by Sarah JF Braley | August 17, 2020

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has appointed Michael Heckman as acting president and CEO of the Houston First Corp., the city's destination management organization that also owns the 1,207-room Hilton Americas-Houston, and manages the George R. Brown Convention Center and 10 other city-owned venues. 

Heckman is charged with overseeing full operations for the corporation and guiding Houston First through its next growth phase. He takes over the position from Brenda Bazan, who announced her retirement in July. She had been with Houston First since its inception in 2000 and had worked for the city since 1993.

Heckman, an executive with Houston First for the past six years, previously was COO of strategic initiatives, and served as senior vice president of partnerships and event development, most notably helping to create Comicpalooza, a large comic book, science fiction, anime, gaming and pop culture convention. He also was president and CEO of the 23rd World Petroleum Congress. Heckman also spent five years with the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is part of Houston First.

"Michael has the experience and ability to lead Houston First as we conduct a national search for a permanent president and CEO," the mayor said in a statement. "During his leadership, I want Houston First to continue moving forward and start reimagining itself to promote Houston throughout the world. We cannot wait until the pandemic is over. I know Michael will serve well in the interim position."

Of his new position, Heckman said, "As we all know, the tourism and meetings industries are facing historic challenges as a result of the pandemic. Fortunately we have the best of the best selling and marketing Houston in all areas. My associates and the board are keenly focused on reimagining our business operations. The team will focus on developing new, innovative strategies that drive growth and stability while continuing to support our hospitality stakeholders."