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firefighter OF the year


Willie Matamoros Firefighter Nth Degree
Willie Matamoros

Project manager, Nth Degree




Nominated by

D'Anna Hurley, marketing project manager, Nth Degree, Duluth, Georgia

This award program asked the question, “Who’s On Your Crew?” When we really thought-through this question, we realized we have an extremely talented pool of team members that make up our “crew.” But, as we started to talk about some of the individuals, a few true star players started to emerge. The person we are nominating for Firefighter of the Year ACE Award is Willie Matamoros. Willie is a traveling project manager for Nth Degree and has been on our team for more than 25 years. He is truly exceptional and through his entire career, has demonstrated the qualities of a person any company in any industry (including firefighters), would want to call their own.


Willie not only truly knows his craft and can (and does) do the challenging work day in and day out, but he has the temperament and the interpersonal skills to lead, challenge, motivate and teach his team. He never breaks a sweat, no matter how hot the fire is, and you will never see him panic when there is an unexpected change or mishap. You are more likely to catch Willie smiling, giving someone a high-five or helping a team member himself so that the entire team can focus on the work and the client’s needs. Much like a firefighter would, Willie uses communication and leadership as his tools to help his team put out every fire and to ensure every client is completely satisfied with the service they receive from Nth Degree.


What’s more is that Willie is truly humble and knows that he is only as strong as the people he leads–he knows it is a true team effort and ensures that everyone knows this too. He does this through positivity, recognition and respect for everyone.


One example of this, is that Willie will introduce the entire on-site team to the customer(s) and all the vendors so that every single team member he leads truly feels like part of the overall team. He reminds everyone that the job is a group effort. Willie knows that it isn’t just Nth Degree, but every person that touches the project that must do their part for the project to be successful. Willie approaches every project and every challenge step-by-step and side-by-side with all the people on his team.


The colleagues we asked to help with this nomination said that his positive can-do attitude shines when you work with him and that it is contagious to the entire team--not just the crew, but the client and even neighboring booths. He thanks every single team member at the end of the shift and shakes their hands-–and he truly means his thank you.


Willie’s experience and “Whatever-It-Takes” attitude always pay off for clients, especially when things get difficult. One example includes a time when a project’s freight was stuck in international customs for several days. This type of delay can be very difficult to overcome, but instead of giving up and waiting around for the freight, Willie acted and developed a solution on the fly to keep the project moving forward. He devised a plan to get the entire overhead truss system installed while we continued to build the exhibit, thus making a nightmare better and truly putting out what could have turned into a raging fire.

We asked a few people on our team who have worked alongside Willie to describe him in a few words. Here are the results: gentleman, trusted leader, road warrior, limitless energy, constant smile, thoughtful and caring, strong work ethic, makes everyone feel like family, tension diffuser, hospitable, treats each client as his only one, tenacious, loving, sharing, passionate, motivator and outgoing.


Need we say more? Thank you for the opportunity to nominate a truly special person on the Nth Degree team and in this sometimes-challenging industry.


Coworker Testimonials:

Willie loves all people and makes them feel not only appreciated but lifted to a higher level. He has the grit to tackle a difficult project or matter with integrity and valor. Every team member on a project realizes the effort Willie puts in all day until we sign out and he gets results from crew to clients to all vendors.

Willie’s leadership is by his example of how he works and expresses the client’s needs to the entire team not just a select few. In doing this, he has total buy-in from the entire crew, which is rare. Willie’s crew members work harder because of Willie. This is a rare gift, not just a talent. He also, as a leader should, teachers others so they can move forward in their careers.

He often takes a minute at the end of the day after the booth is cleaned and the crew are getting their time slips to bring them in for a group cheer or to let everyone know how a particular member of the team really shined that day.

He will also not just go with the flow but make a strong suggestion when needed to make something safer or easier or quicker for the good of all.--Patrick Shepherd, account executive, Nth Degree


Willie is one of the nicest guys you will meet. Willie has a can-do attitude and leads by example. He has respect for all individuals. If you are ever in New Orleans (Willie’s home town), Willie loves to take you out and show you his city.”

Steve Daugherty, vice president, global operations, Nth Degree


Client Testimonials:


 I was excited to hear last week that Willie is being nominated for an Exhibit City News ACE Award! I can’t think of anyone more deserving of an award like this and I want to put my support behind his nomination. To that end, please pass this on to the appropriate person(s) for consideration.


Willie has worked for me as a key labor lead on large projects, most notably the Microsoft booth at E3 for many years running. His passion for the industry, for the project and for making the client look good is almost without equal. To state that another way, he is in a rarified atmosphere of top tier performers.


It may go without saying that he has the appropriate level of experience to be considered for an such an award, but also consider these observations I have about him:


• He always has a positive attitude. He leaves no doubt in my mind that, on my project, he’s right where he wants to be at the moment; and is there to get the job done and done right.

• He does it with a smile and engaging disposition (and an occasional “WHOOP, WHOOP”). He has a healthy sense of humor.

• He strives to understand completely the job at hand. That is to say he can see the end from the beginning.

• He is focused, anticipates next steps and stays ahead of the crew he is leading.

• He is solution oriented when plans or drawings bump into reality with a thud.

• On the rare occasion, when he makes a mistake or is “guilty” of an oversight, he acknowledges the fact and makes a course correction. Not to be confused with weakness, this response is, in my view, a strength.

• As a production manager, I value the way Willie has of motivating and empowering crews. I want I&D crews to know they are valued. My desire is that they want to work for me. To do that I need key leads who will manage them with respect. Willie does that.

• I&D crews want to work for him. He praises them when praise is due and challenges them in appropriate ways when he needs more out of them in one way or the other. I do not think I have ever witnessed him belittle or ridicule anyone, nor have I heard a foul word come out of his mouth.


Here’s the thing about Willie Matamoros: the traits I mention above are rooted and firmly grounded in his character.


I know this because of the consistency I have seen in him over many years.

Willie is genuine, a man of integrity. He wouldn’t tell you that about himself because he’s not full of himself. He’s too down to earth to think the world revolves around him. He’s humble. But he loves life and helps you to love it too.

He’s the sort of man that you would want your son or granddaughter to work for, to be mentored by.


For these reasons I support his nomination. I would commend him to anyone as an example of what to look for in a labor lead within the exhibit industry.--Phil Halverson, production manager, The Production Network (TPN Events) , Seattle, Wash.





 Willie Matamoras is an excellent key lead! His positive attitude is contagious and his ability to motivate every person on his team is unmatched. He leads by example and always shows great patience with young or new teammates. Willie can troubleshoot issues without a hint of frustration and always finds cost-effective solutions quickly. I never worry when I'm on site with Willie, I can always count on him to be honest, hardworking, and collaborative with me, his crew and other vendors.--Alison Lacro, event manager, The Production Network (TPN Events), Seattle, Wash.

Brian “B.K.“ Kaminski,

Momentum Management




Nominated by

Rich Carlson, Las Vegas city manager, Momentum Management, Alpharetta, Ga

Brian “B.K.“ Kaminski displays an impressive commitment to excellence.  His leadership qualities and project management skills are an outstanding asset to each installation and dismantle he is assigned.


He is the person who is called when problems and difficult situations arise.  B.K. is great at thinking outside of the box and coming up with solutions.  He is a “work smarter, not harder” kind of guy.


In the always-moving, ever-changing tradeshow industry, Brian never lets anyone down.  He has exceptional knowledge involving the oversight of projects, working alongside exhibit houses and their customers.  He has a great understanding of all technical and operational aspects necessary to produce successful end results. 


“I am thrilled to witness the many talents he possesses on the show floor and we are confident in his ability to deliver only the highest level of service to our clients,” states Rich Carlson, Las Vegas city manager at Momentum Management.

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