Our Team

The OHLA has a team of dedicated trade association professionals working diligently on behalf of the hospitality industry each and every day. Our team members have expertise ranging from advocacy and governmental affairs, to operations and licensing. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the team that loves to serve you.

Executive Leadership Team

James Leewright
Chief Executive Officer

In June 2022, James was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association. Prior to joining the OHLA, James Leewright was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2014 and in 2016 was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate representing District 12 Creek and parts of Tulsa counties. James is responsible for meeting member needs and for driving profitability while managing organizational structure, and strategy. He leads the association's public policy, advocacy, and regulatory efforts on behalf of the restaurant industry, and works with the association’s advocacy team which includes the contract lobbyist. He also coordinates with the association’s officers, and the board of directors, and communicates advocacy initiatives with the National Restaurant Association. James also serves as President & CEO of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association and also the Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association and represents the industry through his service to the Oklahoma Foodservice Advisory Council and the OSU Spears School of Business Hospitality Tourism Management program.

Patti Colley, IOM, CMP 

Patti's journey with the ORA began in 1995. As a valued member of our Executive Leadership Team, Patti takes charge of communicating our association's mission, enhancing its brand, and ensuring alignment with our strategic plan. Patti engages closely with our hospitality supplier members, raising their profiles through the ORA Strategic Partnership Marketing Program. This program not only creates brand awareness at events and initiatives but also strengthens member programming. Patti's influence extends beyond marketing. She directs additional association strategies, including meetings and events, and communications. Her credentials include the distinction of a Certified Meeting Professional since 2005 and graduating from the Institute for Organizational Management in 2004. Patti serves as the President of the Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association, and is also an esteemed member of the board of directors of the Oklahoma Society of Association Executives.

Debra Bailey, CAE
Chief Financial Officer

Debra Bailey is a cornerstone of the ORA since 1985 and a distinguished member of our Executive Leadership Team. With the most extensive tenure among our staff, Debra holds a vital role in the association. Her responsibilities encompass fiscal management, directing operations, overseeing office functions, and facilitating communication with our esteemed officers and directors. Debra's credentials shine as she is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and an accomplished graduate of the Institute for Organizational Management. Beyond her commitment to the ORA, Debra's leadership extends to the broader community. She serves as the President of the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association and holds the role of Chief Financial Officer for the Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association.


Collin Graham

Chief Member Services & Regulatory Officer

Collin has played a pivotal role in the team since 2000, plays a pivotal role within the ORA's Executive Leadership Team. He excels in a range of vital responsibilities that not only bolster new member recruitment and retention but provide essential industry insights. Collin offers unwavering support to members as they navigate the complexities of opening and managing food service businesses. As a Certified ServSafe Instructor/Proctor, he ensures safety and excellence, while also teaching the ORA's ACE Alcohol Compliance Education classes. Collin's influence extends to the Advocacy team, where he stands as a resource for members addressing licensing and opening challenges. His stewardship of membership-preferred supplier and discount programs enriches member value. Additionally, Collin's participation in the Tulsa Foodservice Advisory Board showcases his local industry involvement.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Director, Training & Accounting
Since joining our team in 2016, Bety has been a vital asset, overseeing accounts payables and receivables. Her responsibilities also extend to office operations. Beyond her financial responsibilities, Elizabeth coordinates crucial training opportunities such as the ORA’s (ACE) Alcohol Compliance and ServSafe certification programs, playing a pivotal role in fostering a skilled industry community. Elizabeth is a Certified ServSafe Instructor/Proctor.

Sarai Maldonado                              

Manager, Member Care & ServSafe
Since joining our team in 2019, Sarai plays a pivotal role as your initial point of contact, whether you're reaching out by phone or updating your membership information. She takes the helm in member fulfillment, managing member records, data, and dues. Sarai's expertise extends to overseeing ServSafe Food Safety enrollment and class proctoring. As a Certified ServSafe Proctor, she ensures the highest standards of food safety education.

Member Services & Accounting

Workforce Development & Education

Roberta Helsley

Director, Workforce & Education

Since 2021, Roberta has been the driving force behind our workforce development initiatives, bringing a visionary approach to bridging the gap between industry and education. As a leader, she orchestrates impactful initiatives that converge industry and education, exemplified by the transformative Oklahoma ProStart and HospitAbilities student programs. These programs empower aspiring individuals in hospitality, culinary arts, and restaurant management, fostering dynamic careers. Roberta serves on various Advisory Boards, including OSU IT, Metro Technology Center, Northwest Classen High School, and Francis Tuttle Technology Center-Service Careers. Her role on the Modernization of the National Career Clusters Framework Advisory Group reflects her commitment to shaping educational pathways. Roberta also curates member educational experiences, and considers speaker and facilitator selections, crafting an engaging learning environment.

Meetings & Events and Marketing, Communications

Lacey Pierson
Manager, Expo, Meetings & Events

A cherished addition to our team in 2021, Lacey assumes the responsibility of nurturing relationships with ORA Expo exhibitors. Her expertise shines through exhibit sales and the seamless coordination of onsite logistics, ensuring the success of this cornerstone event. Lacey's versatility extends to steering a multitude of association meetings and events, crafting memorable experiences for our members. As a Certified ServSafe Proctor, Lacey epitomizes our commitment to safety and excellence. Her influence reaches beyond our association as she actively contributes to the Oklahoma Chapter of Meeting Professionals International's board of directors, demonstrating her industry dedication.

Surge Ali

Manager, Marketing & Technology

In 2023, Surge became an integral part of the OHLA team, with a distinct focus on elevating the AMS (Association Management System) initiatives. As an AMS administrator, Surge not only ensures the smooth functioning of this essential system but also spearheads its development and management. His contributions extend to various dimensions of OHLA's marketing strategies, encompassing digital and print domains. His scope of responsibilities includes crafting web content, photography, and shaping graphic design for the association.

Jorie Helms

Manager, Member Engagement & Communications

Jorie Helms recently assumed the mantle of Manager of Communications & Member Engagement, becoming a pivotal link in OHLA's strategic communication endeavors. At the helm of SnapShot e-News, Jorie masterfully aligns our communications with member priorities and needs. She also curates a significant portion of our social media presence and graphic design. Additionally, Jorie is an integral to our meetings and events team, and stands as your point of contact for event registration helping to ensure engagement. 


Julia Jernigan Smith
Contract Lobbyist

Julia is a vital member of our Advocacy team, dedicated to championing the interests of our industry. Collaborating closely with the President & CEO, she ensures that industry issues are effectively conveyed to state authorities, including the state capitol and relevant agencies. Julia's expertise in public relations, communications, and strategic implementation plays a pivotal role in driving our advocacy efforts forward.

Visit Creative Capitol Strategies to learn more.