Visit Jackson Honors 2022 Hometown Heroes

February 10, 2023

Hometown Hero group 2023

Visit Jackson named our 30th annual Hometown Hero and S.U.M.I.T.T. award recipients in a ceremony held Friday, February 10 at the Two Mississippi Museums.

The event also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau, now doing business as Visit Jackson, as well as the 35th anniversary of the Miss Jackson Hospitality Competition.

Carol Burger, Visit Jackson Board Chair and Dr. Rickey Thigpen, Visit Jackson President & CEO opened the event up before Tim Mask, MWB President & CEO, and Taylor Tucker, former Miss Jackson Hospitality 2016 and current traffic anchor for Memphis Action 5 news, hosted the night.

The event was established to reflect the industry’s deep appreciation for long-time commitment, accomplishments, and service by both individuals and entities that have enhanced the Jackson visitor experience and elevated the travel and tourism industry.

"This power of collective ambition continues to amaze me," Thigpen said. "The realization that this agency is celebrating forty years is proof of that power. Each of the heroes that we've celebrated for the past thirty years sustains us and are transformational agents that help to make Jackson, the City With Soul, and a formidable destination."

2022 Hometown Hero Awards

Travel & Tourism Industry Employees

  • Danielle Morgan, Mississippi Tourism Association
  • Shawanda Hargon, Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson - Fondren Medical District
  • Nadia Radowick, The Westin Jackson
  • Nick Wallace, Nick Wallace Culinary
  • Angel Rohnke, Lefleur's Bluff Education & Tourism Complex
  • Lakeitha Terrell, WJTV
  • Brad Thompson, WLBT
  • Chonta Stiff, Smith Robertson Museum & Cultural Center

Meeting and Tour Group Planner

  • Ty Quinn, Metro Corvette Club
  • Shanta Villanueva, MS Department of Education
  • Ashley Urban, The Westin Jackson
  • Tonya Anderson, MS Judicial College
  • Sonya Bowman, Pretty Unique Steppers
  • Ashley Simmons, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
  • Yusef Fitzgerald, Piney Woods Country Life School
  • Dr. Zonzie McLaurin, MS Bodybuilding
  • Shannon Moore, General Missionary Baptist State Convention of MS, Inc.
  • Marsha Dupont, National Baptist Convention, USA Inc.

Festival/Event Organizers

  • Justin Nipper, MS Agriculture & Forestry Museum
  • Dr. Cindy Ayers Elliott, Footprint Farms
  • Oscar Miskelly, Magnolia Madness Basketball
  • Emily Hoff, Mississippi Children's Museum
  • Junior League of Jackson, Mistletoe Marketplace
  • Christina Spann, Jackson Bicentennial Celebration
  • Brad Franklin, Jackson Indie Music Week
  • Tori Rice, Mississippi Maker's Fest

2022 S.U.M.I.T.T. Award Winners

  • Attraction of the Year: Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
  • Festival or Event of the Year: Jackson State University Football Season
  • Full-Service Hotel of the Year: The Westin Jackson
  • Limited-Service Hotel of the Year: Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson - Fondren Medical Distric
  • Restaurant of the Year: Elvie's
  • Friend of Tourism: Ellen Rodgers-Daniels, Mississippi Book Festival

Shining Example Awards

  • Alex Lawson, Hope Credit Union; Jackson Redevelopment Authority, Board Chair
  • Leah Smith, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Councilman Kenny Stokes, Annual MLK Jr. Parade - JXN, MS

Visionary Award

  • Great City Foundation, Mississippi
  • Ray Nielsen, Craig H. Nielsen Foundation, Board Chair

The Hometown Hero Awards program is a signature event of Visit Jackson.

Visit Jackson is the official destination organization for the city of Jackson. The bureau serves Jackson by positively impacting the city’s economy through recruitment and procurement of meetings and tourism activities. Created in 1983, Visit Jackson acts as a quasi-independent government agency reauthorized by the state legislature and governed by an independently appointed board of directors with members representing the hotel, restaurant, attraction, art, and education sectors.

Media contact:

Yolanda-Clay Moore – or 601.354.2588 for interviews, statements and story ideas.