Business Development Director and Executive Assistant to the CFO
From Mid-Scale hotels to Full Service destination resorts, McKenzie brings more than 11 years of hospitality, sales, and management experience to KAJ.
McKenzie knew she was destined for the travel industry when she began her career with a Walt Disney World Resort Internship. Through her Disney experience and two seasons of escalating from Manager Trainee to Assistant General Manager at the State Game Lodge Resort in Custer State Park, McKenzie learned valuable guest service skills, management skills and of course the secrets to a “magical experience”.
After graduating from South Dakota State University, McKenzie worked for both the Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Brandon, SD. She has filled nearly every role in the hotels including Guest Service Agent, Front Office Manager, General Manager, Human Resource Manager, Event Coordinator and Director of Sales. Her latest role as Director of Sales put her on the front line of selling, booking, and carrying out events. In the last five years, she was in charge of over 400+ wedding, leisure and corporate events. McKenzie’s wide range of skills and approachable demeanor allowed her to be the “go to” person for everyone in the hotel including guests, room attendants, maintenance staff, front desk agents, managers and hotel owners.
While McKenzie specializes in operations and sales, her “let’s get things done” attitude is what makes her such a valuable team member. She brings enthusiasm, knowledge, honesty and a strong work ethic to KAJ.
Sue is a native of Wichita, KS having earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Health Care Administration from Wichita State University.
She began her professional career opening a skilled nursing facility, a specialty surgical hospital and an assisted living facility before returning to her accounting passion. Sue has worked in hotel accounting and human resources management since 2001. Hotel accounting processes include accounts payable, centralized sales tax reporting, centralized payroll processing, credit practices and internal control policies, which culminate in the preparation of periodic financial statements and external reporting to owners, lenders and other stakeholders. Sue has also managed hotel compensation, benefits, associate relations and risk management administration.
Corporate Director of Revenue Management
Bryan is a Summe Cum Laude graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN with degrees in Business Administration and Hospitality Management. Since an early age, hospitality has been an area of passion for him. Bryan’s foray into the industry was as a Guest Services agent at the Holiday Inn Express in his hometown of Worthington, MN.
After college, he interned at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. Since that time, Bryan has continually advanced in his career with roles as Director of Sales, Assistant General Manager, and General Manager. He has experience with multiple brands including Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn, TownePlace Suites, Best Western, and Baymont Inn. Incidentally, his first role as General Manager was at the same Holiday Inn Express he began his career, returning to that hotel a few years after graduating college.
Revenue management has emerged as an area of expertise for Bryan during his time with these brands. Having been the General Manager of two hotels with very positive revenue growth and maximization led Bryan to his current role as Corporate Director of Revenue Management.
Katy joined KAJ Hospitality after more than 25 years of sales, marketing, operations and branding experience at several major hotel companies, including Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and Carlson Hotels. In her most recent position she was serving as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for an Omaha based ownership company focused on independently branded properties.
From 2004-2010, Katy held several key leadership positions at both Marriott and Carlson Hotels corporate before returning her focus back to the property level. During this time she led the national sales team for Marriott and served as the Director of Franchise Business Services for Carlson.
As the Corporate Director of Sales and Marketing, Katy will work closely with the hotels in our portfolio to implement sales strategies and drive revenue growth.
Corporate Director of Operations
Sara Lussman Corporate Director of Operations Sara started in hospitality in 2000 while attending Southwest Minnesota State University for Hotel and Restaurant Management. She worked all aspects of hotel operations from housekeeping, front desk, food and beverage, banquets, and sales before moving into management. Her passion for the hospitality industry grew while interning at Walt Disney World in Orlando with the high level of service that Disney provides to every guest.
Sara worked in the Minneapolis, MN market for 7 years primarily at a Marriott property. Her primary focus was guest and employee satisfaction, quality assurance as well as assisting all departments in daily operations.
Sara relocated to Sioux Falls in 2012 as a General Manager of two Marriott hotels, eventually becoming an Area General Manager directly overseeing a Hilton Garden Inn in addition to the Marriott properties. During this time Sara oversaw multiple renovation projects as well as budget management and mentorship to other General Managers.
With her many years in hotel operations, Sara’s focus is working to support all KAJ properties with daily operations, guest satisfaction and quality assurance.
Aaron Johnson joined the KAJ team in 2004 and has played an integral role in KAJ realigning its vision and focus.
Aaron is a graduate of Dakota State University in Madison, SD. He graduated with a BBA in Business Management and a Minor in Computer Information Systems. Upon his graduation Aaron was employed with The Sherwin-Williams Company before deciding to join the family business. In his early years with the company Aaron worked all facets of the hotel business including front desk, housekeeping, laundry and maintenance. He was responsible for putting in place large scale programs of efficiency for all departments with specific focus on housekeeping labor efficiency and effective preventative maintenance programs.
In recent years Aaron has been heavily involved in the expansion and reorganization of KAJ. KAJ has focused a lot of time and energy on the rebranding of the company and is now heavily focused on the select service and upscale segments of the hotel industry. Aaron specializes in hotel acquisition, hotel refinance, hotel site selection, land acquisition, hotel design, budgeting, revenue & expense management and operational efficiencies.
From humble beginnings Kevin Johnson has spent the last 35 years bound and determined to do something better today than he did yesterday.
It all started in 1984 when Kevin took a chance on an investment in a business venture that most would have considered too risky. The company was Family Entertainment Network (FEN) and the business was wireless cable. Kevin and his partners were one of the first companies in the country to launch a wireless cable service and were featured in Forbes Magazine. To this day one of Kevin's original FEN partners remains a limited partner in Kevin's hotel ventures. After wireless cable Kevin went on to run his own cable company that spanned several states throughout the Midwest and Washington state.
In 1993 Kevin thought it was time to change things up a little bit and decided to get into the hotel business. He opened his first hotel in Oacoma, SD along Interstate-90 and from there things have only grown. Kevin has found his niche in the hospitality industry and over the past 20 years has grown the company to what it is today. Along the way he has also owned RCI affiliated resorts, Fun parks, Casinos & Restaurants.
Hospitality is our Foundation