Local RNC staff expands as focus turns to hotel, venue agreements

The local organizing group for the Republican National Convention is almost large enough to call a committee. In recent weeks, the group, led by CEO John Lassiter, has hired five people and, by the time the convention gets here in 2020, will have a staff of 25 to 30 people.

New hires include Towers Mingledorff as chief operating officer, Scott Syfert as general counsel and Kim Bowman as controller. Ashley Simmons, a former spokesperson for the city of Charlotte now with Moore & Van Allen, is interim communications director and Andrea Mathis is executive administrator. 

Mingledorff brings both public- and private-sector experience, most recently with software company SAS in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he was part of the Washington office of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and spent time on the legislative staff at the General Assembly in Raleigh. Syfert, a local attorney, is the son of former city manager Pam Syfert.

On Monday, Lassiter and Mingledorff spoke to CBJin a conference room at Moore & Van Allen’s uptown offices. Mingledorff said he is concentrating on working to complete contracts for 17,000 hotel rooms and assemble a venue guide for the 3,200 caucuses, parties, meetings and other events that will occur around the convention. Earlier this month, the RNC disclosed the dates for the convention: Aug. 24-27, 2020.

Lassiter and Mingledorff said much of their committee’s work will be in tandem with the Republican National Committee’s convention staff, which will begin moving here and ramping up at the end of this year. At peak employment, the RNC organizers in Charlotte will number 200.

In the near term, Lassiter said the local host committee will add two or three more people. The next hires include a local director of finance and a director of engagement who will focus on legacy projects that will live on and benefit the area after the convention.

“The idea is to add people as we need them,” he said. “And not grow too fast, not get ahead of our cash flow and not have people sitting around without things to focus on.”

The local committee, known as Charlotte 2020, is charged with raising $70 million to cover operating expenses, including $27.6 million for staging and other changes at Spectrum Center, the main convention site.

National and local Republican representatives said this month that fund-raising is on pace. According to bid documents, the GOP, through Lassiter’s local host committee, committed to raise $21.5 million by the end of this year.

Mingledorff assisted with the city’s convention bid at the suggestion of Sen. Tillis. Soon after Charlotte landed the RNC, Lassiter offered him a job as chief operating officer.

All of the hotel rooms for the convention are within an 11-mile radius of uptown, the organizers said Monday. Two properties scheduled to be finished early in 2020 — a 270-room InterContinental Hotel and the 254-room Grand Bohemian Hotel Charlotte, both being built uptown — will be used if they’re ready in time. Lassiter said organizers have options if those hotels are unavailable, but said their proximity to the NBA arena and the convention center as well as upscale reputations make them a good fit for convention-goers.

Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Since then, Lassiter noted, about 5,000 hotel rooms have been added. In March, the $1.2 billion, 9-mile light-rail line known as the Blue Line Extension opened. It connects uptown with UNC Charlotte, providing an easy shuttle connection for delegates and other visitors who can stay at hotels located near Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills and then take the train directly to the arena without having to fight traffic or find parking.

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