John Livengood’s tenure as the longtime voice for Indiana’s hotels and restaurants is coming to a close as part of a major shakeup within their respective organizations’ leadership.
The 65-year-old plans to retire in September following the recent merger of the Indiana Hotel & Lodging Association and the Indiana Restaurant Association, both of which he served as president.
Livengood led both organizations from 1998 until they combined Jan. 1 to form the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association.
He’s still president of the new organization, but his time is coming to a close. Directors are focused on filling his post and hope to have a replacement named by June 1, said Phil Ray, general manager of the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown and chairman of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association.
“No question, there’s big shoes to fill,” Ray said.
Both groups existed for decades—the hotel and lodging association dated to the turn of the last century and the restaurant association to the 1930s.
The issues they faced at the local and legislative levels were so similar, however, that Livengood ultimately pushed for a merger that directors of both associations welcomed.
“This is something that’s happened in over 20 states,” Livengood said. “As I looked to retirement, I thought the two groups should stay together in some fashion. It just makes sense.”
Livengood has represented the restaurants since 1990 and the hotels since 1998, when he brought both into his consulting office at 350 S. Meridian St.
Livengood and a staff of eight manage hotel and restaurant operations through his LMV Consulting firm, which provides lobbying, government relations and association management services. Partners in the firm are Patricia McGuffey and Connie Vickery.
Combined membership of the new restaurant and lodging association includes nearly 150 hotels and more than 400 restaurants with 1,500 locations when counting the national chains.
Other clients of LMV Consulting include the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, Indiana Hospitality and Tourism Foundation, Promote Indiana Coalition and the Council of Community Mental Health Centers.
But Livengood’s work with the much more visible hotel and restaurant industries, part of the city’s efforts to bolster tourism, may get the most recognition.
He’s opposed hospitality taxes that have raised hotel-room and food and beverage prices and has spearheaded food-safety and alcohol-server training programs.
His work to improve the industry has not gone unnoticed by Visit Indy, the city’s tourism champion.
“You can look back on his tenure and physically see progress and the positive imprint he will leave on the hospitality community,” Visit Indy spokesman Chris Gahl said. “He’s someone who truly understands tourism.”
Livengood’s only experience in the restaurant biz consisted of a server job he landed while at Wabash College in Crawfordsville decades ago. But the Richmond native’s political savvy more than compensated.
The political science major graduated from Wabash in 1971 and held various legislative positions, starting with legislative liaison for Indiana Rehabilitation Services in 1972. He followed that with a six-year run as administrative assistant and legislative liaison for the Secretary of State’s Office.
Political positions followed, including his appointment as the Indiana Democratic Party’s executive director and legislative liaison from 1979 until 1982. He served as the party’s Marion County chairman from 1982 to 1986 and state chairman from 1984 to 1989. He capped off his political career in 1989 as legislative liaison to then-Gov. Evan Bayh.
Earlier, in 1978, he ran unsuccessfully for a state representative seat.
Even so, “it was a good experience,” Livengood recalled. “I learned a lot.”
Livengood plans to continue lobbying for one client but will spend much more of his time in South Carolina, where he and his wife, Lesly, own a home. He also plans to continue publishing AmericasCuisine, an annual dining guide he launched about six years ago.
Also as part of the changes, the Greater Indianapolis Hotel & Lodging Association, a separate entity that represented just local hotels, now has been folded into the new Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association as a chapter.•