Our Team

SUNDOWNER LEADERSHIP TEAM:
WE RELY SOLEY ON THE EXPERTISE OF OUR
TEAM TO MAKE YOUR EVENTS A SUCCESS.

Gene

GENE MELE

CHAIRMAN

Gene graduated with a B.A. in Marketing from Lewis University in 1959. Following graduation, he was immediately hired by Sabena Airlines as District Sales Manager for Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. In 1964, he joined American Express as Director of Operations for South America and Mexico. He stayed with American Express for four years until going to work for Madison Bank & Trust as Vice President of Marketing. His duties included starting and overseeing a group travel division. During this time he also served on the advisory boards of Eastern Airlines and Pan American World Airways.

After attending several marketing conferences, Mele found there was a definite need for professional meeting planning. He founded Sundowner International in January of 1972 and proceeded to build a company that boasts over $15 million in sales. He is considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of meeting planning. He turned the reins over to his son and daughter in 2001 and they have continued to provide the same level of excellence that has made Sundowner an industry leader.

Brian

BRIAN J. MELE

PRESIDENT/OWNER

Brian joined Sundowner in the late 80’s after having enjoyed a successful career in the restaurant and nightclub industry. He has continued on his father Gene’s vision: “Brian, we are not in the meeting business, we are in the relationship business.” Brian has continued to build on his father Gene’s legacy. Building Sundowner as a successful company based on the essential facets of event management – creating long lasting relationships, connecting people, devising smart solutions, and seeing the big picture while also mastering the fine details. His mission? To help clients strategically realize their goals with creative meeting solutions. Brian brings to bear an intimate knowledge of the trade, strong relationships with vendors, and guiding creative vision. He has planned and successfully executed events ranging from high-profile events and annual conferences to incentive trips, nonprofit fundraisers, golf tournaments, grand opening celebrations and conferences on every continent. By working closely with diverse teams, Brian and his team execute exceptional events that meet business objectives and exceed expectations - all with seeming ease and efficiency. His work process reflects an authentic desire to make clients feel comfortable, appreciated, and welcomed.

“If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life”

Brian enjoys cycling, cooking, traveling and more than anything, spending time with his 2 great kids, Dante and Violet.

brian@sundowner.net | 312-266-1600 ext 705
Beth

BETH O’NEILL

CONTROLLER/OWNER

Beth is a 1982 graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she received a B.S. in Accounting from the Farmer School of Business.  After a brief stint in public accounting and banking in Chicago, Beth began working as the Controller at Sundowner in the late 1980's.  Beth has extensive experience in meeting and event planning, particularly in the not for profit sector, having successfully produced golf outings, dinners and other events for Marist High School, The Lone Survivor Foundation and the Christ the King Endowment and Parish.  

Beth and her husband, Mike, reside on the south side of Chicago in the Beverly neighborhood.  They are the parents of four children ranging in age from 23 to 30, several of whom have contributed to the family business by staffing many of Sundowner's events and meetings.  Along with Brian, Beth is extremely proud of the business her father started back in 1972, and continues to work hard to make sure that all of Sundowner's clients feel like family.

beth@sundowner.net
Judith

JUDITH YOUNGS

VICE PRESIDENT: OPERATIONS

A native of Chicago, Judy has worked for over four decades in retail travel sales and the hotel & meeting industry in both sales and management positions. Judy joined Sundowner International Corporation in 1980.  At Sundowner she had the opportunity to cultivate technique and learn firsthand how a corporate meeting planner grows and changes with each client’s needs. Her problem solving skills and commitment to Sundowner and their clients has developed over the years and provides a solid foundation for Sundowner.

judy@sundowner.net
Headshot

KATIE COLEMAN

VICE PRESIDENT

A mid-western gal from Madison, Wisconsin, Katie joined the Sundowner team in September of 2007 after spending several years in the legal profession. Katie enjoys building long-term working relationships and friendships with her clients. This allows her to feel like a true extension of their team year after year regardless of their meeting destination.  Her favorite part the job is the creative challenge of developing new and unique event ideas for her clients each year, when it becomes imperative to “top” last year¹s program!  Being on site and experiencing the thrill of watching these events come together and glancing over to see a relaxed and satisfied client is also hard to top!

Although she stays busy traveling the world with Sundowner’s clients, Katie relishes her down time in the Windy City of Chicago where she resides with her Labradoodle, Lulu.  Katie enjoys spending time with family and friends, exploring Chicago (when she is home) and challenging herself with new recipes in the kitchen.

katie@sundowner.net | 312-266-1600 ext 714
Headshot1

Susan Mele

Travel Director

Susan graduated with a BA in English with a concentration in Theatre from Niagara University and an MFA from Towson University. Her first love is acting, producing and writing BUT her father was a meeting planner so she had no choice but to get involved in the family business. She worked at Sundowner over her summer breaks and once she graduated from college, worked part-time in the office while she performed and produced theatre all over the world.

For the past 20 years Susan has worked as a Travel Director for Sundowner. She travels onsite to the events, manages the staff and is always anticipating Sundowner’s clients needs. She brings her knowledge of the business, creativity, passion & comedy to her job. Susan is able to suit the individual needs of Sundowner’s clients and in doing this, she seamlessly helps run their meetings. She enjoys traveling and working with Sundowner's loyal clients and it shows!

Susan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. She has 4 children ages 9 to 15. When Susan is not busy shuttling the kids around she enjoys cycling and mountain biking with them…AND of course working on her next one woman comedy show.

susan@sundowner.net
Sean_o_neill_pic

Sean O'Neill

Director of Operations

Sean loves sports…a lot! He graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2011 with a B.A. in English - Writing. After years of playing football, he wanted to remain involved in the sports world and decided to pursue a career in sports media. Following graduation he obtained his MBA in Sports Administration and began his adventure into the business segment of the sports world. Sean then joined NCSA Athletic Recruiting. NCSA seeks to educate and assist student-athletes in maximizing their athletic potential and earn athletic and academic scholarships, particularly if they have financial difficulty. Sean also worked in Marketing for NCSA’s scouting operations. It is here that Sean “caught the bug” for meeting planning and client services.

In early 2015, Sean decided it was time to seek out new opportunities that would further engage and challenge him. He found that opportunity at Sundowner. After many freelance assignments for Sundowner’s premier clients, Sean was hired full time as Director of Operations. He knew that in joining Sundowner, he would make his mark with a company that prides itself on building strong client relationships, creative vision, and attention to detail.

Sean’s mission is Sundowner’s - assisting clients in achieving their vision, as well as making sure the business continues to grow, prosper and adapt for years to come.

sean@sundowner.net | 312-266-1600 ext 708