Marriott's comms boss may run for U.S. Congress

Matthews has gone from TV anchorwoman to Marriott's head of communications and now possibly to politics

Kathleen Matthews
Kathleen Matthews
Matthews with Eve Mavrakis, Ewan McGregor and husband Chris Matthews
Matthews with Eve Mavrakis, Ewan McGregor and husband Chris Matthews

Kathleen Matthews, Marriott International’s chief global communications and public affairs officer, has announced her resignation to “seek a challenging new role in public service” and whispers abound that the role may be as a U.S. Congresswoman.

Matthews announced her resignation via a public letter released by Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson.

According to the Washington Post, Matthews had told friends in March that she was interested in running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the state of Maryland. Now her resignation could bring her one step closer. 

A powerhouse in the media field, Matthews began her career in 1976 as a production assistant on a local U.S. news programme, working her way up until, in 1991, she became an anchor for the programme. She was an anchor for the local station in Washington, DC, until 2006, during which time she won nine Emmys for her reporting.

Matthews also hosted and executive produced the nationally syndicated “Working Woman” television show from 2001-2006.

She joined Marriott International in 2006 as their head of communications. responsible for the company’s external and internal communications including global brand and corporate public relations, corporate social responsibility, and government affairs.

In his statement, Sorenson said: “While we hate to lose Kathleen at Marriott, all of us who have worked with her these past nine years are not surprised by her desire to serve our country.

“Throughout her career and at Marriott, Kathleen has demonstrated her passion for promoting diversity, mentoring and elevating women, protecting the planet, all the while enhancing global understanding and economic opportunity through travel and tourism.

“She brings drive, creativity, tenacity, and compassion to everything she does. In nine short years she has left an indelible legacy, and we’re confident this is not the last we’ve heard of Kathleen. She has been a force in helping us be better, not just at business, but as a global citizen. “

Matthews is responsible for launching Marriott’s social media presence through owner Bill Marriott’s blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and invigorating the company’s outreach in government affairs and corporate citizenship.

Recruiting a news anchor is a bold and, some might say, strange move for a hospitality company, but for Marriott, it proved to be right on the money.

Owner Bill Marriott “We knew when we brought Kathleen to our leadership team she would be a game-changer. And she has been. Our company and industry are stronger because of her energy and enterprise, and we’ll miss her. But it’s no surprise to see her excitement at pursuing service on behalf of her neighbors in Maryland and her country.”

Attracting the attention of the President of the United States, Matthews was asked to serve as Vice-Chair of President Obama’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, as well as chairing the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Travel and Tourism, where she advocated for more efficient and secure travel across borders through smart visa and entry policies.
She was a powerful advocate for global tourism as a strategy to create new jobs and economic development from tourism.
An advocate for both female empowerment and corporate social responsibility within the hospitality and tourism sectors, Matthews launched a partnership to provide hotel jobs for young Rwandan women, and similar programs in India, Haiti and the U.S. to bring disadvantaged youth into hospitality careers.

Matthews led a four-year initiative with the Clinton Foundation to open a Marriott hotel in Haiti, fostering opportunity and economic development in the wake of a devastating earthquake; she has cited the hotel’s opening this year as one of her proudest moments.

In a statement about Matthew’s resignation, Sorenson said that “a search for [Matthew’s] successor will begin shortly”, and has not hinted whether Marriott has someone in mind to fill Matthews’ well-travelled shoes.

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