• Larry Alexander: A Guiding Force

    POSTED November 16, 2020

If you'd have told a young Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), that he’d spend his career making memories, he wouldn’t have believed you. 

Alexander was a pre-med student at University of Houston when he learned his mother was seriously ill. “It became obvious. I couldn’t wait 13 years to launch a career and help my family. I knew I needed a switch. I just didn’t know what to do,” says Alexander. He met with the university’s dean of counseling, who spent a year testing Alexander to help him determine a new career fit.

“He gave me every conceivable test there was. When we finally got to hospitality, I never looked back,” he says. “He said, ‘30 years from now you want to look back and say you enjoyed it.’ And I can honestly say, after nearly 50 years in the industry, I have.”

Since then, he’s worked tirelessly to turn out impressive results. He became Westin Hotels & Resorts’ first African American general manager by the age of 29, and in his 22 years with the DMCVB, he’s helped guide the region through some of its toughest times to build buzz, raise the city’s profile and advocate for the industry. From the establishment of the Detroit Sports Commision and the landing of international events like Super Bowl XL and the NCAA Men’s Final Four, to the stewardship and development of the TCF Center (which saw increased revenue over 500 percent under his leadership) and key bids won for major events and conventions, Alexander has aimed high and delivered through the years.

With the production of award-winning events and the successful push of DMCVB’s “Detroit, America’s Great Comeback City” revitalization-themed campaign (which earned worldwide recognition and helped boost regional tourism) Alexander hasn’t shied away from a creative challenge either. “There’s nothing mundane about this job. It’s that creative side that gives us the opportunity to do something people haven’t seen before,” says Alexander. “Our product has always been our people, and the creativity they bring to the table is what makes the memories people remember for the rest of their lives. It’s not always easy, but that’s where the magic happens. That’s what this work is all about.”

No matter the task at hand, Alexander has approached his work knowing what matters most. “I know this industry is a 24/7 job, but in a fast-paced world where we’re communicating more by fingers and thumbs than face-to-face, we’ve got to remember it’s about the people we’re trying to connect and the people who helped get us there,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people and I’m grateful to every one of them for being a part of that work.”

As Alexander prepares for retirement, he most looks forward to a bit of travel and some uninterrupted time with his family. “It’s all been a truly rewarding, enjoyable journey. I can honestly say that. And I’m looking forward to this next adventure as much as the last."

After 36 years as director of the CVB, Peter Fitzsimons is retiring. By Shelley Levitt

In 1985, Peter Fitzsimons, a former hotel general manager, became the executive director of the newly formed Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. He never left. In June, the 73-year-old Detroit native announced that he’d be stepping down from the role at the end of the year. 

MIM+E: When did you begin your career in hospitality?


League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 


Dorothy Hecht was just 16 years old in 1937 when she waited on her first table at what was then Fischer’s Restaurant in downtown Frankenmuth, and ecstatically earned her first 25-cent tip. When she met and eventually married William “Tiny” Zehnder, whose family owned Zehnder’s Restaurant across the street, her happiness continued, and a legacy began.