December 13, 2017
    9 depart in restructure at Destination Marketing Association International

    New CEO Welsh hopes to announce new EVP, advocacy officer at CEO Summit


    Originally published on April 4.

    Destination Marketing Association International new CEO Don Welsh announced on the morning of April 4 the departures of nine senior and mid-level staffers in a move to restructure the organization. 

    Welsh said none of the terminations were for cause but were due to the restructure. He confirmed those who departed were EVP Nancy Elder; accreditation and strategic initiatives SVP Valencia Bembry; marketing and communications SVP Vickie Singer; education and professional development VP Linda Andreani; member relations director Mitchell Gehrisch; member relations manager Alan Lotenberg; and office coordinator Tonia Williams. COO and interim CEO Charles Jeffers will stay on through May to assist in the transition.

    Still on staff are CFO Julie Hart; empowerMINT and EIC managing director Christine Shimasaski; and DestinationNEXT executive director Paul Ouimet.

    He hopes to announce a new EVP at the upcoming DMAI CEO Summit in San Juan later this month. He also hopes to announce in San Juan or shortly after a new advocacy officer. Later, he will announce a chief marketing officer and will restructure the strategic sponsorship and membership teams.

    The affected staff members were notified ahead of a lunch in which staff were told of the restructuring. Asked why the terminations were immediate, he noted that the dismissals were conducted as best as the association could do, and that each may come back to retrieve what they weren't able to take immediately. Severance packages were tailored to each person, including paid accrued vacation time. He said he also is willing to write reference letters for each departing staff member. Those who were terminated may apply for the new positions, provided their skill sets match, he said.

    While the news might have been a surprise to those who were let go, as well as other staff, Welsh said he had been working with a committee of board members for about two months on how the organization will change in the next 12 to 18 months. Welsh was named DMAI CEO in January, but his first day in the office was March 29.

    Welsh said he will bring in a consultant "to work with our team to see what members want and need, and are willing to pay for." The goal is to find what meeting planners want, the technology that is available and the research that is needed for the industry.

    Among the changes will be to create a new accreditation to set standards around the world for funding models and for fostering political knowledge. Also, he wants to enhance DMAI's advocacy to work with other related organizations at the national level, but also to help members with advocacy at a micro-level. 

    With the restructuring under way, Welsh said the "immediate priorities are to assure the remaining team that they are critical for the continuation of this organization. Secondly, we need to clearly convey to the board and to sponsors and partners that this was a thought-out strategic position, and does not come without pain."

    He also said the staff must be prepared for the association's CEO Summit later this month, and for its annual conference in Minneapolis in August. As for Destinations Showcase, Welsh said that it is one of the programs they will be scrutinizing. "It's one of the key programs we're going to ask about. We're going to look at everything we do in terms of what our members want and need. Nothing is off the table."

    Welsh recently joined the board of the Association Forum of Chicagoland. He was CEO of Choose Chicago before becoming DMAI chief executive.

    Association TRENDS