Joe Savarise comes to OHLA from his role as a Senior Vice President with BIPAC, the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, based in in Washington, DC. Joe joined BIPAC in January 2007. He oversaw a national field team and the deployment of an employer-to-employee communication and education program known as the “Prosperity Project” in states across the nation. Part of his responsibility was providing a direct channel of service and support and communication to member businesses and business organizations throughout the country. He helped grow BIPAC’s state network from just over 20 partners to more than 70 participating state, regional and local business organizations in 45 states, many of them state Chambers or joint Chamber/Manufacturer affiliates. He worked with statewide business organizations each day to help facilitate more effective communications regarding public policy and elections to employees and associates.
He also served as a member of the Boards of Directors of the Ohio Prosperity Project and ProsperityNevada 501(c)(4) entities. With those organizations, he works with a number of leading business organizations and corporations in each state to help educate employers and employees about the political process and elections.
Prior to working with the Prosperity Project, he served as Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Ohio. He previously had experience as a staff member in the Ohio House of Representatives, including Minority Caucus Press Secretary, Policy/Research Staff, and Legislative Aide, as well as field staff and campaign manager for several state legislative campaigns.
Joe is a native Ohioan, born and raised in Ashtabula, and a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens. He and his wife Stacey reside in Pickerington.
PH: (614) 461-6462 ext. 5
Director of Operations
As the Director of Operations, Cindy R. Sams leads the programming for several member councils and specific groups, seeks the right opportunities for our Allied Members with Sponsorships to meetings and events.
She coordinates the OHLA Allied Council, the Ohio Chapter of Women in Lodging (WIL) CONNECT, along with the Under 30 Gateway program focused on young professionals in the Lodging Industry. Sams is active with Hospitality Instructors at Ohio’s College and University Hospitality Programs. She has grown the participation of students at the annual conference and kept them informed about what OHLA offers to them now and after graduation.
She gives guidance to meeting and event planning, with the Communications & Events Coordinator, including Lodging Council meetings for OHLA's 6 local lodging councils and Board meetings. In addition, coordination of the OHLA’s Annual Conference and several city specific Stars of the Industry awards luncheons.
Sams joined the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association September 2005. Her background in the travel and tourism industry, includes two years working at the Ohio Travel Association to assist in the planning and execution of Heartland Travel Showcase and eight years managing staff and volunteers at the Santa Maria tourist attraction in downtown Columbus. Retail management and merchandising were previous to that.
Embracing her love of art, she serves on the Columbus Arts Festival Steering Committee of GCAC, planning the annual arts festival in June. Sams is the owner of Canvased Floors LLC, www.cindysamsart.com, creating custom canvas floorcloths, etc. Sams is a graduate of The Ohio State University, B.S. in Consumer and Textile Sciences. She lives with her husband Greg in Canal Winchester.
PH: (614) 461-6462 ext. 2
Director of Membership
Halle Markwas joins OHLA after serving in a successful association role as the Conference & Continuing Education Coordinator for the Ohio Physical Therapy Association. The position of Director of Membership brings Halle back to her roots in hotel operations and sales. Halle has previously worked for OH&LA members The Cincinnatian Hotel and the Hilton Netherlands Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati. Halle also worked at the former Cincinnati Crowne Plaza North Hotel & CoCo Key Water Resort. She began her hotel and hospitality career at Wild Dunes Resort on the Island of Palms, South Carolina. Halle has also worked within the Sales & Marketing Department for Cedar Fair's Kings Island in Mason, Ohio.
Halle has a passion for our state and its tourism industry and travel economy. Although from Orville, Ohio, 200 miles north, she fell in love with the Queen City and what it had to offer. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a BS in Facilities & Hospitality Management and an AS in Business Management, Halle quickly became the go-to person for Cincinnati dining and entertainment.
Soon after moving to Columbus from Cincinnati, Halle embraced her new city and quickly earned her Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) designation. She has continued her professional education by passing the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) exam in January 2015. Halle also serves as a Co-Leader for the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association: Columbus Network, the Chair of the 2015 OHS All Alumni Reunion and has been a member of Rotary Club since 2009.
Halle lives in Hilliard, Ohio with her husband, TJ, and their Siberian Husky, Zeus, and rescue-cat, Bob.
PH: (614) 461-6462 ext. 4
Communications & Events Coordinator
As the Communications & Events Coordinator, Christi Saunders is responsible for the creation and execution of all communications from OHLA to its valuable statewide members. She also works directly with the Director of Operations to coordinate members’ favorite events, such as the Annual Stars of the Industry Luncheon and the Annual Conference. Christi will provide support to the Women in Lodging (WIL) Program, Under 30 Gateway Program, and the Unique Lodging Organization (ULO).
Before OHLA, Christi was the Marketing Coordinator for Diamond Power International, Inc., where she gained valuable Marketing and Event Coordinating experience. She also worked in the public school system as a substitute teacher. In 2012, she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from Marshall University in Business Administration specializing in Marketing with an Entrepreneurship minor. While in college, she interned at PromoWest Productions in Columbus, Ohio as a Promotions and Marketing Intern. Christi has spent some time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and The Salvation Army and plans to do more volunteering in the future! Christi has a love for traveling and seeing new places and is excited to learn and grow in the lodging, hospitality and travel industry.
Christi was born in Southern Ohio and moved to Circleville, “Home of The Pumpkin Show”, when she was in the 2nd grade. She has two Shih Tzu puppies, Charlie and Lucy. In Christi’s time outside of work, she enjoys running, hiking, spending time with her loved ones and photography.
PH: (614) 461-6462 ext. 1
Government Affairs Representative
Michael T. Evans is the contract lobbyist for the Ohio Hotel & Lodging. In July 2012, Michael founded All Phase Consulting, a government affairs solutions company, after serving as OHLA's Director of Government Affairs and Communication between 2008 and 2012. As OHLA's contracted lobbyist through All Phase Consulting, Michael will continue to manage numerous legislative programs, prepare and offer testimony, draft amendments to legislation, initiates grassroots campaigns, and assists in PAC strategy development for OHLA.
Evans' government affairs experience stems from state legislative campaigns, lobbying in the executive, state and local braches, and trade association management. As a result, she has a vast knowledge of both issue and candidate campaign strategy.
PH: (614) 560-3929