June, 1978 – Freshly graduated from Colorado College with a degree in Business Administration, I had moved to Vail, 100% clueless about my future. Mike O’Dell, a golfing buddy from previous summers working at the Eagle Vail golf course told me his wife was having a baby and would be leaving her job as controller of a little hotel called the Antlers. I should apply. “After all”, he said, “you’ve been to college, you must be a smart guy … you could probably do that job.” I went and interviewed with Bud Benedict, the Antlers General Manager. I remember his exact words … “You’ve been to college … you must be a smart guy, you can probably do this job.”
Fast forward 38 years. As we near my last days as the Antlers GM, one of my very few regrets is that I didn’t start keeping a journal on that day in 1978. There have been some hilarious stories and I wish I could remember one out of fifty. Sadly, I can’t even do that. Oh well …
One big regret that I could have, and don’t … is leaving the Antlers in hands any less capable than mine. When Magdalena Isabel Cedeño Cabrera King told me in 2007 that she’d give me five years if I hired her, little did I know that she would turn out to have the unique combination of people skills, financial acumen and overall business sense that you find once in a blue moon. Head and Heart, as Bob Vanourek would say … in this case, to the max. I did know that nobody had ever committed to five years of employment in a job interview with me before, and I was duly impressed. Turns out she had a great sense of destiny, along with all those other considerable talents.
When I told the Board of Directors last December that the 2016 annual meeting would be my last, there was no doubt in my mind who the correct successor was. As boards do, they felt an obligation to “explore all their options”. I simultaneously respected and ridiculed that decision. After all, the perfect candidate was right here … already in the fold. In the end, after a series of interviews and thoughtful consideration, our board came to the absolute right decision. On October 1, Magda will become the third General Manager in the Antlers’ 44-year history.
Some people tell me that my shoes will be hard to fill, (others tell me to not let the door … ). I’m confident it won’t be a problem. Beyond speaking five languages and having the heart and grace of a saint, Magdalena has an innate understanding that “hospitality” isn’t just a word or a business sector. It’s a guiding principle and Magda lives and breathes it. Besides, she’s been to college, she’s a smart gal … she can do this job.
Leaving the only career I’ve ever known comes with a predictable amount of angst, but as far as the future of the Antlers is concerned, there’s no way I could be more optimistic.