Brevard Zoo’s Keith Winsten, Doubletree By Hilton’s Kelita Williams Honored With Tourism Awards

By  //  May 17, 2017

at the Raddison at Port Canaveral

Brevard Zoo Director Keith Winsten, far left, was presented the 2017 Portrait of Excellence Award and was surprised when his family joined him to offer congratulations, including Marlene, Lily, Molly and George Winsten, and Fatima Ramis. (Roger Scruggs image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Kelita Williams of Doubletree by Hilton Cocoa Beach was recognized as the Hospitality Specialist of the Year, and Brevard ZooDirector Keith Winsten received Solomon Portrait of Excellence recognition during the Space Coast Tourism Development Council 2017 Hospitality & Tourism Awards.

The awards were presented during a luncheon at the Raddison at Port Canaveral on May 12.

Williams, line cook at the Doubletree by Hilton Cocoa Beach, literally danced her way to the podium to collect her award and gifts. Ask anyone about her amazing seafood chowder and her good, old fashioned southern cooking, and they will tell you, “She is simply the best!”

Williams walked away with a basketful of prizes including an overnight stay and the use of the all facilities and amenities at the Marriott Village in Orlando.

Winsten was honored for his role as an advocate for conservation, giving the Space Coast a world class tourist attraction and providing extraordinary contributions to enhance the area’a quality of life.

Kelita Williams, left, with Eric Garvey, is a line cook at the Doubletree by Hilton Cocoa Beach, literally danced her way to the podium to collect her award and gifts. Ask anyone about her amazing seafood chowder and her good, old fashioned southern cooking, and they will tell you, “She is simply the best!” (Roger Scruggs image)


Other outstanding Space Coast area hospitality workers included:

• Joel Barron has worked at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier for two and a half years as a parking attendant and bait and tackle attendant. He is the first and the last person the guests meet. He never says no to his manager or to a guest. Rick Lohr, manager for Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier, says Joel’s dedication, attitude and professionalism are great examples of what every hotel, restaurant and attraction should strive for.

• Linda Farrington is the breakfast server at the holiday inn express and suites in cocoa and has been there for more than 10 years. She is the breakfast “goddess” and the guests could not be happier. When Hurricane Matthew visited the Space Coast, she was the center of attention – entertaining, distracting and comforting so many people and always present with snacks, stories or even the occasional “stern” mom glare when the kids started to get a little too rambunctious. She is a shining example of hospitality.

• Joe Gibson is a weekend staff member at the Cocoa Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. For over a decade, Joe has shown an immense degree of courteousness, professionalism, selflessness and a desire to always go the extra mile each and every day. Marshall Hooks, director of the CVB, says Joe has all the qualities of a “shining star hospitality specialist.”

• Nubia Geraldo has dedicated 13 years with the Melbourne Courtyard By Marriott as one of their top housekeepers. She was born in Columbia and had planned to become a teacher, but she left her life, her home and her family for the dream of America. She takes great pride in her work and demonstrates outstanding attention to detail.

• Marlene Gonzales wears many hats at the Homewood Suites in Cape Canaveral. She does work primarily with food and beverage, but she is always first to step up and volunteer in other departments when needed. You can find her making cocktails, talking with guests in the lobby, or assisting the housekeeping department. Whatever hat she is wearing that day, it is worn with pride and always with positive energy and an infectious smile.

• Roseann Hackett wanted a change in her life three years ago, and sought out the opportunity to work at the Hampton iInn – Cocoa Beach. As assistant manager Margie Ferrentino says, “There isn’t a warmer or friendlier front desk agent to be found. She is the one remembering names, and always finding the time to offer suggestions to guests on the best places to visit in the area.” Comments made by guests to trip advisor and guest surveys never fail to mention Roseann.

• Mary Harley is an essential team member for food and beverage back of house operations for the Marriott Courtyard Cocoa Beach. Mary has dedication, self-discipline and a positive attitude that sets an example for others to emulate. As food and beverage manager Scott Tammetta says, “Mary is organized and extremely efficient. Reliable and proactive.”

• Art Hitch says, “I am living the dream!” He truly loves what he does as a captains mate for Island Boat Lines.His love of the Cocoa Beach Thousand Islands makes him a huge asset for the company as he takes the helm on projects that need to be done to ensure flawless service. As manager Debbie Sheridan says, “Art puts the sun in sunshine and lights up every day with his positive attitude, contagious smile, and his sense of humor.”

• Nidia Lopez has worked as laundry attendant, breakfast attendant and housekeeper for seven years at the Country Inn & Suites in Port Canaveral. All departments unanimously voted Nidia for this hospitality award. Sales manager Landrew Hallstrom says, “Nidia has been the ‘mother figure’ to not only the employees but to the guests as well. She is kind and compassionate.. and has the spirit of hospitality that brightens everyone’s day.”

• Thomasina Maamao has worked for the Holiday Inn Titusville for six years and is a front desk associate. Anthony Davis, director of operations, says, “Thomasina always has a smile on her face and makes sure that all guest needs are taken care of.” Positive comments of her dedication and work ethic are always mentioned on the hotel’s online guest review. She is the peerfect example of integrity, a team player and someone who truly takes pride in their work.”

• Barrington McKenzie wears many hats at the Radisson Resort at the Port, Cape Canaveral. Though his official title is pool attendant, management uses his flexibility and “can do” attitude to help with other roles such as hotel courier, occasional inspector, and occasional bed maker and bellman. Executive housekeeper Darren Grabinski says, “Barrington is easy going and ensures our guests are relaxed and having fun.”

• Duane McMurphy is an engineer at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Titusville. He is one of those guys who always has his eyes open and catches things before they become an issue. During Hurricane Matthew, it was Duane who kept those emergency lights going and staff says he probably did not sleep more than two hours during the storm. General Manager Melissa Neger says, “He means more to us than being a stellar employee, he is family!”

• Hector Mia is the night auditor at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Palm Bay. He is the one all employees count on to be there anytime he is needed. He goes above and beyond the call of duty, comes in early, stays late and takes on extra work to help the company without being asked. Hector is upbeat with guests and it is shown with the amazing increase in the guest satisfaction scores due to his hard work and his incredible passion .

• Teresa Nunez is a sales coordinator for the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront. Comments from the guests include praise for “preventing an international incident,” “saving the day,” and “being a hero.” For six years she has assisted countless guests in creating everlasting memories. As Sales Manager Amanda Tynan says, “Teresa has an unwavering attention to detail and the ability to make each and every guest feel comfortable.”

• Ramone Rodriguez is an engineer at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton Melbourne Beach Oceanfront. He works behind the scenes as part of the engineering team, keeping thing in top shape. He cares for the property as if it were his own home. He turns a room maintenance call into an opportunity that “wows” the guests with special consideration. Mary Wells, director of human resources says, “It is heart-warming to see Ramone interact with children. He is a natural when it comes to hospitality.”

• Carmen Rommel has been in the housekeeping department at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Melbourne for nine years. She is one of the quietest of staff members, but her actions speak louder than words. Sweet remarks are made from pet owners as carmen ensures that even the “fur guest” is taken care of. Last year was known as the hurricane year, and the property was lean on staff but Carmen stayed at the hotel to keep the guests and their furry best friends comfortable, safe, well-fed and happy.

• Carolina Sierra is a guest service representative at the Residence Inn By Marriott Melbourne. She takes great pride in sharing her in-depth knowledge of the local area with the business and leisure guests. Personable and friendly, she believes in teamwork and even volunteers to cover shifts at their sister property. She was awarded the Marriott “Spirit to Serve Award” for her customer service skills. Carolina is pursuing her bachelors degree at the University of Central Florida, speaks Spanish and loves to travel.

• Reina Verduzco is the sales assistant at the Best Western Cocoa Beach Hotel and Suites. For the past nine years, Reina has served in a variety of capacities – both in front office operations and in the sales office. She approaches her work with a profound sense of care, rooted in the recognition that all guests are unique with individual needs and concerns. Sales Director Cheryl Gromlich says, “Reina’s outstanding service is a principle driver of our success.”

• Karl Webb is the bartender at the Hilton Melbourne Beach Oceanfront. He is the embodiment of the light and warmth of hospitality. When you come to his tiki bar, you are the recipient of his upbeat and positive attitude. Mary Wells, human resources director, says, “Karl serves from the heart. He cares deeply about the success of our team and our property. He is truly a generous, kind and caring person.”

Florida’s Space Coast is a family-friendly destination located 45 minutes east of Orlando, Florida.

Encompassing Cocoa Beach, Melbourne and the Beaches, Port Canaveral, Titusville, and Palm Bay, it is home to the world’s second-busiest cruise port and 72 miles of beaches, the longest stretch in the state, as well as 190,000 acres of wetlands and waterways full of habitat found nowhere else. Florida’s Space Coast is where rockets still soar into orbit from Kennedy Space Center.

For more information, contact the Space Coast Office of Tourism at 877-572-3224 or visit