An award-winning humorist and high desert writer, Michael P. Branch is Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. Mike is the author of more than 300 essays and reviews, and ten books, including his trilogy about raising a family in rural Nevada: Raising Wild, Rants from the Hill, and How to Cuss in Western. His work has appeared in CNN, San Francisco Chronicle, Slate, Outside, Pacific Standard, Utne Reader, Orion, Ecotone, National Parks, The Scientist, High Country News, Terrain.org, Places Journal, Red Rock Review, and many other venues. His creative nonfiction includes pieces recognized as Notable Essays in The Best American Essays, The Best Creative Nonfiction, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Best American Non-required Reading. Mike’s latest book, On the Trail of the Jackalope (Pegasus Books, 2022) has been called “an entertaining and enlightening road trip to the heart of an American legend.”
Shari Davis is the Director of Rural Economic and Community Development for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). She oversees the CDBG and Nevada Main Street programs, as well as promoting and facilitating economic and community development throughout rural Nevada. She grew up in Tonopah, received her degree in Anthropology from UNR, and returned to Tonopah later in life as the Tourism and Events Coordinator. As anyone working in a small town knows, one person sometimes has to wear many hats. In this case, she also ran the Tonopah Historic Mining Park (creating exhibits, giving tours, and writing grants), worked in economic development and historic preservation, and managed the community swimming pool during the summer. So when she says she understands the struggles and strengths of rural communities, it’s because she really has been there! Prior to GOED, she was the Rural Programs Manager for Travel Nevada.
Link to presentation
Dr. Frederick Steinmann is currently the Director of the University Center for Economic Development and an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Management in The College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno. He began his professional economic development career with the Reno Redevelopment Agency in the City of Reno, Nevada. Since then, he has worked for the Nevada Small Business Development Center, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, and for the Carson Economic Development Services Department at the City of Carson, California. Frederick has also worked as a Senior Associate for David Paul Rosen & Associates. Frederick earned his Doctorate in Policy, Planning, and Development, with areas of study including economic development, public policy, public finance, and real estate development, from the University of Southern California. He also earned a Bachelor’s of Science and Masters of Science in Economics from the University of Nevada, Reno.
UNR’s University Center for Economic Development resources:
University Center for Economic Development Facebook website: http://www.unr.edu/business/research-and-outreach/uced
Nevada Leadership Program (part of UCED) website: http://www.unr.edu/business/research-and-outreach/uced
University Center for Economic Development Facebook: @ucedcobUNR, https://www.facebook.com/ucedcobUNR
Nevada Leadership Program Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NevadaLeadershipProgram
University Center for Economic Development LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/unr-uced/
Independent meeting planner & Senior Director, Global Accounts with HelmsBriscoe for 15 years, Jennifer works with her clients, both domestic and international, to find the perfect home for their off-site meetings, conferences, board retreats, sales meetings, large events etc. Her experience includes consulting on and facilitating comprehensive site search, contract review & negotiations and event management for a portfolio of clients.
Jennifer’s hospitality career extends to the Las Vegas Strip, previously having worked in sales and operations at the Las Vegas Monorail, Caesars Palace Las Vegas, Venetian Hotel Resort and Casino; and Marriott International.
A graduate of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Hotel Administration – Convention Management and an Executive Master’s in Business Administration (EMBA), Jennifer also holds an Associate Degree in F&B Operations and a Swiss Hotel Management Diploma from “Les Roches” Hotel School in Switzerland.
Jennifer serves as a Director of the Las Vegas Hospitality Association Board; Advisory Board Member at the Academy of Hospitality & Tourism at Valley High School. Culturally versed and well-travelled, Jennifer is reliable and known for her integrity, honesty, and ability to “seal the deal”.
As Travel Nevada Industry Relations Specialist, Robert’s 20 years of experience in tourism sales started in the attractions and transportation space. Robert is a Travel Nevada Industry Relations department specialist for US domestic and receptive strategies and product development. Based in Southern Nevada, he is the main point of contact for Travel Nevada’s Las Vegas, Nevada Silver Trails, and Indian Territories. Robert is representing Travel Nevada at Domestic Sales events. As a former public speaker at tourism marketing events, he is this year’s co-producer of Mesquite’s Rural Roundup. Graff started his career in tourism as an ambassador and interpreter, using his fluency in seven languages to welcome international visitors to our national parks. He joins Travel Nevada from Bindlestiff Tours, a tour operation in Las Vegas. Prior to that, he worked for SkyWest/Delta Airlines and Papillon Helicopters. A former teacher and trainer for Google Travel, An outdoor enthusiast at heart, Graff enjoys hiking, volleyball, and scuba diving in his free time.
Anthony (Tony) Manfredi is the Executive Director of the Nevada Arts Council, a state arts agency within the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, established in 1967 to enrich the cultural life of the state by supporting, strengthening, and making excellence in the arts accessible to all Nevadans. Tony is responsible for providing the strategic direction and leadership for the organization, assessing and overseeing current programming, optimizing business development opportunities for artists, arts organizations and the public, representing the agency and state in regional and national forums, and managing the staff and budget housed within state government.
His professional background combines 30 years of strategic planning, management, marketing, creative, and fundraising services for both local to Nevada and international businesses and organizations. Tony is a graduate of the University of San Diego with the degrees in Communication Studies (mass media emphasis) and Art (with a dual emphasis in Graphic Communication and Painting).
From April 2015 to August 2017 Tony was Senior Vice-President Content and Marketing for PBS Reno (KNPB). In this role, Tony was responsible for all national, regional, and local programming content, production services, and channel scheduling seen in nearly 83,000 households by over 130,000 people each week on PBS Reno Channel 5.1 with additional viewership from Channels 5.2, 5.3 and online. He provided program, marketing, public relation, promotion and creative strategy, direction and integration for all station objectives and assisted with fundraising initiatives. PBS Reno earned 10 awards for its local production work during this timeframe raising the total awards received since 1983 to 64. Tony managed a team of 12.
From June 2013 to April 2015 Tony was Vice-President of Strategic Marketing and Programming for PBS Reno. He was responsible for providing marketing and creative strategy, direction, and integration for all station objectives. He directed the traffic team, the national programming schedule and assisted with fundraising initiatives. Tony managed a team of 7.
From August 2006 to June 2013, Tony was Vice President of Development and Marketing for PBS Reno. In this role, Tony was responsible for the fundraising activities and marketing objectives of the station. During this time at KNPB, Tony helped manage steady revenue growth and reduced overall department expenses while analyzing the effectiveness of fundraising activities. He helped raise over $20,000,000.00 in revenue for the station. He provided insight, consistency and direction for all station marketing activities including on-air, on-line, print and social media campaigns. In this role, he managed a team of 11 employees.
Tony has an extensive design and creative development background, including experience working for fast-growth companies with strong Internet-based operations. Tony’s expertise with interactive media, specifically web-based marketing, site design, (including both site analysis and user experience design metrics) integrated with marketing experience with direct-mail and email campaign production provides an in-house expert in this field. Tony has also designed and built custom websites for Fortune 500 companies including Hilton, IBM, United Airlines, NEC, and others.
Tony’s background includes responsibilities as Senior Marketing Manger / Creative Director for Skagen Designs, an international manufacturer and direct marketer of luxury lifestyle products. At Skagen Designs, Tony was responsible for developing the strategic marketing vision for the company, including management of the marketing budget, as well as directing a team of designers responsible for all in-house production of collateral, advertisements, promotional graphics, and web graphics. Tony also managed all public relations and national and international trade show operations and implemented departmental processes and procedures that allowed for rapid creative development at Skagen Designs.
As Creative Director for iGo Corporation Tony was responsible for directing an in-house team of designers that produced all marketing and web creative, including the branding and corporate identity to all iGo mediums including website, catalog, retail packaging and all marketing and advertising tools. Tony was instrumental in the extraordinary growth and brand recognition of iGo, and a key participant in the company’s recognition as one of America’s fastest growing privately-held corporations.
Tony also served as Art Director for MountainGate Data Systems, a Lockheed Martin Company. At MountainGate, Tony built an impressive portfolio of cutting-edge, technology-based marketing, advertising and website campaigns. He also contributed in the industrial design of many of the products as well as the environmental design of the company’s trade show booth.
For the past twelve years, Suzanne Hagberg has embarked on a career in the travel and tourism industry after being a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. A year and a half ago, Suzanne bought Free Spirit Vacations located in Phoenix, Arizona.
Call her crazy for buying a business in the middle of a pandemic; however, Suzanne knew travel would always be there for guests to explore, learn, and take mental breaks from their busy lives.
Prior to buying Free Spirit Vacations, Suzanne was Vice President of DETOURS American West, who brought international travelers into Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and other western states to visit our National Parks. Buying Free Spirit Vacations allows her to take guests to well-known destinations and the hidden gems of rural America.
As the founder of Vegas4Locals.com, Tom helps local businesses and entertainers reach their target audience in Las Vegas. He also teaches Sports, Entertainment, and Hospitality Marketing at California State University, Dominguez Hills. With a master’s degree in Hotel and Casino Administration from UNLV and extensive experience in the hospitality industry, he has held senior management roles in several prestigious hotels and casinos. He is passionate about giving back to the community and supports various charities and organizations.
Carol Kolson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce. Mesquite Chamber serves it membership with business advocacy, assists in economic development for businesses looking to relocate to Mesquite and promotes the vibrant tourism in Mesquite. Carol grew up in a rural coal mining town, lived on a military base in Norfolk, VA, ran a regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center in South Seattle, lived and worked in Memphis, TN and has traveled overseas frequently with her husband who works for the Boeing Business Jet Group. While in Seattle she assisted a historical society in fundraising so they could open a museum dedicated to the Duwamish Tribe. She also served on the “Discover Burien” Board of Directors, member of the SeaTac Hotel/Motel Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, member of the Burien Economic and Development Partnership and was a member of the Seattle Southside Lodging Tax Committee for Tukwila, WA. Carol also serves as the Vice President of the Silver State Chambers of Commerce which is currently comprised of 13 members, primarily rural chambers.
Miles has worked in recreation development for the federal government for 15 years. He began his career working as a backcountry and river ranger with Canyonlands National Park in Utah. He then spent 10 years working for the BLM in Moab, Utah in one of the busiest field offices in the country. Here he gained experience in recreation facility construction and maintenance, trail construction, partnership building, and recreation management. His next stop was in Glenwood Springs, Colorado where he helped a strong team construct many trails and aided the Roaring Fork Valley in becoming an IMBA Gold Level Ride Center. Since 2019 Miles has lived in Reno and worked out of the Nevada State Office where he has run the trails, special recreation permit, OHV, and now the whole recreation program. Miles enjoys all things outdoors and loves skiing, biking, and hiking with his fiancé Lindsey and their two dogs.
Carl is an analytical thinker, thought leader, and innovator in the tourism industry. He has worked and advised over sixty tourism destinations throughout the country as an analyst and strategist. Carl has pioneered scenario planning and economic modeling for DMO strategy development. He has also provides various services, including marketing research, strategy and planning, tourism economic analysis, and measurement. His keen interests include economics and market, analysis of destination competitiveness, organizational change, and destination and organizational strategy design. Carl is a trusted advisor to many CEO’s and senior executives throughout the industry.
Carl is also a writer and writes a monthly op-ed page, he a published a number of marketing strategy, tourism, and motorcycle touring related articles. His most recent articles include: Strategy is Not Planning, Is your DMO Metric Centric Versus Strategy Centric, So Your DMO Has a New Strategic Plan, Now What? He has also been both a guest speaker and panelist at industry conferences.
He enjoys riding his BMW motorcycle on two-lane roads throughout the west, mountain biking, downhill and cross country skiing.
Gailmarie Pahmeier, now Emeritus faculty, taught creative writing at the University of Nevada, Reno for 37 years and is currently a professor in the MFA Program at UNR at Tahoe. Widely published, she’s the author of three chapbooks and three full-length collections of poetry, the most recent being Of Bone, Of Ash, Of Ordinary Saints (WSC Press, 2020) which was nominated for the High Plains Book Award. In 2015, she was appointed Reno’s first Poet Laureate, in 2016 she was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, and in 2017, she was selected as Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities. In 2021, the governor of Nevada appointed her Poet Laureate, State of Nevada. She is a 2022 Laureate Fellow of the Academy of American Poets and is currently coordinating, with the Nevada Arts Council, a statewide poetry project: Nevadan to Nevadan: What I Need to Tell You.
Nikhil Narkhede grew up exploring the outdoors. Learning more about natural resources and communities that rely upon them, led Nikhil to earn a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. In 2015 a hankering for snow-capped mountains and unlimited outdoor recreation opportunities brought him to Northern Nevada.
Access to public lands pushed Nikhil to adopt hobbies common to Nevada including fishing and exploring harder to reach areas on a dirt bike. To preserve our natural resources, he aims to serve the public by advocating for responsible recreation.
Today, Nikhil manages the Off-Highway Vehicles Program within the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The program offers grant funding for projects that improve OHV recreation and takes guidance from the Nevada Commission on Off-Highway Vehicles. Nikhil hopes to connect with you during the Rural Roundup to discuss opportunities to improve local economies through motorized recreation assets.
Matthew Weintraub is the Deputy Administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation. He has over a decade of rural tourism and outdoor recreation policy experience including as the State and Federal Affairs Director for the Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition, and as the Tourism Program Manager for the City of Oregon City. He has worked in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the Pacific Northwest and enjoys creating scalable solutions which improve equitable access to outdoor recreation opportunities. He is a graduate of the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources and Oregon State University’s Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy.
In his free time, he enjoys skiing, mountain biking, surfing, and reliving the glory days of the Seattle Supersonics.
Kelly Schwarze is an Emmy Award © recipient filmmaker, author and entrepreneur who
has successfully produced and directed eight feature films, three TV documentaries,
and scores of commercials. Throughout his career he has also served as a cameraman
and DP for A&E Networks, History Channel, ABC and Scripps Networks. Additionally,
Kelly is co-owner of the Las Vegas-based film studio Indie Film Factory, which was
founded by his wife Charisma Manulat in 2011.
Since then, the studio has facilitated over eight independent feature films, and a variety
of popular TV shows from NBC, ABC, Disney, Amazon Studios and EOne. His areas of
expertise are in micro budget filmmaking. He specializes in films ranging from $30,000
to $100,000. He works primarily with ITN Distribution for the release of his titles, but
also maintains self-distribution rights through his own licensing company.
In addition to filmmaking, Kelly is the author of three books on the topic of filmmaking
including What Film Schools Don’t Tell You, A Filmmaking Mindset and Filmmaking for
Kids. Recently, Kelly launched his new kids chapter book series Myron Pesky. Starting
with the first book, the Basketball Nightmare, the series takes readers on a hilarious
journey with the socially awkward middle schooler Myron Pesky. The second book in the
series, the Horrible Bully comes out later this year.
As a tourism professional for over 25 years, David Holder co-founded Clarity of Place with a hands-on understanding of what destination leaders need for success.
Before starting Clarity of Place, David was part of the Global Destinations team of JLL where he developed destination strategic plans across a diverse range of organizations.
In David’s earlier career, he served as the President of Visit Syracuse. While there, his innovative branding efforts produced measurable return on investment and garnered national recognition as the “Official Home of Winter”. Additionally, David served the communities of Fredericksburg, VA and the Corning and Finger Lakes in similar executive capacities.
David received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Tourism Management from North Carolina State University. He is a Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) and a past board member for Destinations International, the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program and the US Travel Association Destinations Council.
Originally from New Zealand, Rich brings 25 years of sales and marketing experience across various industries, including travel. Rich arrived in the U.S. in 2013 to spend nearly four years as Regional Marketing Director for Tourism New Zealand. He was responsible for marketing strategy and implementation across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.
Before joining Zartico, Rich was the Sales Director for ADARA, overseeing western US clients. Rich has worked directly with tourism DMOs of all sizes, helping them achieve their goals.
Danette Tull is the Production & Communications Manager for the Nevada Film Office, a division of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). The Nevada Film Office (NFO) markets the state’s diverse locations and promotes Nevada as a premier destination for productions, including feature films, Television, Documentaries, and many other forms of programming. Along with the GOED, the NFO strives to diversify the Nevada economy through the entertainment industry by driving business to local vendors, creating employment opportunities, developing young talent, and promoting tourism to Nevada through exposure on the big and small screen. Working closely with major productions, Danette worked directly in films, television series, and commercials featuring Nevada, – driving economic benefits, tourism and promotion of our state. Danette serves as a Board member of the Nevada Women’s Film Festival and as an Advisory Board member of the Cordillera International Film Festival. She has a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of North Texas and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Languages from UC Riverside.
Brian London is the founder of Destination Marketing Today, a media content company that curates and distributes destination marketing strategies from around the world. With a background in economics, he has established himself as an expert in the field of tourism marketing and destination management. His focus is on helping destinations develop and implement marketing strategies that are effective and sustainable.
At the conference, Brian will be sharing insights on resident sentiment towards tourism. His research has been published in academic journals, and he is a sought-after speaker at industry events on this and related topics. With a passion for helping destinations balance the needs of visitors and residents, Brian’s presentation promises to be informative and thought-provoking.
When he’s not working, Brian enjoys pursuing his interests in poetry, art, and philosophy. believes that these pursuits help him to stay creative and engaged in his work, and he looks forward to meeting and learning from other professionals in the tourism industry at the conference.
Tina Valdecanas is a co-founder and principal at Clarity of Place, a strategic consulting firm that helps clients build sustainable growth that benefits visitors and residents. Tina employs her 20+ year career in economic development to identify areas of opportunity that allow clients to demonstrate the value of destination management for the overall well-being of their communities.
Tina develops “right-sized” solutions by channeling her fascination for metrics and data visualization to address client challenges and needs.
Prior to starting Clarity of Place, Tina conducted market and feasibility studies for visitor-facing venues and destination strategic plans as part of Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) Hotels Group. Tina honed her economic development skills working as both a practitioner and consultant. She worked to build coalitions among regional economic development, chamber, and workforce development organizations to advocate for product development funding and helped clients build their own economic development strategies and create alignment with their communities’ overall goals.
Mayor Litman hails originally from Duluth, Minnesota and moved to Los Angeles following graduation from the University of Minnesota where he received his Bachelor of Science in History and Political Science.
Mayor Litman entered the Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam with the First Calvary Division Artillery where he received a Bronze Star for Valor and the Air Metal for flying in numerous helicopter flights.
Following his military service, Mayor Litman taught public school for the Los Angeles Unified School District before teaching in Simi Valley California for 15 years.
He taught and directed programs for special needs students, specializing in the mildly mentally retarded, as well as developing driver education and training for the deaf and hard of hearing, and other disabilities.
In addition to his work with the public schools, he was an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University, teaching in the Graduate School of Education and Psychology and also completed his Masters of Science in Administration and Supervision and his Doctoral work in Institutional Management.
In 1984, he left education and founded an automobile service company until retiring and moved to Maui, Hawaii in 1994.
After a brief retirement, he opened a small practice in Child and Family Psychotherapy as well as providing Autism consulting for the State of Hawaii public schools retiring again in 2004 moved to Mesquite.
Since relocating to Mesquite, Mayor Litman has taught Psychology at the College of Southern Nevada, became active in veteran’s affairs, directed the Veterans Day parade for fourteen years and continues to conduct the annual Veterans Day and Memorial Day programs.
He was responsible for bringing the Vietnam Wall That Heals to Mesquite in 2010, and was a founder of the Mesquite Veterans Center.
In 2011, he was elected to a two-year term on the Mesquite City Council; being re-elected in 2013.
On May 14, 2014, Councilman Litman was appointed Mayor and was elected to a four-year term in 2016, and again, a four-year term in 2020.
In his spare time, he works out frequently at the City Recreation Center and has taught spin classes for many years. Mayor Litman has been married to Phyllis for 56 years
Brian Wursten was elected to the City Council during the 2020 general election to a four-year term.
In his professional life, Councilman Wursten is the Director of Golf at Mesquite Gaming. In this capacity, he oversees all golf-related lines of business for Mesquite Gaming, including the day-to-day operations of two golf courses. Prior to that, he worked as the General Manager at Falcon Ridge and Oasis Golf Course. The Wurstens have lived in Mesquite for over three decades.
Councilman Wursten has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Southern Utah University.
Currently, Councilman Wursten serves as the City’s representative on the LVCVA Board of Directors. He is married to his lovely wife Christie 41 years