2019-2020 Central States Chapter Candidates


Chez Chesak


With 24 years of experience in nonprofit and association management, I’m very pleased to seek the position of Central States Chapter Chair. I’m a 14-year veteran of the travel industry and I have always been passionate about both travel and writing.


My previous professional experience includes nine outstanding years as a V.P. at the Adventure Travel Trade Association, an organization I helped turn around from a struggling collective of 287 corporate members to a thriving international community of nearly 1,200 corporate members. I spent nearly three years helping start up the Family Travel Association. There were also stints at The American Alpine Club, American Hiking Society, and the nonprofit environmental book publisher Island Press, among others. I’ve worked across all levels of nonprofit management, including event planning, membership development, marketing, public relations, major donor and planned giving, and board relations.


I’ve been a passionate writer since age 10 when my teacher noted that I’d used the word ‘flat’ in a story about a London detective, instead of ‘apartment’. She encouraged me to write more and I’ve never stopped. English was one of my majors at Wesleyan University (Conn.). The other major was International Politics and you could say that I had a minor in varsity football too. I was briefly in an MFA program at The American University (D.C.) before the money ran out.


My other life experiences include a year working at the U.S. Supreme Court, driving solo across the U.S. for three months after college, and deploying to Iraq with a U.S. Army line unit in 2005 (where, between patrols, I wrote a monthly column for The Idaho Statesman and dispatches for various military magazines). I was born in Munich Germany on an Army post, have lived in seven different and wonderfully diverse states, and have visited some 35 countries to date. I’m an avid outdoors person and happiest on a trail, on skis, or nestled into a sleeping bag – especially when my family is there with me.


My works thus far have appeared in Good Housekeeping, Family Fun, Fatherly, Yahoo Travel, Family Vacation Critic, Elevation Outdoors, Everett Potter’s Travel Report, TheFamilyBackpack.com, CincinnatiRefined.com, Greenmatters.com, WorldFootprints.com, Mountain Gazette, TheActiveTimes.com, BoundRound.com (Australia), Family Travel (Australia), and Twist Travel Magazine. I also have regular travel segments on the morning show of my local FOX affiliate and look forward to writing my first piece for the L.A. Times soon (thanks to SATW).

1st Vice Chair

Theresa Russell

As the First Vice-Chair, I will be responsible for identifying and soliciting bids for potential hosts for our chapter meetings. My connections within the industry facilitate the selection process, but more importantly, I realize that we need meeting locations that are both affordable and provide us with ample story opportunities.


As I have attended several chapter meetings, I appreciate the essential elements that make a meeting site optimal. A successful sites selection chairman works best with input and suggestions from other members, so I am always open to member ideas. As Vice-Chair, I am also charged with assuming the position of Chair if necessary and feel competent to fill that position.

2nd Vice Chair

Leah DiPetro

Leah DiPietro is the communications manager for Arkansas Tourism, where she oversees eight team members who work to promote The Natural State to travelers from across the globe. She is also the current second vice chair for the SATW Central States Chapter. If re-elected, Leah will continue her commitment to ensuring chapter members have access to top-notch professional development and networking opportunities.


As a member of SATW for nearly five years, Leah believes strongly in the organization’s mission to inspire travel through responsible journalism. Her background in education equips her with the skills and insight needed to recruit and deliver conference speakers who are both educational and entertaining. She has enjoyed taking a more active role in SATW over the past two years, and wants to continue to increase her involvement with the group.


Leah has more than 20 years of experience in public relations/communications, and previously served as deputy press secretary and speechwriter in the U.S. Senate. She has worked as an editor at Thompson Publishing in Washington, D.C., and was the senior writer at the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. Leah also worked in higher education, teaching courses in English composition, political science and career planning for students at Wichita State University.


Leah is a graduate of Lyon College in Batesville, Ark., with a degree in English and journalism. She holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee.


Wesley Lucas

It’s been an honor to represent the SATW Central States Chapter as Secretary/Treasurer this past year. This organization has provided me with so many opportunities to connect with respected travel journalists and inspired me to be more involved.


I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve on the Central States Chapter board, and to continue to work to find new ways to connect its members and grow the organization.


Beth Reiber


Erin McCleskey

Erin is the Group PR Account Director at R&R Partners, overseeing the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) account. She oversees domestic consumer public relations as well as publicity in the UK, Canada and Mexico. She is running for Associate-at-Large for the Central States Chapter and is a new SATW member located in Austin. TX.