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2024 Panel of Experts Ready to Answer Questions (Part 1)

Meet this year’s panelists as they introduce themselves, their operations and their industry segments.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Samantha Propson, The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Samantha Propson
Samantha Propson

I am the director of housekeeping and custodial for the beautiful AAA-rated, Four-diamond Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. 

With 270 guest rooms, three on-site restaurants, conference rooms/ballrooms, banquet facility, spa and multiple pools/whirlpools, our on-site laundry is responsible for processing and ordering linens for the property.

My love for the hospitality industry began when I was 14 years old as a housekeeper. After a few career changes, I always came back to hospitality. 

I have a hands-on approach and my passion for the industry has given me the experience necessary to drive business forward. I have been in my current position for three years but have nearly eight years in the industry. 

I currently am responsible for 91 employees who handle housekeeping, laundry and custodial/public areas. When I took over the department in 2021, our laundry needed change and was on the verge of being outsourced. There were processes and procedures in place that were dated and equipment that needed to be updated. 

In two years, those processes were changed to help with both production and training. We have new pieces of equipment that no one ever thought they would see during their tenure. 

With logical thinking and budgeting, we kept on-site laundry and explored the possibility of expanding our business.

In 2023 there have been many accomplishments. New equipment was installed with minimal downtime in our high season. Also, old processes were changed to help improve production times and expedite training, which is crucial when it comes to the ever-changing labor market. 

Having said that, I have been able to retain an exceptional staff that has endured change and has overcome the challenges we have faced.

One of the challenges I face, like everyone else in the industry, is inflation. As the prices increase, it becomes more critical to save time and labor on processes while keeping the linen standards high. I continue to explore new ideas for improving our operation.

It is an honor to be selected to contribute to this panel and to share some of my career experiences.

Textiles: Carl Rocco, Manchester Mills, Tampa, Fla.

Carl Rocco
Carl Rocco

I stand at the forefront of one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing industries. 

As the director of healthcare business development and sales for Manchester Mills, I am passionate about developing and delivering solutions to meet the unique needs of new and existing healthcare partners. 

With more than 25 years of experience across the healthcare textiles, food service, uniform and technology sectors, my approach to business development and retention is genuinely rooted in enhancing each customer’s knowledge about products, services and trends. 

Equipment Manufacturing: Chuck Anderson, Chicago Dryer Company, San Diego, Calif.

Chuck Anderson
Chuck Anderson

I am director of strategic accounts for Chicago Dryer Co., a fourth-generation family-owned equipment manufacturing company focused on providing world-class finishing equipment. 

The company was founded in 1892 and is based in Chicago with additional manufacturing and engineering support in Switzerland. 

I support eight of our top distributors in 15 states, Western Canada and Mexico. I have been with Chicago for over 12 years and have been in the industry for 38 years. 

My diverse background in the industry allows me to provide properly guided solutions for our customers. I am also able to help troubleshoot and optimize performance of our equipment while on-site, which is a value-add to our customers. 

I believe I have had a very unique journey in the industry, which started when I was 15 years old working in my family’s laundry chemical business. During this time, we also had a division that designed and installed on-premises laundries for Baring Industries, Washex of California and Engle Machinery. 

In the early ’90s, I took a position as the laundry mechanic for Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, at the same time we were building the laundry for the new Grand Manchester Hyatt in San Diego. 

I ended up becoming the laundry mechanic for both properties for a short time and later became assistant director of engineering/energy manager for the Hyatt property. 

While still moonlighting for my parent’s company on the installation side, I had an opportunity to get into sales with Washex of California in 1995. Since then, I have also held sales positions with G.A Braun Inc. and Ellis Corp. 

I think my unique experience in chemicals, hospitality, service and sales will be beneficial to the Panel of Experts and hope the readers will be able to gain something from my experiences. 

Uniforms/Workwear Manufacturing: Duane Houvener, ADI-American Dawn Inc., Los Angeles, Calif. 

Duane Houvener
Duane Houvener

Although it feels like yesterday, it’s been over 25 years since I accepted a job and fell into a career in the laundry industry.  

That year was 1997 and the job was a regional sales manager for a linen supply company located in Northern Michigan. 

However, the job that provided the fuel to ignite my career started in 1999 at West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry (WMSHL) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as a soiled room supervisor. It was there that I learned more about textiles/chemistry/production/employee relations/high-tech equipment and more about myself than I ever did in school. 

After about 18 months in that position, I moved to sales/service at WMSHL and eventually ascended to the director’s position. In that role, I learned about the importance of textiles in the healthcare (and everyday) world. 

All that experience has taught me about what’s important within the walls of an industrial laundry, what’s important within the walls of a healthcare facility and what’s important to/for everyone involved.

Little did I know (or realize) that those internal and external experiences would prepare me for the eventual executive director position at WMSHL. During that time, and because of the hard work, dedication, patience and knowledge of the incredible staff, employees, consultants and contractors, we completed an epic retrofit and expansion of WMSHL to a state-of-the-art healthcare laundry facility.

In 2013, discussions began to take my experience and knowledge to the “other side of the desk,” and I accepted the national manager of value-added solutions position with ADI-American Dawn Inc. This expanded and solidified our “consultative services” to our customer base and beyond. 

Still today, we help our customers with internal production audits, external usage audits, linen in-service training and educational training for everyone/anyone involved. 

In early 2022, I was promoted to national sales manager, the position I enjoy today. While ADI is based in Los Angeles, I reside with my wife and our dogs in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.

Chemicals Supply: Leonardo Gastelum, Norchem Corp., Los Angeles, Calif.

Leonardo Gastelum
Leonardo Gastelum

As director of national accounts and customer care at Norchem Corp., I’ve garnered an impressive knack for tackling daily operational challenges in commercial laundries, with customer satisfaction at the forefront of my mind. 

I specialize in optimizing wash chemistry and automated systems to ensure high-quality output of textiles and garments from the wash process in each laundry type while identifying ways for operators to implement sustainable solutions that align with each plant’s individual goals. 

With over two decades in both the public and private sectors of the industry, I have experience in wash chemistry optimization, wastewater reclamation solutions, operational management, team building, business development, strategic implementation and inter-company collaboration. 

As a second-generation leader within Norchem (my father, Jaime Gastelum, first joined Norchem in the 1990s), I have experienced the widespread economic, environmental and legislative changes impacting operators firsthand. This motivates me to stay ahead of the curve when offering innovative solutions and technologies to my customers. 

I’m responsible for all North American accounts and oversee a team of customer care account managers. Together, the Norchem Customer Care team collaborates with operators to ensure top-notch service with a good customer-finding solution that exceeds the norm. 

To date, I have led and implemented hundreds of chemical installations in commercial laundries across the country, from start to finish. My experience makes chemical transitions second to none, assuring zero downtime without affecting plant production. 

In 2021, I was nominated by fellow operators and awarded the TRSA Above and Beyond Service Award for my outstanding commitment and exceptional attention to customer needs. 

As of 2023, I serve on a Hygienically Clean Advisory Board that sets the guidelines for operators to meet that standard. 

I’m thrilled to share my input as part of the ALN 2024 Panel of Experts.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].