues supporting activities such as the Fall Classic, Atlanta Community Food Bank volunteer activities, and contributes to ReConnect, our chapter e-newsletter, on a regular basis. Most chapter leaders take a break for a year or so, whereas Jeff has been here and there for over a decade. Hands down – we are proud to call you our friend. 

This would have been an easy article to write by sending out a request to a handful of mutual friends, and ask them to share a story, but when I put “pen to paper,” the words came rolling.

Jeff is a man who wears many hats… and he loves hats, too. He could have played a role on The Love Boat and captured our hearts like the cast of goofy characters. First comes to mind Gopher, but then I realized he would be a good Doc, Issac, The Captain, or even the original event planner, Julie McCoy. Yes, Jeff is an amusing guy, we all love that about him, but what we most appreciate about Jeff is his long list of character attributes. This man has never met a stranger whether he’s in a boardroom, at the beach, or just taking MARTA to a sporting event.



  • Southern Gentleman
  • Compassionate Mentor
  • Friend to All
  • Atlanta Ambassador
  • Passionate Volunteer
  • Accomplished Educator
  • Trusted Colleague
  • Savvy Entrepreneur
  • Dedicated Leader



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Dawn AndrewsCongratulations to the July 2017 Shining Star Recipient: Dawn Andrews

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