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Maryland Tourism Development Board

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The work of the Office of Tourism is guided and supported by hospitality industry leadership under the gubernatorially appointed board of executives representing lodging, retail, transportation, food service and attractions, and six members of Maryland’s General Assembly.

By General Assembly authority, the Board has broad policy powers to guide the direction of all activities necessary to develop and market the State as a destination.

Executive Committee

Melonie Johnson, President and Chief Operating Officer for MGM National Harbor
MS. MELONIE JOHNSON
Co-Chair
Co-Chair

President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) 
MGM National Harbor

Melonie Johnson is the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of MGM National Harbor. In her leadership role, Johnson provides strategic direction and oversees daily operations of the property. She is committed to supporting the local Prince George’s County community and is dedicated to fostering an engaged and diverse local workforce. A graduate of the University of New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Melonie’s gaming and hospitality career spans nearly 25 years, during which she held key leadership positions at major properties throughout the United States. Johnson has been with MGM Resorts since 2015, most recently serving as President & COO of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa prior to her return to MGM National Harbor in 2022, which she had led from December 2017 through May 2020. Before making her move to the East Coast, Johnson started her MGM Resorts career with Gold Strike Casino Resort in Mississippi. She has consistently worked to nurture a service-oriented employee culture and developed strategic plans that ensured properties met both their short and long-term goals. Melonie’s decades of leadership experience at regional gaming properties -- along with her financial expertise and strategic thinking -- has served her well in a number of high-profile gaming positions including, Assistant General Manager at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, CFO/Interim General Manager at Hollywood Casino Aurora in Illinois and as Regional Vice President of Operations and Vice President of Finance for Caesars Entertainment Corporation, among other roles. Melonie and her husband Mark share six children and six grandchildren.

Ben Seidel - Maryland Tourism Development Board member
MR. BEN SEIDEL
C0-Chair - Lodging
C0-Chair - Lodging

Founder, President and CEO
Real Hospitality Group, (RHG)

Ben Seidel, Founder, President and CEO of Maryland based, Real Hospitality Group, (RHG) the industry’s 12th largest operator of hotels in the US has over 40 years of experience in both the hotel and convention center field. Today, his company, founded in 2010 manages over 100 hotels, taking an ownership stake in several, operating in 19 states and China serving as an approved or preferred hotel operator for Marriott International, Hyatt Corporation, Hilton Worldwide, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Singapore based Far East Hospitality and Aspect Hotels, also headquartered in Singapore.

Mr. Seidel serves as a president of Marriott’s Franchise Advisory Council as well as an advisor on the Marriott Loyalty and Distribution boards. In addition to his company responsibilities, he serves the greater industry as a board member for both the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Maryland Lodging Association and serves as a steering committee member of NYC & Co, one of the nation’s top destination marketing organizations for the city of New York.

Members at Large

Mr. Robert Arthur, Maryland Tourism Development Board Member
Mr. Robert Arthur
General Manager, The Ivy Hotel
General Manager, The Ivy Hotel

Serving in the hospitality industry for 25 years, Mr. Robert Arthur is a distinguished expert known for crafting unparalleled guest experiences. Beginning his journey as a charter boat captain, Robert honed both his leadership and hospitality skills to create lasting memories for clients from around the globe. His leadership acumen resulted in Mr. Arthur's successful
management of boutique inns, extravagant homes, and luxury hotels throughout the United States; Mr. Arthur brings a comprehensive perspective of the industry to his new role on the Maryland Tourism Development Board.

As the General Manager of The Ivy Hotel in Baltimore for the past 10 years, Mr. Arthur now oversees a dynamic team and is focused on infusing innovation and meticulous planning and training into every endeavor. Beyond his professional pursuits, Mr. Arthur enjoys all that Maryland has to offer be it sporting events, the arts, or the outdoors. He is an advocate for
sustainability and community engagement in hospitality. With a commitment to transforming moments into lasting memories, Mr. Arthur continues to redefine the art of hospitality.

Ms. Heather Shaffer Braue
Ms. Heather Shaffer Braue
Director of Marketing & Public Relations Royal Farm Arena
Director of Marketing & Public Relations Royal Farm Arena

Heather Shaffer Braue is Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. Ms. Braue has more than 20 years of experience in the live entertainment event industry. In addition to her role with the Maryland Tourism Development Board, Ms. Braue serves on the parent advisory board for both the Gilman School and Roland Park Country School and has previously served on the Board of Directors of the Fallston Swim and Tennis Club and the Fallston Country Pre-K School. Ms. Braue is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Society, Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society and Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Corporate Communications and English from Elon College (University) in North Carolina. Ms. Braue resides in Monkton, MD.

Ms. Ashley Chenault
Ms. Ashley Chenault
Chief of Tourism, Recreation Parks & Tourism Charles County
Chief of Tourism, Recreation Parks & Tourism Charles County

Ashley Chenault, a Norfolk State University alumna, is the Tourism Chief for Explore Charles County with Charles County Recreation, Parks, and Tourism. In her professional career she has worked with tourism agencies that received the following awards:  Best Destination Guide (2017), Maryland Tourism Development Board Market Expansion Award (2019) and Best Printed Promotional Material (2022), She is a member of the following organizations: Maryland Tourism Development Board, Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She enjoys traveling and is passionate about marketing Charles County as a travel destination to support hospitality business partners and organizations.

Dave Ferraro - Maryland tourism Board Member
Mr. Dave Ferraro
Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park
Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park

Dave Ferraro is the Executive Director of the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park. Dave has over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit world, raising resources and running programs in museums and cultural institutions. An avid hiker, mountain biker, paddler, and almost all other things outside, you will likely run into him in Maryland's exceptional parks and outdoor spaces.

Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq. CEO World Footprints
Ms. Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq.
CEO, World Footprints
CEO, World Footprints

Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq. is the co-Founder of World Footprints, a socially conscious travel media platform that was founded on the unity principle of "Ubuntu" - I am because we are. Recognized as Black Travel Journalist of the Year (Black Travel Summit) and Female CEO of the Year for Best Social Impact Travel Media Company (CEO Monthly), Tonya is co-host of the multi award-winning World Footprints podcast and has interviewed distinguished guests like the late Dr. Maya Angelou. Through World Footprints, Tonya amplifies stories about the transformative power of travel and illuminates our common humanity.

Tonya is a 3x TEDx and international speaker, lawyer, actor, author and member of The Explorers Club.  She was appointed as a Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and is a former White House political appointee.

Tonya graduated from the London School of Economics (M.Sc.), Wayne State University Law School (J.D.) and she attended East China University of Politics and Law.  She is frequent television guest and she’s also been featured in AAA World, MSNBC, U.S. News and World Reports, Black Enterprise, NBC, CBS, in several books and on multiple podcasts including Frommers and Traveling with AAA.

Rick Howarth, Maryland Tourism Development Board Member and President of Six Flags America.
Mr. Rick Howarth
Vice President of Hospitality and Strategy, Levy Restaurants
Vice President of Hospitality and Strategy, Levy Restaurants

Mr. Howarth is Vice President of Hospitality and Strategy for Levy Restaurants.

A native of Largo, Maryland, Mr. Howarth began his career in the theme park industry in 1992 as a finance intern at Wild World while studying at the University of Maryland in College Park. Wild World later became known as Adventure World before being rebranded as Six Flags America in 1999.

Mr. Juan Carlos Linares
Mr. Juan Carlos Linares
Regional General Manager, Federal Realty Investment Trust - Bethesda Row and Pike & Rose
Regional General Manager, Federal Realty Investment Trust - Bethesda Row and Pike & Rose

Mr. Linares is responsible for driving long-term value at two premier mixed-use projects in Maryland, Bethesda Row and Pike & Rose.  Prior to this appointment, he has served as General Manager of Tanger Outlets National Harbor since 2014, prior to which he served in several leadership positions within Tanger Outlets including Corporate Director of Marketing and General Manager of the San Marcos and Terrell locations. In addition to his new role with the Maryland Tourism Board, Mr. Linares serves on the boards of Prince George’s County Workforce Development, Experience Prince George’s, and Visit National Harbor.

Mr. Gerardo Martinez
Wild Kid Acres, LLC
Wild Kid Acres, LLC
Mr. James N. Mathias, Jr.
Mr. James N. Mathias, Jr.
Director Government Relations University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Director Government Relations University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Jim was raised in Baltimore Maryland. He graduated from Calvert Hall College High School in Towson and continued his education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science in 1974. He was formerly the Maryland State Senator of District 38, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties and the Business Development Officer, for Royal Plus, Inc.

Jim has spent his lifetime in the service of others. He served as a member of the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals, the Ocean City Council and then Mayor of the town of Ocean City Maryland. He served as Mayor from 1996 to 2006. That year he was appointed Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, District 38B, and was elected as the Delegate in 2006, serving on the Economic Matters Committee. He maintained that role until 2011 when he was elected a Maryland State Senator, for District 38, being re-elected to the State Senate in 2014, serving on the Senate Finance Committee.

Mr. Levern McElveen, Maryland Touism Development Board Member
Mr. LeVern McElveen
President/CEO of Levern McElveen & Associates, LLC
President/CEO of Levern McElveen & Associates, LLC

Levern McElveen is President/CEO of Levern McElveen & Associates, LLC, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) firm that provides safety consulting services on leadership, compliance, risk assessment, documentation and reporting, employee training and development, performance metric, and data modeling. Levern is a retired transit professional with extensive experience in transit safety, security, emergency management and system operations. Levern has developed strategies and led workplace safety and health management programs that promoted advance support, and analysis to assist functionality of transit systems. He participated in two International Transit Study Missions to observe transit systems’ approaches to developing and implementing sustainable transit culture of safety. He is a published author and has written extensively on the need for the development and implementation of a sustainable transit culture of safety. Levern is acknowledged as a contributor to the recently published book Addressing Systemic Discrimination By Reframing The Problem By Dr. Frank L. Douglas. Levern is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at Morgan State University with a focus area in policy, administration, and governance. He holds a Master of Public Administration Degree and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Baltimore.

Chris Riehl, MTDB Member
Mr. Chris Riehl
Owner, Rent-A-Tour
Owner, Rent-A-Tour

Baltimore native Chris Riehl knows Maryland as well as just about anyone! As a professional tour guide and owner of Rent-A-Tour since 2007, he's had the privilege of welcoming thousands of visitors to the region, sharing its unique charms, and helping create unforgettable experiences. More recently, he's begun offering virtual tour programming and has produced a series of online videos showcasing Baltimore stories.  A 2001 graduate of the University of Central Florida, he’s also Chair of the Maryland Tourism Coalition and past president of the Baltimore Tourism Association. He firmly believes that tourism and hospitality play a vital role, not just in our economy, supporting small businesses and jobs; but also in society, as a means of learning more about ourselves and the world around us. Chris currently lives in Columbia, MD with his wife, Jen, and they're both huge Oriole fans!

Mr. Albert A. Spence
Mr. Albert A. Spence
President, A.S. Midway Tours
President, A.S. Midway Tours

As a renowned entrepreneur, and community leader, Mr. Albert Spence is a nationally prominent businessman who has delivered a consistent luxury product in the transportation industry for more than 40 years. In addition to his role as President of A.S. Midway Tours, Mr. Spence is a leading national authority on the motorcoach industry, a former board member of the Baltimore County Board of Tourism, a fourth-term board member of the American Bus Association, and the third-term president of the Maryland Motorcoach Association.

Ms. Shelonda Stokes, Maryland Tourism Development Board Member, President & CEO of Baltimore Downtown Partnership
Ms. Shelonda Stokes
President and CEO of Downtown Partnerships of Baltimore
President and CEO of Downtown Partnerships of Baltimore

Shelonda Stokes is a results-oriented executive named President of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and the Downtown Management Authority's CEO in 2020. In these roles, she leads these two non-profits with multi-million-dollar budgets and programs that make the heart of Baltimore a more vibrant place where businesses, people, and culture thrive. Shelonda is also an integral partner to the City's COVID-19 recovery and future direction. She co-chaired former Mayor Young's Small Business Recovery Taskforce and served as the Co-chair of Mayor Scott's Business, Workforce, and Neighborhood Development Transition Committee.

Sandy Turner, Maryland Tourism Development Board Member
Ms. Sandy Maruchi-Turner
Manager, Cecil County Tourism
Manager, Cecil County Tourism

Sandy is a graduate of Gettysburg College, and has a true passion for beautiful Cecil County and the Maryland tourism industry.  She’s been Cecil County’s Tourism Manager for 24 years and has received marketing awards for promotional campaigns, brochures, partnership projects, events, and a video.  While working at Cecil County Tourism, Sandy held state-wide leadership roles such as Chair of the MD Tourism Coalition, Chair of MD Destination Marketing Organizations, Vice Chair of MD Sportsmen’s Marketing Initiative, and Commissioner on the Governor’s State Park Advisory Commission. She currently serves as a member of the MD Horse Industry Board Oversight Marketing Committee. Sandy is honored to have been named to the MD Tourism Development Board and looks forward to working with Board Members and the amazing MD Office of Tourism team.

Cassandra Vanhooser, Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Talbot County
Ms. Cassandra Vanhooser
Director of Economic Development and Tourism, Talbot County
Director of Economic Development and Tourism, Talbot County

Cassandra Vanhooser is the director of economic development and tourism for Talbot County, Maryland.

She grew up on a dairy farm and holds a degree in agriculture from the University of Tennessee. Cassandra spent more than 14 years as a travel and features writer at Southern Living magazine, where she first covered Georgia and then Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. She has crisscrossed the region's highways and byways, writing about everything from the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial to the South's best fried chicken.

In addition to writing about food and travel, Cassandra also served for many years as the magazine's football editor. Her second book, The All-New SEC Tailgating Cookbook: Great Food, Legendary Teams, Cherished Traditions, was published by Time Inc./Oxmoor House Books in August 2018.

Today, Cassandra is Talbot County’s chief storyteller and business advocate.

Legislative Appointees

The Honorable Bill Ferguson
The Honorable Bill Ferguson
Senator, District 46 | Baltimore City
Senator, District 46 | Baltimore City

Senator Ferguson, was elected to the Maryland State Senate in 2010, then becoming the youngest ever-elected State Senator in Maryland’s history.

A lifelong Maryland resident, Bill made Baltimore City his home when he joined Teach for America after graduating from Davidson College with a double major in political science and economics. From 2005 to 2007, Bill taught U.S. history and U.S. government to ninth and tenth graders in a breakout academy of one of Baltimore’s most challenged high schools.

After teaching, Bill worked as a Community Liaison for the Baltimore City Council President’s Office; earned a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law; and served as the Special Assistant to Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Public Schools. Through these pursuits, Ferguson continually drew from his classroom experiences to find ways to bring new resources and greater attention to the city’s educational achievement gap. Senator Ferguson is married with two children and two dogs.

Delegate Wayne Hartman
The Honorable Wayne Hartman
Delegate, District 38C, Maryland House of Delegates
Delegate, District 38C, Maryland House of Delegates

Wayne A. Hartman was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018 serving District 38C, representing Wicomico County and Worcester County including Ocean City, Maryland. He previously served on the Ocean City Council and is the owner of Wayne Hartman Management LLC, a management services company in Ocean City, Maryland.

Current Assignments
2023 Chief Deputy Minority Whip
2020 Ways and Means Committee
2023 Racing and Gaming Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee
2023 Revenues Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee
2019 Chair, Worcester County House Delegation

Past House Service
Local Revenues Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, 2021-2023; Education Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, 2020-2023; Early Childhood Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, 2020; Judiciary Committee, 2019-2020; Civil Law and Procedure Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, 2019-2020; Criminal Law and Procedure Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, 2019-2020.

The Honorable Katie Fry Hester, Maryland Senator
The Honorable Katie Fry-Hester
Maryland State Senator, District 9
Maryland State Senator, District 9

Senator Katie Fry Hester is in her second term in the Maryland State Senate. She is the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Biotechnology and a member of the Education, Energy and Environment Committee. Senator Hester has successfully put forth an array of bipartisan legislation addressing cybersecurity, renewable energy, behavioral health, agriculture, and environmental resilience.

Prior to her election, Senator Hester spent 20 years on sustainable development, Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting, and strategic planning for Fortune 500 companies, governments, and non-profits.

Senator Hester graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. She lives in Howard County with her husband and two daughters.

The Honorable Melissa Wells
Delegate; District 40, Maryland House of Delegates
Delegate; District 40, Maryland House of Delegates

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