Kristi Dunham

Kristi Dunham

Chamber President Beckie Conrad announced at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Thursday that the Hilton Garden Inn’s Kristi Dunham was one of five people chosen for a monthly hospitality award out of the Hilton’s 220,000 worldwide employees.

Dunham, who lives in Lisbon and is the hotel’s event coordinating manager, received the corporation’s Spirit of Brighthearted Award.

So the Sun Journal asked Dunham about her career and keeping a smile on during the tourist season.

The recognition was for going above and beyond. What are some of your biggest aboves and beyonds? After a busy week of back-to-back banquets, I noticed one of my server’s shirts to be a little dirty. She told me she didn’t have a washer and dryer. I had her leave her work clothes for me to take home and wash. While I was doing her laundry, I noticed her pants were frayed beyond repair. I purchased her a new pair. Now I have a laundry basket in my office. The crew drops off their laundry and I make sure they all have clean uniforms!

I also have a server who is just starting out on her own and recently got her own apartment but was struggling to furnish it. I had just done some remodeling of my own home, so I gave her all my old furniture, bed, curtains, table and household items to get her started in the right direction!

How’d you get your start in the hospitality industry? As a high school graduate from Caribou High School in “The County,” I started college in the fall of ’85 and needed a part-time job. I started working at Keddy’s Motor Inn as a part-time server and front desk agent. I loved meeting people from all over the world and loved talking about their traveling experiences.

What’s kept you in the field for 30 years? As I continued my employment in other hotels, I worked in most aspects of hospitality: Front desk, bartender, bar manager, food and beverage director and now my current, and by far the most rewarding, event coordinating manager. I love to entertain and am often referred to as the “Martha Stewart of the Hotel” because I love to decorate. I have been a florist for over 30 years, too, so I do all the hotel’s flowers along with helping out my brides do their wedding centerpieces.

Describe your average day: An average day in the life of an event coordinator can take you in many different directions, along with sometimes long hours. From the first inquiry of an event to the actual day of the event has many steps. I like to meet my clients in person — I think it adds a personal touch to the many emails detailing an event.

How many guests will be attending? How do you want the room set up? What would you like for your menu? Do you need any audio/visual equipment? What time will you be arriving? There is a lot to consider when planning an event. Staying late to meet with someone who doesn’t get out of work until 7 p.m., it’s all part of going that extra step.

Your reaction when you found out you’d been picked from among 220,000 employees: I was completely surprised. I love my job and to be recognized for doing something I love is amazing! I think paying attention to details and sweating the small stuff goes a long way in my success.

We’re entering hospitality high season in Maine. Your best advice to fellow hospitality professionals for keeping a smile on your face when encountering a stressed traveler or tourist: Listen to your customer. Be genuine. Things don’t always go right, but keep cool. Do the best that you can to fix the situation and keep smiling!

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