Leadership

Ken Lawson

klawson@visitflorida.org

President & CEO

As VISIT FLORIDA’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Lawson leads Florida’s official destination marketing organization in partnership with its Board of Directors and the statewide tourism industry.

During Mr. Lawson’s career, he has served in numerous leadership positions for several private sector companies and government agencies where he balanced the needs of the private sector while protecting public resources. Most recently, he served as Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for six years where he led a team of 1,600 employees who successfully regulated more than one million businesses and professions across Florida.

A native Floridian, Mr. Lawson received his bachelor’s and law degrees from Florida State University. He began his legal career in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate General and later served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. In 2001, he was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Enforcement for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he was responsible for the oversight of several federal law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. efforts combating terrorist financing.

Mr. Lawson also served as Assistant Chief Counsel for Field Operations with the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. In the private sector, Mr. Lawson served as the Vice President for Compliance for nFinanSe Inc., a Tampa financial services company, and consulted for Booz Allen Hamilton, for whom he served as Chief of Party for the Financial Crimes Prevention Project in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Cynthia Hefren

chefren@visitflorida.org

Chief Financial Officer

Cynthia became the Chief Financial Officer for VISIT FLORIDA in April 2017. As CFO, she’s responsible for overseeing and directing the financial actions of VF and managing the accounting team. Cynthia and her team are responsible for ensuring that VF provides excellent stewardship of both public and private funds.

Prior to April 2017, Cynthia spent the majority of her career in the auditing profession and has served in various capacities within both Florida and North Carolina state government. Fun fact…She served as the Executive Director for the Florida State Boxing Commission, which regulates and oversees the combat sports industry in Florida. What an adventure!

Dan Olson

dolson@visitflorida.org

Chief Operating Officer

As VISIT FLORIDA’s Chief Operations Officer, Daniel Olson leads the execution of strategies developed by VISIT FLORIDA’s senior management team and oversees the operations and procedures of the tourism marketing corporation.

During Mr. Olson’s career, he has served in leadership positions for several government agencies. Most recently, as Chief of Staff at the Florida Lottery, Olson oversaw both record 6 billion in sales and a record $1.66 billion contribution to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. Previously, Olson held positions at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Executive Office of the Governor.

Olson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University. In his free time, he enjoys running and training for marathons in the Florida sunshine.

Meredith DaSilva

mdasilva@visitflorida.org

Vice President of Executive Operations and Administration

Meredith is Vice President of Executive Operations and Administration for VISIT FLORIDA. In this role, she is responsible for the leading our Human Resources, Information Technology and Administration areas to ensure VISIT FLORIDA has the best and brightest talent, along with cutting-edge technology as we market the Sunshine State. Prior to this, Meredith held several positions at VISIT FLORIDA within Industry Relations, Promotions and Executive Operations.

Meredith is a native of Tallahassee and received a B.S. from the Florida State University. She enjoys her daily fix of Hazelnut coffee and a bagel, family time and cheering on her beloved ‘Noles. Meredith's great escape is the beach, where you’ll find her on a paddleboard or playing a mean game of Pro Kadima.

David Dodd

ddodd@visitflorida.org

Vice President of Visitor Services

Working for the Florida tourism industry for the past 25 years, David Dodd has found his niche with VISIT FLORIDA. He began his tourism career with Delta Airlines, he moved on from there to work as a sales representative for International Tourism with the Florida Department of Commerce. Subsequently, he was promoted to manager of International Tourism, Domestic Tourism Sales.

He currently serves as Vice President of the Department of Visitor Services for VISIT FLORIDA. Mr. Dodd oversees the five official Florida Welcome Centers. He directs the policy, procedure and operations for a staff of 42 information specialist who are the first Florida ambassadors for over 2.7 million visitors. His current project is to provide visitors with a Florida Experience by taking the business model that has served Florida tourism for over 70 years and improving that visitor with experiential Florida Welcome Centers of the Future.

He is a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida. He is his kids’ favorite softball and baseball coach. A cowboy at heart he raises a herd of Watusi cattle, a herd of miniature Jerusalem donkeys and is a beekeeper. He spends his free time with his wife Donna, son Wyatt and two daughters, Anna and Ruby.

Staci Mellman

smellman@visitflorida.org

Interim Chief Marketing Officer

Staci Mellman leads the development of the Florida tourism brand, integrated marketing initiatives, and long-term strategic planning. As the VP, Brand she ensures that every initiative is strategically driven, measurable, and effective. Since joining the VISIT FLORIDA team, Mellman has been an integral part of developing the organization’s 2020 strategic plan, shifting to an audience segmentation approach, and evolving Florida’s brand advocacy platform, Share a Little Sunshine.

With 17 years of experience in her field, Mellman is a seasoned creative marketer and event professional with a proven record of developing strategic marketing initiatives that increase awareness and brand value. Her work has resulted in national recognition on behalf of brands across disciplines including VISIT FLORIDA and PBS, as well as personal accolades including being named Tallahassee’s Top 20 under 40. She has an M.B.A from the Australian Graduate School of Management and a B.A in Sociology from The University of Texas at Austin.

Matilde Miller

mmiller@visitflorida.org

Vice President of Compliance

Matilde Miller became Vice President of Compliance in June 2017. She is responsible for ensuring that VISIT FLORIDA is in compliance with Florida Statutes, including obtaining and assembling deliverables and reports as required. She also serves as the Public Records Coordinator. She spent the previous twenty years in public service for the State of Florida where she led implementation of accountability and efficiency measures and developed a reputation for responsiveness and customer service.

Prior to that she was a Christian school educator. Matilde, a proud US citizen was born in Venezuela to a Cuban family and speaks fluent Spanish.

Craig Thomas

cthomas@visitflorida.org

General Counsel

Craig Thomas joined VISIT FLORIDA as general counsel in 2017. He oversees all aspects of VISIT FLORIDA’s legal affairs and manages VISIT FLORIDA’s team of purchasing and contracting professionals. Craig works across all divisions to balance legal, business, and public policy concerns in a manner that positions the public-private partnership for sustainable success.

He received a B.S. degree from the University of Florida, J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law, and MBA from Florida State University.

Meagan Chiamardas

mchiamardas@visitflorida.org

Director of Brand

Meagan Chiamardas is the Director of Brand at VISIT FLORIDA. Meagan and her team are responsible for leading and working with cross-functional teams and agencies to ensure consumer and business-to-business marketing efforts are aligned and meet short-term and long-term goals.

Meagan is a native Floridian and graduated from Florida State University with a Master's degree in Communications. She loves to be outside, play volleyball and experience food.

Kate Chunka

kchunka@visitflorida.org

Director of Industry Relations & Sales

Kate Chunka is the Director of Industry Relations & Sales at VISIT FLORIDA. Kate and her team are responsible for growing and retaining VISIT FLORIDA's Partnership base and providing the Florida tourism industry with resources and assistance to engage travelers with Florida businesses. Some areas handled by Industry Relations include co-op program sales, event sponsorship sales, and management of VISIT FLORIDA corporate meetings.
Kate has over a decade of marketing and communications experience and has worked in brand management for Darden Restaurants in Orlando and on large brand accounts at Mediaedge:cia, a New York City media agency. She also holds a Master's degree in Communication. A native Floridian originally from Winter Park, FL, Kate is an avid runner and foodie who loves to travel.

Tim DeClaire

tdeclaire@visitflorida.org

Director of International Marketing

Tim DeClaire leads the International Marketing department at VISIT FLORIDA and manages strategy, budgeting, advertising and trade marketing and sales for the organization’s international regions of focus, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, China and India.

DeClaire started his career at Walt Disney World and has 20 years of experience of leading communications and marketing for several world-renowned brands, including Discovery Channel, Nintendo, Groupon, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

He is a Florida State champion rower, has held a 40,000-year- old wooly mammoth tusk while standing in an ice cave in Siberia, and once played famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough’s piano.

Dani DeStafney

ddestafney@visitflorida.org

Director of Content Marketing

Dani DeStafney joined VISIT FLORIDA in December 2017 as the Director of Content Marketing. She came to us from AT&T where she worked on high profile brand campaigns and sponsorships including the Olympics, the Masters, American Idol and even the launch of the very first iPhone.

Dani heads up the content development team and will oversee the consumer experience on our website. She is a native Floridian and passionate about creating inspirational marketing; which makes VISIT FLORIDA her dream job.

Meagan Dougherty

mdougherty@visitflorida.org

Director of Public Relations

Meagan Dougherty is the Public Relations Manager at VISIT FLORIDA, leading the public relations and social media teams. Meagan and her team are responsible for keeping Florida top of mind with media, influencers and consumers by implementing PR and social media campaigns domestically and in five key international markets.

Prior to VISIT FLORIDA, Meagan was a member of the brand management team at the Florida Lottery. Meagan is a proud born-and-raised Floridian and a graduate of the University of West Florida. She enjoys being in the sun, riding roller coasters, doing hot yoga and spending time with her dog, Maggie.

Kim Hineman

khineman@visitflorida.org

Director of Human Resources

Kim DuPree Hineman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the Director of Human Resources and joined VISIT FLORIDA in 2004. She performs functions of Human Resources including the areas of benefits administration, performance management, affirmative action and employment law compliance through implementation and application of policies and procedures. On the side, she recently starting doing crafts, and recently made four Valentine Wreaths and plans to make four more for Easter.

Katie Juckett

kjuckett@visitflorida.org

Director of Legislative Affairs

Katie Juckett is the Legislative Affairs Director at VISIT FLORIDA. She ensures the development and implementation of strategies to ensure VISIT FLORIDA's legislative success. Advocating for VISIT FLORIDA's interests, she works with Florida's legislative body and other entities whose interests are similar, or whose functions affect VISIT FLORIDA.

Katie has over a decade of experience in the legislative affairs arena. She attended the Florida State University, where she earned both Bachelor and Master of Science Degrees in Political Science. Prior to joining the VISIT FLORIDA team, Katie worked at Greenberg Traurig, PA with the Government Law & Policy practice group.

A native Floridian, Katie enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

Shanna Pace

space@visitflorida.org

Director of Accounting

Shanna started with VISIT FLORIDA as an Accounts Payable Specialist and has worked her way up to her current position as the Director of Accounting. During her time at VISIT FLORIDA, she finished her bachelor’s degree in Accounting and received her license as a Certified Public Accountant. She oversees a team of fourteen team members who are responsible for all of the financial transactions and financial reporting of the company.

When Shanna is not at the office you can find her enjoying the Fishing Capital of the World!

Jacob Pewitt Yancey

jpewitt@visitflorida.org

Director of Consumer Insights and Analytics

Jacob Pewitt serves as the Director of Consumer Insights & Analytics, heading up VISIT FLORIDA's research team. The research team is responsible for producing quarterly estimates of the number of visitors to Florida, evaluations of the effectiveness of VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing, and consumer insights used in planning the company's marketing strategy.

An economist by training, Jacob has spent most of his career working in and around state government. Most recently he served as the Director of the Office of Research and Planning for CFOs Jimmy Patronis and Jeff Atwater. When he’s not doing research, you can find him petting one of his five cats or backpacking in the mountains of Colorado.

Matsu Pfeiffer

mpfeiffer@visitflorida.org

Director of Technology Operations

Matsu is the Director of Technology & Operations at VISIT FLORIDA. Matsu and his team are responsible for the Network Infrastructure/Equipment and Systems that staff members utilize to market the state of Florida.

Prior to VISIT FLORIDA, Matsu worked at the Department of Children and Families and has over twenty years of experience in the technology field. He enjoys watching and playing a variety of sports and vacationing in Florida with his wife and daughter. He is a Florida native originally from Quincy, FL and has been with VISIT FLORIDA since 2002.

Marlene Squires-Swanson

msquires-swanson@visitflorida.org

Director of Paid Media

Marlene’s experience in media, marketing, agency management and retail is extensive. As Vice President of NSA Media, Chicago; Marlene was responsible for managing media planning and buying for blue chip businesses such as Amazon, AT&T, JC Penney and Western Auto (Sears) as well as developing the creative strategy for Sears’ Automotive Division.

Her most recent roles as Director of Media and Marketing were with major retailers such as Pep Boys, Shopko Department Stores, and Director of Marketing and Advertising for Ashley Furniture HomeStores Global Retail headquarters based in the Brandon (Tampa), FL area. She lives in Tallahassee with her husband and two daughters who attend FSU.

Susan Armstrong

sarmstrong@visitflorida.org

Corporate Meetings Manager

Susan is the corporate meetings manager responsible for the successful execution of all VISIT FLORIDA owned events. She leads the meetings team, which includes Holly Mathis, Corporate Meeting Planner and Dania Engel, Meeting & Events Coordinator, to produce the annual Governor's Conference, Florida Encounter, and Florida Huddle. The team also assists with logistic planning and onsite management of the Florida Tourism Leadership Summit, Florida Tourism Day and VISIT FLORIDA's three Board Meetings. Susan's favorite pastime is kayaking the rivers and springs of our great state.

Stephen Kubiak

skubiak@visitflorida.org

Social Media Manager

Stephen Kubiak is the Social Media Manager at VISIT FLORIDA. Stephen is responsible for the overall engagement, content curation and strategy of VISIT FLORIDA's social media channels.

Stephen has over seven years of professional social media experience. In a former life, Stephen was an Aerial Gunner on the AC-130H "Spectre" gunship in the United States Air Force and did four tours in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.