Dennis Costello recalls observing his immediate supervisor early in his hotel business career. He remembers his boss acting arrogant and vile. In that moment, Costello vowed if he were ever in a position of responsibility, he would do everything to not be like him.
This reflection made Costello think about the kind of leader he wanted to be — inclusive and caring. He brought this mindset with him to the Historic Hotel Bethlehem. As general manager for the last 15 years, this way of thinking has had an impact on his employees.
Costello has established himself as a leader of the Bethlehem community. He is involved with local organizations such as The Leader in Me program, Discover Lehigh Valley, the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Bethlehem Rotary Club.
Costello began his career in the hotel business as a second job. He graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a degree in history and a desire to study law.
Costello found his interest in the hotel industry working at The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans. Afterward, he worked at the Hilton as a desk clerk, then worked at the Omni Hotels before his current work at Hotel Bethlehem.
Meghan Weber, Costello’s assistant and human resources manager, has been working at the hotel for almost five years after starting as a server. Weber said she enjoys working for Costello.
“(Costello) is a very experienced man,” Weber said. “He’s worked in a lot of different hotels and a lot of different aspects of the industry. The employees and engagement in the hotel in general as well as community is a major priority for him.”
Weber describes Costello as a leader, initiating outreaches, partnering with different schools and businesses and constantly welcoming interns to expose them to opportunities.
Costello said Historic Hotel Bethlehem is unlike any of the hotels he has previously managed or worked at. He described it as a community hotel, both for the hotel’s neighborhood and guests.
Costello organized a program with the hotel and local elementary schools called The Leader in Me, designed to empower young students and enhance their leadership development.
“As a community hotel we feel honored to have these kids here,” Costello said. “It’s nice to bring kids who aren’t as fortunate to open their eyes to the opportunities they have.”
Costello is a member and former chairman of Discover Lehigh Valley, an organization that works to enhance the Lehigh Valley and increase the sense of pride in its residents by bettering the community.
“You don’t always find people who by the nature of their job become a part of the community, but that’s what Dennis (Costello) is,” said Wade Haubert, a Bethlehem police officer for 20 years.
Haubert has known Costello since 2004 when he served as the Bethlehem crime prevention officer.
He said under Costello’s leadership at Historic Hotel Bethlehem, they have created a fantastic partnership. Costello and the other hotel employees try to be proactive to assist public safety wherever they can, with all the special events that go on in the city.
Haubert said Costello trained the staff to be observant and aware of their surroundings, which isn’t something all businesses do.
“There’s a conscious effort to make sure that they partner with law enforcement and emergency management because they understand that it’s a whole community effort,” Haubert said.
The hotel is also a part of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. Its mission is to “advocate, preserve and advance business and community interests in the city of Bethlehem.”
Costello said if there is anything happening on the North Side, the hotel likes to be involved.
Costello and his co-workers volunteer for various projects like spring clean-ups and assisting in staging for ArtsQuest and Celtic Fest. Last year, they painted all the flower pots on Main Street.
“It’s really whatever there is to do with the downtown community, we’ll all be raising our hand volunteering,” Costello said.
Weber said the hotel team works together in all aspects, but Costello makes a conscious effort to partner with and volunteer for different organizations in Bethlehem.
“The ownership and management here are something that’s very different from other places of employment,” Weber said. “They’re very employee- and community-oriented.”
Costello was also part of the Rotary Club, an international service organization, for 12 years.
Sylvia Muller-Doyle, the director of corporate and donor relations at Moravian College, said Costello’s involvement in the nonprofit organization was beneficial to the community. The organization does a lot of work within the community, like fundraising events and giving grants to local nonprofits.
Muller-Doyle said the Rotary Club also does service projects like organizing a local food pantry, raising money for various clubs and donating dictionaries to local schools.
“If the Rotary Club has a need from the hotel, and we call on Dennis (Costello), he always participates or donates and gets involved however he can,” Doyle said.
Haubert said a community needs influencers and that Costello, and his hotel, are an anchor in the leadership of Bethlehem.