2019 Hoosier Hospitality Awards
Rachael Ackley – Shelby County Tourism – Shelby County
Rachael Ackley is the Executive Director of Shelby County Tourism. An accomplished event planner, Rachael has organized every kind of event imaginable from an NCAA Cross Country Meet to a sanctioned Kansas City BBQ Competition Qualifier. When Shelbyville had to cut down its historic Linden Tree, Rachael had the wood from the tree made into end tables and plaques for each of the major tourist sites for Shelbyville. Over the years, Rachael is dedicated to her county. She has had multiple job offers to leave Shelby County Tourism but has always turned them down because she truly loves Shelby County and the history that it provides. Rachel’s nominator says that there is never a person that walks into the Shelby County Tourism and Visitor's Bureau that isn't glad they stopped by to have Rachael enthrall them with one of her famous vibrant and welcoming conversations.
Sherry Bridges – Crothersville Red, White and Blue Festival – Jackson County
Sherry Bridges has proudly coordinated the Crothersville Red, White, and Blue Festival for 24 years. She holds dearly the reason for the festival which celebrates the community and lifts up the veterans that have so proudly served our country. Sherry has elected to retire from her position as coordinator and her nominator says she will be dearly missed. She makes a point to talk to absolutely everyone that attends the festival and vendors say they come back each year because she makes them feel like family. She invites civic organizations, school fundraising teams, and government organizations to partner with the festival to make the event something the entire county can both benefit from and be proud of. Sherry has always seen the importance of marketing outside of Jackson County, to make sure that the festival is marketed to as many potential visitors as possible.
Raymond Brown – Hilton Garden Inn, Edinburgh – Bartholomew County
Raymond Brown is the Assistant General Manager of Hilton Garden Inn Edinburgh in Bartholomew County. In his 7 years with the hotel, Ray has only missed work once. When prompted to describe Ray, his manager, Daniel Arnold writes “There are some that just have the natural ability to connect with others and serve them with the most humble attitude and Raymond Brown is one of those people.” Ray will stop at nothing to ensure guests are satisfied. Whether it is providing turndown service, performing a maintenance repair or ensuring they have a meal right when the restaurant is closing, Ray will always find a way to be bright hearted and put a smile on the guests' faces.
Tamara Ealum – Holiday Inn Evansville Airport – Vanderburgh County
Tamara Ealum has dedicated the past twenty-four years to serving as the Front Office Supervisor at the Holiday Inn Evansville Airport and has built countless relationships with guests traveling to the area. Tamara has many repeat guests that refuse to work with anyone except her because of the Hoosier Hospitality she projects every day. Tamara remembers returning guests by name from year to year and takes pride in ensuring all guests have the best possible experience while visiting Evansville. Tamara understands the important need for tourism in Vanderburgh County and makes it her daily goal to ensure every one of the thousands of visitors that walk through her hotel every month will return to Evansville.
Marilyn Jackson – Owen County Tourism – Owen County
After spending nearly 8 years as Owen County's Tourism Director, Marilyn Jackson recently retired. During her tenure, she has immensely improved the tourism industry in this area. Marilyn is a passionate promoter of Owen County's natural and scenic beauty. As one of her top priorities, she established excellent working relationships with the many parks and recreation areas situated in Owen County. Through her promotional efforts, she helped attract visitors to these parks and then implemented strategies to encourage them to visit Spencer, Gosport, and other places in Owen County. Indiana Tourism has always been able to count on Marilyn to volunteer at every local and statewide event. She said she is truly honored to work with such wonderful people in the tourism industry and what a pleasure it was to let the world know what great assets we have right here in the Hoosier State.
Vickie Johnson and Karla Hoehn (Holiday Inn Express-Dunn, Benton County)
This dynamic duo brings a genuine and caring attitude to work every day for their fellow staff and the visitors of Benton County. When Vickie Johnson and Karla Hoehn arrived for an interview at Holiday Inn Express-Dunn, they both requested a position that fit their limited availability. They had just retired after 30 years and were not looking for full time. They also requested to be on the same shift together. Two years later they are the breakfast hosts every morning and every review or comment card received about the breakfast department not only mentions them by name but refers to them as the "Golden Girls". Despite both of their busy schedules outside of the hotel, Vickie and Karla always give extra attention to the hotel by celebrating birthdays, holidays, and events. When asked what they do differently, they always say, "we do nothing differently we just want to know our guests and want them to come back.”
Crystal King (Holiday Inn Express & Suites Edinburgh, Bartholomew County)
Making people feel at home and making their stays memorable is what Crystal King is all about at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Edinburgh. As the loyalty champion, Crystal is in charge of hotel guests’ satisfaction. She knows all of the return guests by name and makes one time guests want to become regular visitors. When a visitor made a reservation at the hotel for he and his wife’s 37th wedding anniversary, Crystal made their stay even more special by upgrading to the nicest suite as a gift from the hotel. In another instance, when a child with cancer who released from Riley Hospital wanted to have his birthday at the hotel pool, Crystal led a team to decorate for the party and upgraded the family’s room as a gift. Crystal genuinely cares about being able to make a customer’s stay at the hotel comfortable and making their trip to Bartholomew County memorable.
Brenda Manns (Ameristar East Chicago, Lake County)
Brenda Manns is a guest favorite at the Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago who never loses sight of her goal for excellent service. She forms friendships with a number of her guests including a disabled Vet named Wayne. Wayne is an amputee who regularly visits the casino with his wife and uses a lap blanket because he gets cold. After noticing that his blanket was growing well-worn, she crocheted him a new one and presented it to him. Wayne was speechless and choked up that she would do something so nice for him. Brenda’s own internal drive to care for others is evident not only in the case of Wayne, but in all that encounter her in her work. Her nominator states and the VP of Hospitality at Ameristar East Chicago says, “Brenda is an invaluable team member that strives to make a difference with all those she meet and greets.”
Jim Mansfield (Muncie Visitors Bureau, Delaware County)
Jim Mansfield has been the Executive Director of Muncie Visitors Bureau since 2001 and has been a major part of the development of tourism for Muncie and Delaware County. Over the years, he has supported sports attractions, built a strong relationship with Ball State University, and has enhanced the arts and culture of the city through his work with the Muncie Arts Council. Jim's work with regional and statewide organizations helps him gather information and ideas that he uses to help promote Muncie and Delaware County. He has become a community servant and has a passion for promoting and developing his community. Jeff Bryan, the marketing director at Muncie Visitors Bureau, describes Jim saying, “You will not find a person that is more committed to enhancing the local tourism industry of Delaware County than Jim Mansfield.”
Scott Miller (Miller's Buggy Line, Shipshewana, LaGrange County)
Scott Miller is one of the best-known and most requested tour guides at Miller’s Buggy Line Tours and in all of Shipshewana. Born and raised in Shipshewana, Scott has spent his whole life dedicated to promoting the area and its history. Scott brings his electric personality and knowledge of the area to every tour, making them extremely fun as well as educational. His tours leave such an impact that visitors of all ages often bring their friends and family back to Shipshewana just so they can experience a “tour with Scott”. Scott befriends every visitor who takes a tour with him by opening up about his own life and family history and encouraging guests to do the same. As his director of marketing, Jordan Mazzoni states, “When you finish a tour with Scott you leave as part of his family.”
Khiana Peterson (Ameristar East Chicago, Lake County)
Khiana Peterson is the Office Coordinator at the Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago. She makes every customer she works with feel important and when they have an issue, she does everything she can to resolve it. In one instance, a customer lost their wedding band in a room they had already checked out of. Khiana acted quickly, by putting her entire team on high alert and tracking down anyone who was cleaning the room and washing its linens. Thanks to the extra measures Khiana took in her search, a member of the house keeping staff found the ring in one of the bed skirts. When the customer tried to reward Khiana for her efforts, she made sure that the reward was sent to the housekeeper who found the ring, to show her appreciation for her staff. Khiana’s devotion to service creates loyalty among guest that keeps them coming back to the hotel despite the many options they may have in elsewhere.
Todd Walker (Indianapolis Airport Authority, Marion County)
Todd Walker is Assistant Manager of the Terminal Services Department at the Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA). The IAA has received the award of Best Airport in North America seven years in a row, but without Todd’s contributions, these accolades would not be possible. The “Open Door Policy” is not just words for Todd; he truly develops positive working relationships with his staff, so they feel comfortable talking with him about any issues they may have. You can find Todd at the terminal every holiday with his wife and family preparing food for his staff members who are working. As a frontline employee, Todd often interacts with the traveling public in a unique way. The work that he does at the airport impacts every traveler that flies into Indianapolis. Because of his leadership, his team has successfully hosted over 30 unique events a year at the airport in partnership with at least 16 organizations that directly impacts the tourism industry.
Dawn Wenzel and Alysha Mardis (Fairfield Inn & Suites Valparaiso, Porter County)
Dawn Wenzel and Alysha Mardis are the general manager and assistant manager at Fairfield Inn & Suites Valparaiso in Porter County. Their Area Director, Aida Cruz describes them saying, “Dawn and Alysha demonstrate the highest level of customer service and truly personify the Vision of Valpo.” Recently, they hosted teams for the Lutheran Basketball Tournament and hosted these teams better than any hotel on the market. Dawn and Alysha made themselves available to handle any issue the teams came across during their stay and anticipated the large groups’ needs from hotel staff in order to make the weekend as memorable and enjoyable as possible for all involved. These teams were so thrilled with their service that they apparently recommended the hotel to the teams staying at other hotels. These teams ended up calling and asking if they could switch to the Fairfield Inn & Suites in the middle of the tournament. Also, Dawn and Alysha also partner with organizations around their community like The South Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau and Valparaiso University intending to find ways improve the tourism experience in their area as a whole.