Local lodging employees ‘shine’ at their jobs
November 15, 2010
Park City lodging employees won four of the seven "Stars of the Industry" awards at this year’s Utah Hotel & Lodging Association annual convention.
Nominations from throughout the state were judged by students in the Hospitality Management program at Utah Valley University. The winners were announced last month.
Park City’s winners include Teri Whitney with Snow Flower Property Management for General Manager of the Year; Maggie Huerta Rea of Newpark Hotel for Housekeeping Employee of the Year; Gabriel Astudillo of the Stein Eriksen Lodge for Engineering Employee of the Year; and Gloria Kennedy at St. Regis Deer Crest for Concierge/Bellman of the Year.
While their jobs are quiet different, these "Stars of the Industry" described their motivations similarly: they enjoy their jobs and benefit from strong teamwork.
General Manager of the Year
Teri Whitney arrived in Park City in 1977 with a familiar story: she came to ski, stayed for life. She started at Snow Flower Condominiums in 1980 and worked her way up to general manager.
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"It was a good industry to get into in Park City back in the 1970s. (Skiing) was just getting started there were only two or three companies," she said.
Snow Flower Condos has 142 residences ranging from studios to six-bedroom suites. That’s large enough to provide a lot of variety in a career, she said.
"I just really enjoy the project, the people, the owners and my staff is incredible; it’s just a really good environment," she said.
The lodging industry is a fun one to work in, Whitney said, because it’s always changing and never gets stale.
Whitney attributed her success to the fact that everyone at her property helps one another. No one ever says, "That’s not my job."
"No one points fingers; they resolve an issue and hopefully we learn from it and things don’t happen again," she said.
Whitney has brought that attitude of mutual support to her 24 years of membership in the Park City Area Lodging Association. She has served on the board nearly every year since its inception and currently serves as its treasurer.
Housekeeping Employee of the Year
Maggie Huerte Rea is the housekeeping supervisor at Newpark Hotel. She is on vacation this month, but her supervisor Marci Whitaker said she’s one of those people you can count on to always do her job and do it well.
"She started as a room attendant and moved into a supervisory role. She has just blossomed. She works very fast and needs a lot to do," Whitaker said. "She’s very particular and wants things done right."
Rea has a good work ethic and sets high standards, Whitaker said.
"She works with little or no supervision it’s a great quality when you can trust a person to do what they need to do," she added.
As a supervisor, Whitaker said she is very organized and is able to coordinate the staff and help out wherever it is needed. And she never misses a day of work.
"She’s good at decision making and seeing what needs to be done," Whitaker said.
Engineering Employee of the Year
Gabriel Astudillo has worked in maintenance engineering at the Stein Eriksen Lodge for almost nine years and has been in the hotel industry nearly his entire working life, he said.
Even as a young man in Mexico, he started at a five-star hotel. He enjoys the challenge of working at luxury properties, he said.
"It’s never the same thing every day. It’s really fun," he said.
One minute he might be helping a guest light their fireplace and another he could be solving an electrical problem. If a guest has trouble working their television or getting their laptop to connect to the Internet, someone from the engineering staff gets called, he said.
Like Whitney, Astudillo said another reason he enjoys his work is no one ever says, "That’s not my job." In order to provide five-star, five-diamond service everyone must put the needs of the guests first.
"When guests request something, we must be there as soon as possible a guest’s problem is our problem," he said.
Because he might be called on to do any number of things, Astudillo said he’s always learning.
"Stein Eriksen Lodge is like a university," he explained.
Some guests are certainly more demanding than others, but that’s part of the challenge he enjoys, he said. Whenever he’s told to respond to a need from a guest, he must assess their needs and tastes to provide them the best service possible.
One of the side benefits of a supportive, instructional environment is everyone gets along well and enjoys being around each other, he said.
"We help each other this is like a second home, it’s like having a big family in a big place," he added.
Concierge of the Year
Gloria Kennedy loves to joke that she literally "fell into" her career as a concierge.
While attending school in Maryland she took a shortcut through a construction site and fell into a hole. While climbing out she looked around to figure out where she was and saw a sign again, literally that said "Hyatt Regency Bethesda opening late fall employment opportunities." She’s been a concierge ever since.
Kennedy said she agrees with motivational speaker Holly Stiel that people become concierges because they love to nurture and serve. Nothing makes their day like solving another person’s problem.
"I’ve tried other things but I always come back to it," she said. "I love working with people and I need to feel like I’m caring for people."
A friend recruited her to join the team at St. Regis Deer Crest. Kennedy said she enjoys how Starwood Hotels supports everyone in being the best they can be.
"The company supports you in taking care of the guest and doing what needs to be done and they’ve supported my growth in the profession," she said.
Kennedy, along with a few of her coworkers at St. Regis, is a member of Les Clefs d’Or, or "golden keys." It is a prestigious professional organization for concierges. Several members reside in Utah, but there is no official chapter here. Kennedy said she’s benefited so much from the professional development the group provides she’d like to begin one.
Utah Hotel & Lodging Association
Other winners of "Stars of the Industry" awards include Enrique Yescas of the Hilton Garden Inn in Layton for Manager of the Year, Elise Larsen from the same property for Lodging Employee of the Year, and Dennis Porter from the Red Lion Hotel in Salt Lake City for Sales Employee of the Year.
Association executive director Michael Johnson said the awards are determined by adding up scores given by panels of judges within the UVU business school based on information contained in packets submitted by the hotels making the nominations.
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