Tourism Industry Stars Shine at Gala

Gertude 'Trudi' Gillmore receives the award for Hotel Associate of the Year from Gov. John deJongh Jr.The stars shone in a clear night sky above the Estate St. Peter Greathouse and Botannical Gardens, but it was the stars of the hospitality industry inside that dazzled Friday night.
The ninth annual Tommy Star Awards & Gala, presented by the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association, honors individuals who help to make St. Thomas and St. John a premier tourist destination, those who go the extra mile to ensure that visitors leave with a smile on their face and a return trip on their minds.
The gala event continues to grow, with almost 500 people from all areas of the industry wandering the decks of the Greathouse during the cocktail hour, the women in gowns worthy of a Hollywood red carpet sparkling in the light of the tiki torches and the men striking in suits and ties.
The awards ceremony began with the announcement that the Hotel and Tourism Association had succeeded in raising $55,000 for the Boys & Girls Club. The Virgin Islands Gamefishing Club had pledged $25,000 provided the association came up with matching funds, which they did and more by holding bake sales and various fundraisers. The first club opened in September and the goal of the association is to open four clubs in the next two years.
With environmental issues in the forefront, it seemed fitting that this year’s recipient of the 2009 Tommy Star Award of Excellence is Stanley Selengut, founder of St. John’s Maho Bay Campground and Estate Concordia. The 80-year-old Selengut is a civil engineer originally from the Bronx who came to St. John on a consulting assignment with the Rockefeller brothers and stayed, focusing his energies on sustainable resort development. In addition to the environmentally responsible Maho Bay Campground, he developed Harmony Studios, luxury units built from recycled materials that use solar power for energy. He is also developing Estate Concordia, a 51-acre eco-resort that addresses the needs of the physically challenged.
Richard Doumeng presented the award to Selengut, a founding member of the International Ecotourism Society, calling him ”a true pioneer who helped to put a very important part of tourism on the map.” Touting Selengut’s accomplishment’s, Doumeng said, “He is an amazing contributor to this industry throughout the world and he happens to be in our backyard.”
The youngest honoree of the evening was Akeiba Barnard, recipient of the 2009 Tommy Star Student Award,. Barnard attended the event with her mom, stepfather, baby brother, and her sixth-grade social studies teacher from Lockhart Elementary School, Carlita Donovan. Barnard, now a seventh grader at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, infused her essay about Tommy the starfish with local culture, sending Tommy to the Fort Christian Museum and 99 Steps and encouraging him to try a beef pate with a sour sop drink. Barnard wrote her essay in one day with the help of Donovan. One of the highlights of her night was getting to meet Gov. John deJongh Jr. and having her photo taken with him.
Kevin Jackson kept the awards coming as master of ceremonies. Following the awards ceremony, the crowd danced to the sounds of the Ah We Band and nibbled on cookies decorated in the likeness of Tommy the star fish.
Other award winners this year were:
• Jennifer McQueen, Tommy Star Green Award
• Gertrude “Trudi” Gillmore, The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Associate of the Year
• Jasmine Grant, The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Supervisor of the Year
• Jordan Rowles, Mim’s Seaside Bistro, Restaurant Associate of the Year
• Kirstyn Nimmo, Diamonds International, Retail Associate of the Year
• Tony Thompson, Cape Air, Airline Associate of the Year
• Mark Sabino, The West Indian Company Ltd., Hospitality Support Service Associate of the Year
• Newman Francis, Independent Taxi Operator, Taxi Operator of the Year
• Kenan Ottley, Coral World Ocean Park, Attraction/Activities Associate of the Year
• Chantel Kaheb, Department of Tourism, Public Service Associate of the Year

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