The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state agency responsible for Hawaii’s tourism marketing, just announced another high-ranking personnel departure.
Leslie Dance, HTA’s vice president of marketing and product development, has resigned from her position effective May 15. The agency hired Dance on Jan. 5, 2016 after launching an executive search to fill the void left by the departure of David Uchiyama, HTA’s former vice president of brand management.
Uchiyama was one of the casualties of a personnel shakeup that occurred shortly after George Szigeti took over as HTA President and CEO on May 28, 2015. During that restructuring, Brian Lynx, the agency’s former vice president of meetings, conventions and incentives, also was laid off along with one other marketing and two administrative workers.
Szigeti said Dance joined HTA during a crucial period when HTA was starting to implement its five-year strategic plan for 2016 to 2020.
“Leslie is a true professional who brought energy, innovation and fresh thinking to HTA’s marketing at a time when it was needed most. She unified the collective efforts of our Global Marketing Team and has been a strong advocate of HTA’s sports marketing, which has been very successful,” Szigeti said.
Dance, who was born in Honolulu, spent a decade in public relations on Hawaii island and Oahu early in her career before moving on to executive marketing positions at high-profile corporations in London, Chicago, Rochester (NY), and Seattle. Dance was making $180,000 as HTA’s third-ranked executive.
Dance, 62, said she was leaving to return to the mainland to be closer to her family and plans to assist in formulating a transition plan before her departure.
“I moved back to Hawaii with the specific purpose to support HTA’s mission and help the tourism industry to prosper,” Dance said in a statement. “I am proud to have been a part of what HTA has been able to accomplish with its branding and marketing of the Hawaiian Islands and seeing the industry flourish. It’s difficult to leave Hawaii because I love these islands, the people, the way of life, and the many friends I have here, but I am needed more by my family on the mainland and need to be closer to them on a year-round basis.”
Dance is the latest member of Szigeti’s executive dream team to leave the organization without providing a new job as the reason.
Szigeti’s right-hand man, former Chief Operating Officer Randy Baldemor, 44, resigned from the position that Szigeti had created for him on March 2.
Baldemor was making $202,140 as the agency’s second highest-ranking executive and started at HTA on June 9, 2015. He began his career as a private practice attorney and previously held leadership positions for the state Department of Human Resources Development, Office of the Governor, Office of Information Management and Technology, and Department of Taxation.
The resignations of these top HTA executives comes as the agency enters into what could be its seventh year in a row of record arrivals and tourism spending. They also have occurred at a time when the agency’s $108.5 million budget is facing serious legislative cuts.They followed the February release of a negative audit from the Office of the State Auditor which said that the agency “lax oversight (and) deficient internal controls.”