- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nothing excites Samuel Thomas more than seeing his young employees work their way up though the ranks.

As the new deputy general manager of the Washington Convention Center Authority, Mr. Thomas knows what it’s like to start at the bottom. He began his career in hospitality as a housekeeper and a waiter.

Mr. Thomas attributes much of his success to the people who helped him along the way.

“I latched on to mentors that taught me how to do things the right way,” he said.

Now he is a mentor to his younger employees. “Nothing juices me more than seeing the people I’ve mentored go on to achieve success,” Mr. Thomas said.

In his 20 years in the hospitality industry, Mr. Thomas has managed operations in New Orleans, Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio. Most recently, he was a regional vice president for Centerplate Corp., the convention center’s in-house food and beverage contractor from Spartanburg, S.C.

“I like how diverse D.C. is. There are people here from all walks of life, and I believe it helps you raise your family to understand the diversity of America,” he said. He moved from New Orleans to Calvert County, Md., with his wife, Maia, and their two children in 2004.

“The biggest difference between the Washington Convention Center [and the others] is the number of political events that really have an impact on the country,” Mr. Thomas said. “We see some of the most influential leaders in the world who come here with the expectations that we will give them the best service.”

Mr. Thomas said the highlight of his experience at the Washington Convention Center was hosting six of President Bush’s inaugural balls after his re-election in 2004.

“It’s a really big accomplishment to have 45,000 people all under one roof, and it went off without a hitch,” he said.

Mr. Thomas’ new duties include overseeing event planning, housekeeping, human resources, security and a plethora of day-to-day operations that keep the 2.3-million-square-foot venue running smoothly.

“I know Samuel will play an important role in strengthening the convention center’s position as one of the primary economic engines of Washington, D.C,” said Reba Pittman Walker, chief executive officer and general manager of the Washington Convention Center Authority.

The Washington Convention Center, which opened its bigger location on Mount Vernon Place NW in March 2003, contributes $500 million to the D.C. economy every year, according to the center’s Web site (www.dcconvention.com).

“I would say that the biggest hurdle of my job is making sure that everyone is on the same page,” he said, adding that being a role model gives him the strength to overcome the challenges of the job.

“My favorite part of the job is working with people, especially people who are young and energetic and who see me as an example of moving up the ranks.”

— Bryce Baschuk

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