Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo was recently awarded the Christopher P. Destito Tourism Leadership Award.
Pictured, from left, Oneida County Tourism President Kelly Blazosky, Lee Arthur, Izzo, Chris Destito Jr., Oneida County Anthony Picente Jr. and Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon.

Recently being awarded the Christopher P. Destito Tourism Leadership Award was personal for Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo, a close friend of the award’s late namesake. 

“Chris Destito and I were very good friends,” Izzo said recounting the work the two had done over the years including Rome’s Honor America Days and on the Oneida County Tourism board. “He was like the older brother I never had. … I feel like the Destitos are a part of my family.” 

Izzo was presented with the award – given to those that work to make Oneida County a tourist destination – on Thursday, Feb. 17 at the Capitol Theatre in Rome. 

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. and Chris Destito Jr. presented Izzo the award during the tourism board’s annual meeting. 

About the award 

The Christopher P. Destito Tourism Leadership Award is awarded yearly at the tourism board’s annual meeting. 

Destito was a founding member of the Oneida County Convention & Visitors Bureau – now known as Oneida County Tourism – in 1984. 

He helped spearhead legislation to create the occupancy tax, which funds tourism for Oneida County, according to information on the Oneida County Tourism Board. 

The board chose to honor Destito’s “countless contributions” to tourism by naming the yearly award after him. 

The award is given annually in recognition of exceptional volunteerism, contributions of time, talent and/or financial support to further advance the tourism industry in the Oneida County area, according to a write-up of the award. 

“It needs to be directly related to the travel and tourism industry,” said Kelly Blazosky, president of Oneida County Tourism. 

Izzo’s tourism accomplishments 

The tourism board called Izzo a leader in tourism for decades as a volunteer, business person and elected official. 

Blazosky said Izzo was the first elected official to receive the award. 

Izzo served with Destito on the original incarnation of the tourism board, helped organize the first Honor America Days celebration in 1984 and chaired the board of directors for Oneida County Tourism from 1987 to 1990. 

Blazosky said Izzo’s contributions to tourism did not end after her first election to mayor in 2015. Blazosky cited the recent Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) projects as helping some tourist worthy destinations in Rome, such as the recent renovations at the Capitol Theatre.  

Izzo said she was “very humbled” by the award. 

“I never would have envisioned it,” she said. 

Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Ed Harris at


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