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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Christopher L. Thompson

President & Chief Executive Officer

Christopher L. Thompson is president and CEO of Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Chris is responsible for accelerating the organization’s efforts to build and execute effective marketing strategies to increase U.S. travel exports, create jobs, strengthen the economy, and help enhance the image of the United States with people all over the world. Under Chris’ leadership, Brand USA has nearly...
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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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Thomas Garzilli

Chief Marketing Officer

Thomas Garzilli is the chief marketing officer for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization. In this role, Tom is responsible for leading the development of Brand USA’s strategic marketing plan, and all efforts to ensure Brand USA achieves year-over-year revenue, visitation, and economic impact targets. Brand USA has raised more than $750 million in contributions from over 500 partners and has developed many successful and award-winning marketing programs; most notably, through the introduction of Brand USA’s Many...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Spending 15 summers with my wife and children at Folly Beach, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

Hometown/Home State

I was born in The Bronx, New York, and have since lived in California, Florida, and Georgia. Currently, I call both Washington, DC and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina home.

Favorite Travel Destination

I have most enjoyed visiting Folly Beach, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina and Tybee Island, just outside of Savannah, Georgia. As our kids were growing up, we spent many, many days and nights on these beautiful beaches… and in these great historic cities.

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

Chief Financial Officer, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Donald Richardson is the chief financial, and diversity and inclusion officer for Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. As chief financial officer, Don is responsible for developing and leading the financial strategy for the organization in a way that is responsive to Brand USA’s key stakeholders, ensures compliance with policies and operating controls, and enables the organization to make strategic decisions...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Traveled to New York City to see a rare performance of Kathleen Battle at the Blue Note Jazz Club. Tickets sold out months in advance. Patrons from multiple countries flew in to witness her at this small venue.

Hometown/Home State

Apex, North Carolina

Community Service

DC Public Library Board of Trustees

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Art Basel in Miami, Florida
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Karyn Gruenberg

Sr. Vice President, Partner Marketing & Strategic Alliances

Karyn Gruenberg is senior vice president, partner marketing & strategic alliances at Brand USA, the public-private partnership whose mission is to increase incremental international visitation, spend and market share in order to fuel the nation’s economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide. In this position, Karyn is responsible for leading partner marketing efforts, as well as building global strategic alliances to leverage the combined resources and expertise of the industry. Her leadership includes development and oversight...
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Hometown/Home State

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Community Service

Working with young people on education programs, locally Martha’s Table.

Favorite Travel Memory

Sitting on the Rocks in Sydney eating fresh lobster, drinking champagne and overlooking the Sydney Opera House OR Swimming in the Great Barrier Reef.

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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Aaron Wodin-Schwartz

Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

Aaron Wodin-Schwartz is senior vice president of public affairs for Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Aaron develops, executes, and leads outreach efforts to key stakeholders to promote and advance Brand USA's mission and raise visibility worldwide for the organization, build community engagement, and respond to requests from these stakeholders regarding the organization’s progress toward...
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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
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Jake Conte

Vice President, General Counsel

Jake Conte is vice president, general counsel for Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Jake provides corporate and legal counsel on a wide array of matters including corporate and board governance, employment law, procurement and contracts, tax, and intellectual property, as well as developing policies and procedures to ensure best practices in accounting and operational activities. He also works...
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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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Jackie Ennis at North Rim, Grand Canyon
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Jackie Ennis

Vice President, Global Markets

Jackie Ennis is vice president, global markets for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Jackie leads Brand USA's trade engagement and marketing efforts, manage Brand USA's global offices, and continue to effectively work to optimize trade and consumer reach around the world. Jackie joined Brand USA in August of 2018 as senior director, global trade...
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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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Las Vegas, Nevada
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Joann Pelipesky

Vice President, Human Resources & Administration

Joann Pelipesky is vice president, human resources and administration for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States' first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Joann has the responsibility for the creation and implementation of policies and procedures encompassing all aspects of human resources, including employment, compensation and payroll, orientation and training, placement, staff planning and development, benefits, and employee relations. In addition...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Attending the 2008 Masters Golf Tournament. It truly was a religious experience!

Hometown/Home State

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – truly a destination to visit if you love history, great food, museums, and sports of course.

Favorite Travel Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada – I love desert scenery, the shows, the restaurants, the people watching, the shops, and the golf.

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Honolulu, Hawaii
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Cassady Bailey

Sr. Director, Partner Engagement & Planning

Cassady Bailey is senior director, partner marketing and planning for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. Cassady heads up interactions with Brand USA’s expanding network of nearly 500 partners. Her department assists partners with cooperative-marketing opportunities and manages efforts to attain targeted levels of partner contributions and renewals. These continued efforts have great success as Cassady and her team have a 94...
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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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Mark Lapidus in Fairfax, Virginia
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Mark Lapidus

Sr. Director, Product & Technology

Mark Lapidus is senior director, digital development for Brand USA, the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. Mark joined Brand USA in March 2015 and is responsible for leading the global digital/social strategy, as well as the high impact execution for eight websites and social media outlets targeting international tourists through Brand USA's consumer brand, Discover America. The websites include: GoUSA.cn, Go USA.tn and...
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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

Sr. Director, Finance & Accounting

Jessie Newcomb is senior director, finance and accounting for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Jessie manages Brand USA’s accounting and finance department. Jessie joined Brand USA in October 2014 and has more than 15 years of professional experience in business operations, accounting systems, budget analysis and financial management. She has expertise in managing finances for international and domestic...
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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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Rosina Barbastefano in Portland, Oregon
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Rosina Barbastefano

Director, Consumer Research

Rosina Barbastefano is director, consumer research for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy, and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Rosina executes and supports a global market intelligence program that informs both internal and cooperative partner initiatives. Rosina joined the Brand USA team in June of 2018 to manage the consumer research and metrics programs that measure the...
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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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Colleen Mangone in Richmond, Virginia
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Colleen Mangone

Director, Public Affairs Communication

Colleen Mangone is director, media relations at Brand USA, the nation’s destination-marketing organization. She is responsible for corporate media relations, executive communications, and corporate messaging. Brand USA’s mission is to increase international visitation to the United States, fuel the nation’s economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide. Colleen came to Brand USA in March 2018, after nearly nine years on staff at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), based in Alexandria, Va. She...
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Favorite Travel Destination

Annapolis, Maryland

Favorite Travel Memory

Celebrating my parents 50th wedding anniversary as a family in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Community Service

I volunteer at my church.

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Mount Hood, Oregon
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Jennifer Ross

Director, Partner Marketing Programs

Jennifer Ross is director, global marketing programs Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Jennifer furthers the Global Market Development efforts, organizational goals, and brings value to the industry for Brand USA. She maintains relationships with international Brand USA representation firms, and seeks opportunities to create new partnerships within assigned sectors. Prior to joining Brand USA...
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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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Brian Watkins in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
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Brian Watkins

Director, Information Technology

Brian Watkins is director, information technology for Brand USA, the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Brian plans, designs, coordinates, and directs all Information Technology (IT)-related activities of the organization. Brian directs and provides administrative support for daily operational activities of the IT Department. Brian joined Brand USA in March of 2013, bringing with him over 18 years of...
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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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Susan Billings in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
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Susan Zachar

Senior Director, Integrated Marketing

Susan Zachar is senior director, integrated marketing and social media for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort.
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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
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Alexis Adelson

Sr. Manager, Marketing Projects

Alexis Adelson is a manager, marketing projects for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Alexis works closely with Brand USA’s Chief Marketing Officer, Tom Garzilli, and the entire marketing team to manage projects and events. Alexis, who officially joined Brand USA in January 2015, also provides support to the administrative team, and is an active...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Summers in New England with my family.

Something Interesting

I have a motorcycle driver’s license and a commercial driver’s license.

Hometown/Home State

Potomac, Maryland (born in Washington, DC)

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Craig Ashby

Sr. Manager, Business Processes & Financial Analytics

Craig Ashby is senior manager, business processes and financial analytics for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy, and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Craig, who joined Brand USA in July 2019, oversees financial systems analysis and treasury management. He focuses on improving the department’s capabilities and efficiency while still achieving accounting and audit objectives. Prior to...
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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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La Jolla, California
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Dev Chadha, CPA

Sr. Manager, Budget & Financial Analysis

Dev Chadha is senior manager, budget, and financial analysis for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Dev is responsible for roughly $220 million in contributions annually, composed of cash, in-kind, and government-matching contributions.
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Favorite Travel Memory

Making a running, paragliding jump off the cliffs in La Jolla, California.

Travel in the USA

I have visited 16 states.

Something Interesting

I have held the Stanley Cup in my hands!

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Los Angeles, California
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Skylar Clark

Sr. Manager, Partner Engagement & Planning

Skylar Clark is manager, partner marketing and planning for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. Since joining Brand USA in 2016, Skylar has been a part of the partner marketing team, starting as a partner services representative for Brand USA’s southeast partners, and then as the senior coordinator for the partner marketing & planning team. In her current role...
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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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Jacquelyn Hair

Sr. Manager, Human Resources

Jacquelyn Hair is senior manager, human resources for Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the United States. In this role, Jackie works closely with Joann Pelipesky on the Human Resources team. Jackie is a Professional in Human Resources (PHR), a Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), and holds a Maryland State certificate in Mediation. Jackie joined Brand USA, in September 2021, with over 16 years of Human Resources experience. Most recently, Jackie was a Senior Manager at the...
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Community Service

Has served on a local Employee Relations Board

Hometown/Home State

Washington, DC

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Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
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Luke Hennig

Sr. Manager, Partner Operations

Luke Hennig is senior manager, partner operations for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this role, Luke works with partners and rep agencies to collect and value all in-kind contributions for the Marketing team. He also liaises with the Department of Commerce and mitigates compliance issues to ensure submissions of in-kind contributions receive full Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) funds matching. Last...
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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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Washington, DC
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Paul Howard, CPA

Sr. Manager, Accounting

Paul Howard is Manager, Accounting for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. In this position, Paul manages Brand USA’s general ledger and accounts receivable within the operations department. Paul joined Brand USA in October of 2016. Prior to that, Paul was a Staff Accountant at Samuels and Son Seafood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 2010 to 2016. In that role, he assisted in financial and cost accounting. Paul became a...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Going to the Thousand Islands National Parks in Canada as a child every summer.

Hometown/Home State

Berwyn, Pennsylvania

Favorite Travel Destination

My favorite travel destinations in the U.S. are Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and San Francisco, California.

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Mimi Jung

Sr. Manager, Branding & Design

Mimi Jung is the senior manager of branding and design for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Mimi manages the creation and execution of the strategic direction for corporate branding, trade and consumer campaigns, proprietary platforms and in-market initiatives. Responsible for creative design, Mimi focuses on enhancing the marketing...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Exploring wild waterfalls throughout the Asheville region in western North Carolina

Travel in the USA

Florida Keys—swimming and kayaking through the crystal clear waters alongside the diverse marine life

Hometown/Home State

The nation’s capital—Washington, D.C.

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Joshua Tree National Park
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Julie Paulson

Sr. Manager, Partner Marketing Programs

Julie Paulson is the manager, partner programs for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Julie, who joined Brand USA in May 2017, supports the implementation of cooperative marketing programs and processes with our partners and clients. Julie came to Brand USA from the Smithsonian Institution where she handled the marketing for Smithsonian's revenue...
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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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Blanca Romero in Ocean City, Maryland
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Blanca Romero

Sr. Manager, Office Management

Blanca Romero is senior manager, office management for Brand USA, the nation's destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States in order to fuel the nation's economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide. Blanca has more than 25 years of experience in the operations and hospitality industry. She joined Brand USA as the organization’s receptionist in December 2011. She was promoted to her current position in September 2012. Prior to joining Brand USA, Blanca was clerk...
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Favorite Travel Memory

My first solo trip to Disneyland where I learned that I am still a child at heart!

Community Service

Serving others in times of need is a fulfillment in my life.

Hometown/Home State

I consider El Salvador and Maryland my home.

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New Orleans, Louisiana
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Suzy Shepard

Sr. Manager, Global Markets

Suzana “Suzy” Shepard Durini is senior manager, global trade development, Asia Pacific, for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Suzy cultivates and maintains relationships with international Brand USA representation firms and partners in the Asia Pacific, seeks new trade opportunities, and manages day-to-day operations including market activation...
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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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Marc Brooks

Manager, Legal & Compliance

Marc Brooks is manager, legal/compliance for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with the mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Marc provide support for contracting, internal compliance, and risk management functions. Marc, who joined Brand USA in August 2013, has been responsible for organizing contracts in BOX during the pre-Salesforce period. He previously has worked as a legal assistant and...
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Favorite Travel Memory

Traveling to New Jersey Shore every summer during childhood with my parents & siblings.

Hometown/Home State

Huntingtown, Maryland (25 miles from Annapolis)

Favorite Travel Destination

New York City, New York, is my favorite city & Chicago, Illinois, is a close second.

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Vail, Colorado
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Amanda Davis

Manager, Global Markets

Amanda Davis is manager, global trade development (Europe and Americas) for Brand USA, the public-private partnership responsible for launching the United States’ first-ever nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort. Amanda had been coordinator then senior coordinator for the Global Trade team, a position she held since joining Brand USA in June 2016. During her association, she has been instrumental in supporting the USA Discovery Program, Brand USA’s online-training program for international travel agents. She has also worked...
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Favorite Travel Memory

My favorite trip was a family road trip throughout Arizona, including stops in Sedona, Scottsdale, and the Grand Canyon.

Hometown/Home State

Richmond, Virginia

Favorite Travel Destination

The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. It's a hidden gem!

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Peter Dodge at the Grand Canyon
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Peter Dodge

Manager, Public Policy & Public Affairs

Peter Dodge is manager, public policy and public affairs for Brand USA, the nation’s destination marketing organization with a mission of increasing international visitation to the United States, fueling the nation’s economy, and enhancing the image of the USA worldwide. In this role, Peter functions as a liaison with all levels of government and manages outreach efforts with key stakeholders to promote and advance Brand USA's mission, raise visibility worldwide for the organization, and build community engagement. Peter first joined...
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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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