Forty Pottawattamie County frontline tourism employees were nominated for the Omaha Metropolitan Area Tourism Awards and honored during a luncheon Wednesday at the Mid-America Center.
The OMA Tourism Awards honor a combination of employees from Pottawattamie, Douglas and Sarpy Counties who work in hotel, restaurant/catering, attractions and retail industries, hosted as a team effort among Council Bluffs Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Omaha and Sarpy County Tourism.
This year, six of the 40 Pottawattamie County nominees were chosen finalists for their respective categories.
Two of the six finalists took home plaques of recognition for their work: Christine Patterson, general manager of Microtel Inn & Suites in Council Bluffs, won Outstanding Manager of the Year; and Gayle Strickland, of Oakland, won Outstanding Volunteer.
Patterson, who started as an executive housekeeper for the hotel 10 years ago, was nominated for her leadership beyond the hotel property, having authorized a low room rate to hotel guests impacted by recent, historic flooding.
Strickland was nominated for her volunteer work in developing a garden next to Nishna Heritage Museum and devoting her time to Pottawattamie Arts Culture, Entertainment; Southwest Iowa Education Foundation and Promise Partners as a board member.
“Board meetings are interesting and stimulating for me because of the variety of volunteer work I do. All three of these organizations have a fond place in my heart along with doing things in my little community,” Strickland said. “I felt like the other two finalists were much more accomplished, so it was humbling to receive the award. I was delighted and humbled.”
While Strickland did not expect to win an award, she said she believes that anytime a person volunteers, they are serving a much greater purpose.
“The good feeling I have in spending part of my time doing something I consider worthwhile, the reward goes beyond that. Doing volunteer work is enriching to someone’s life. If all of us did something in a volunteer way, I think the world would be a much better place,” she said.
Among the 40 Pottawattamie County nominations, six finalists were selected:
- Ana Amaral — Finalist for Hotels — Outstanding Guest Services award
- Jean Lien — Finalist for Attractions — Outstanding Guest Services award
- George Poulos — Finalist for Restaurants/Catering — Best Front of the House award
- Susana Tapia-Mejia — Finalist for Outstanding Service in Hotels Operations award
- Brandon Vorthmann — Finalist for Outstanding Service in Attraction Operations award
- Becca Wiggins — Finalist for Retail Outlets — Outstanding Customer Service
Remaining Pottawattamie County nominees included:
- Ruby Bentley — Bentley East Inc., Macedonia Tourism
- Tami Cull — 712 Eat & Drink
- Pati Diaz—Martinez — Holiday Inn Express Council Bluffs
- Eunice Dzodzomenyo — Best Western Plus Omaha Airport Inn
- Jon Fenner — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Dave Fischer — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Kathy Fiscus — Pottawattamie Countywide Tourism Committee, Watta Way
- Mike Fox — Ameristar Casino and Hotel
- Jeff Franco — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Pat Gallagher — Mid—America Center
- Chad Graeve — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Jay Hartong — Barley’s
- Shannon Henson — Buck Snort
- Oscar Hernandez — 712 Eat & Drink
- Gordon D. Hitchcock — Gordon Hitchcock Massage
- Tiffeny Hodtwalker — Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
- Cody Hytrek — Barley’s
- Chad Kunze — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Rheanna Lauffer — Courtyard by Marriott
- Cathy Nielsen — Caesars at Mid-America Center
- Sharon Oamek — Honey Creek Creamery
- Christine Patterson — Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
- Ryan Penney — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Joe Prine — Mid—America Center
- Elly Reed — Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
- Nancy Schomburg — The Olive Branch
- Jodi Schuning — Glory Days
- Mark Shoemaker — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Kate Simmons — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Rene Stroud — Pottawattamie County Conservation
- Joe Volquartsen — Mid—America Center
- Macee Wise — Holiday Inn Express Council Bluffs
- Kody Wohlers — Pottawattamie County Conservation