Team & Leadership

Meet the Brand USA Team

Brand USA's dynamic team brings together some of the brightest and most experienced minds in global sales and marketing, consumer products and services, and the travel and tourism industry. Browse this page to learn more about our team.

Team & Leadership
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Shape Created with Sketch. Potomac, Maryland
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Christopher L. Thompson

President & Chief Executive Officer

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Community Service

Chris gives back through service on the Federal City Council in the District of Columbia.

Travel in the USA

In the USA, Chris has visited 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Favorite Travel Destination

A three-generation family cruise through Alaska that proved Mother Nature is truly in command.

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Staci Mellman

Chief Marketing Officer

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Donald Richardson in Miami, Florida
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Donald F. Richardson, CPA

Chief Financial, Diversity & Inclusion Officer

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Hometown/Home State

Apex, North Carolina

Favorite Travel Destination

Miami, Florida and New York City, New York

Community Service

DC Public Library Board of Trustees

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Shape Created with Sketch. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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Aaron Wodin-Schwartz

Chief Corporate Affairs Officer

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Favorite Travel Memory

I spent a year as a high school exchange student in San Cristobal, Venezuela. Nearly every single day was an exhilarating adventure.

Travel in the USA

Anywhere with fields and ponds to explore, where day-hikes can be capped with a surprisingly good meal.

Something Interesting

Kids in my town spent our summer working at a blueberry farm starting at age 11 or 12: boys picking in the fields and girls working the sorter belts in the barn.

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Jack Conte in Washington, DC
Shape Created with Sketch. Washington, DC
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Jake Conte

Senior Vice President, General Counsel

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Favorite Travel Memory

If you don’t say your honeymoon, you’re in trouble right? Honeymoon eating, swimming, and sailing on the Croatian coast.

Something Interesting

In my misbegotten youth I once ate nine hot dogs at a baseball game.

Favorite Travel Destination

New England has it all. Four seasons: Beach, skiing, fall foliage, clam bakes and Sunday suppers. There’s only one Fenway Park.

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Honolulu, Hawaii
Shape Created with Sketch. Honolulu, Hawaii
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Cassady Bailey

Vice President, Partner Engagement & Marketing

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Something Interesting

I used to work as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas.

Hometown/Home State

Charleston, West Virginia

Favorite Travel Destination

I enjoy white water rafting on the New and Gauley rivers near Fayetteville, WV (have been over 30 times) and for a more relaxing getaway, I love Sonoma, CA.

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Jackie Ennis at North Rim, Grand Canyon
Shape Created with Sketch. North Rim, Grand Canyon
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Jackie Ennis

Vice President, Global Trade Development

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Favorite Travel Memory

Circling the Statue of Liberty for first time.

Community Service

Delivering Meals on Wheels in remote northern Vermont homes.

Hometown/Home State

Stowe, Vermont

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Shape Created with Sketch. South Padre Island, Texas
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Vicente Garcia

Vice President, Corporate Affairs

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Favorite Travel Memory

Spending time on the beaches of Hawaii as a kid.

Hometown/Home State

Harlingen, TX by way of Tri-Cities, Washington

Favorite Travel Destination

Oahu, Hawaii

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Mark Lapidus in Fairfax, Virginia
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Mark Lapidus

Vice President, Content & Marketing Technology

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Favorite Travel Memory

North Carolina’s Outer Banks! If you love quiet beaches with amazing sunsets and fishing, Route 12 is the place!

Something Interesting

Mark was the final Program Director for one of the USA’s most iconic disc jockeys, the late Wolfman Jack.

Hometown/Home State

Arlington, Virginia

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New York City, New York
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Jessie Newcomb, CPA

Vice President, Finance & Accounting

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Something Interesting

I love to read and listen to stories about history, people and cities.

Hometown/Home State

Taipei, Taiwan and have been in the states over a quarter of century.

Favorite Travel Destination

Crete Island, so much so, that my ideal post retirement career is to be a tour guide there.

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Brian Watkins in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
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Brian Watkins

Vice President, Technology

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Favorite Travel Memory

For Spring Break 2015, taking my family (wife and 4 daughters) to Cancun, Mexico. Kids were old enough to appreciate a different culture.

Something Interesting

Played in a semi-pro Spanish soccer league for 4 years.

Favorite Travel Destination

Outer Banks, North Carolina. Vacationing in the 4x4 beach area and waking up to the wild horses roaming around outside the house.

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Rosina Barbastefano in Portland, Oregon
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Rosina Barbastefano

Senior Director, Research, Insights & Analytics

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Favorite Travel Memory

First trip to Naples, Florida with my wife.

Hometown/Home State

Cali, Colombia

Favorite Travel Destination

Portland, Oregon

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Travel Photo in Pittsburgh, PA
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Kathrin Kush, CPA

Senior Controller

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Favorite Travel Destination

Outer Banks, NC

Something Interesting

Completed a month long outdoor survival class (still would rather a hotel to camping though!)

Hometown/Home State

Sussex, New Jersey

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Cat's Skiing Image in Aspen
Shape Created with Sketch. Aspen, Colorado
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Cat Reith

Senior Director, Partner Programs & Operations

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Favorite Travel Memory

Going to Niagara Falls as a child.

Hometown/Home State

New York, New York

Favorite Travel Destination

Snowmass, Colorado

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Sade Smith

Senior Director, Human Resources & Administration

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Susan Billings in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shape Created with Sketch. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
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Susan Zachar

Senior Director, Brand

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Favorite Travel Memory

Visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands via sailboat.

Hometown/Home State

Chicago, Illinois — The Windy City!

Favorite Travel Destination

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado - the most beautiful hiking and camping I've ever experienced.

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Grand Canyon, Arizona
Shape Created with Sketch. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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Alexis Adelson

Director, Events

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Favorite Travel Memory

Skydiving on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with my younger brother and summer camp colleagues.

Something Interesting

My secret talent is that I am licensed to drive motorcycles and school buses. However, these days I stick to my car!

Hometown/Home State

Potomac, Maryland

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Shape Created with Sketch. Atlanta, Georgia
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George Bansah

Director, Budget & Forecast Liaison

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Favorite Travel Memory

Driving through Sedona to the Grand Canyon

Hometown/Home State

Ghana, West Africa and Dumfries, Virginia

Favorite Travel Destination

Venice Beach, California and Atlanta, Georgia

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Picture in Victoria, British Columbia.
Shape Created with Sketch. Victoria, British Columbia
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Chelsea Benitez

Director, Consumer Research

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Hometown/Home State

Los Angeles, California

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Los Angeles, California
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Skylar Clark

Director, Strategic Partnerships

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Favorite Travel Memory

As a child, my family loved to take cruises down to U.S. Virgin Islands. I have the best memories exploring the different islands and swimming with dolphins!

Hometown/Home State

Solomon’s Island, Maryland. It’s popular for its sailing, seafood, and beautiful sunset views.

Favorite Travel Destination

I love the beauty and culture of San Diego, California. Plus, the beaches are great for surfing and have my favorite animal: seals!

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Picture at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska
Shape Created with Sketch. Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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Casey D'Ambra

Director of Content

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Favorite Travel Memory

Almost trampled by a black rhinoceros in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Something Interesting

Appeared in an episode of the TV show, Burn Notice

Hometown/Home State

West Palm Beach, Florida

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Peter Dodge at the Grand Canyon
Shape Created with Sketch. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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Peter Dodge

Director, Public Affairs

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Favorite Travel Memory

When I was a kid, my family took a cross-country trip from Massachusetts to New Mexico and I remember being amazed realizing how unique the United States is.

Travel in the USA

I’ve lived in six states and Washington, DC and love exploring the diverse landscapes and cultures in each region of our great country.

Hometown/Home State

Charleston, South Carolina

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Taj Mahal
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Chris Ellis

Director, Partner Engagement

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Favorite Travel Memory

Watching the sunset over the Gulf Coast while in Sanibel Beach, Florida.

Hometown/Home State

Born in the United Kingdom but lived most of my life outside of the U.K.

Favorite Travel Destination

Denver, Colorado

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Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
Shape Created with Sketch. Craters of the Moon Monument, Idaho
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Luke Hennig

Director, Partner Operations

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Favorite Travel Memory

I got the travel bug early when my family lived in India for five months and I spent half my eighth grade year at an international school!

Community Service

As co-chair of Brand USA’s Corporate Social Responsibility committee, I am honored to help shape Brand USA’s approach to giving back.

Hometown/Home State

I’m proud of my home state of Minnesota for its many “hidden gem” experiences for visitors, especially in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).

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Colleen Mangone in Richmond, Virginia
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Colleen Mangone

Director, Corporate Communications

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Community Service

I volunteer at my church.

Hometown/Home State

I split my growing up between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Favorite Travel Destination

Annapolis, Maryland

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Joshua Tree National Park
Shape Created with Sketch. Joshua Tree National Park
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Julie Paulson

Director, Partner Programs

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Favorite Travel Memory

Family trips to Ocean City, Maryland. We always had a great time enjoying the festivities and rides on the 3 mile long boardwalk.

Travel in the USA

I have visited 26 states and have lived in 7 of them.

Something Interesting

I am an amusement park fanatic and have visited 20 theme parks and have braved some of the world’s tallest roller coasters.

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Mount Hood, Oregon
Shape Created with Sketch. Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
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Jennifer Ross

Director, Media & In-Kind Planning

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Favorite Travel Memory

Family vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains growing up

Community Service

Community Outreach for Capital Rowing Club

Hometown/Home State

Charleston, South Carolina

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New Orleans, Louisiana
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Suzy Shepard

Director, Global Trade Development (Asia Pacific)

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Something Interesting

I’ve been doing Krav for about 5 years now and am Level 4.

Hometown/Home State

San Jose, Costa Rica

Favorite Travel Destination

Somewhere new that I have never been to before.

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Rianna Airitam
Shape Created with Sketch. San Diego, California
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Rianna Airitam

Senior Manager, Partner Operations

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Favorite Travel Memory

​I got stuck in Boston, Massachusetts once due to heavy snow and that was the first time I'd ever seen more than 6 inches of accumulation!

Travel in the USA

My family likes to road trip and I like seeing the changing scenery across states.

Hometown/Home State

Rowlett, Texas

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Shape Created with Sketch. Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland
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Craig Ashby

Senior Manager, Business Processes & Financial Analytics

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Favorite Travel Memory

Visit to George Washington National Forest in West Virginia. The Dark skies show the Milky Way and it was one the most beautiful sites I have seen.

Community Service

Habitat for Humanity rebuild in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. I also volunteer for church projects to assist the elderly.

Favorite Travel Destination

There are many. My favorite destination in the U.S. would be the Rocky Mountains; Puerto Rico for magnificent scenery, beaches, and musical nightlife: and New Orleans for the jazz music.

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