As general manager of The Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach, Rob Schlingmann continues a family tradition of overseeing operations at private clubs.
What are your duties and responsibilities as General Manager/COO of The Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach?
I wear many different hats throughout the course of my day. I oversee the overall operations of the club facilities, which includes golf, tennis, fitness, croquet, multiple dining and private event venues and our beach facilities. My responsibilities also include the security systems, private mail system, landscaping maintenance on over 155 homes, Architectural Review Board and all other functions of The Plantation HOA. Needless to say, I never have a boring day.
Tell us about some of the upgrades The Plantation has made over the past few years.
Over the course of the past four years, The Plantation has undergone a dramatic transformation with the upgrades to the facilities and grounds in the neighborhood. Last October, we reopened our newly renovated golf course. The course was taken down to the dirt. We replaced the greens, tees, bunkers, fairways and irrigation system. We also vastly expanded our practice facility, which now has two chipping greens, two practice putting greens, a chipping tee and a practice fairway bunker. The project has been a huge hit with the membership and the local golfing community.
We did not stop there. The Beach Club was upgraded with expanded oceanfront deck space, lavish landscaping, a large fire pit and new main entrance. We also added a much-needed community park named “The Commons.” It encompasses an exquisite open-air pavilion, large playground, regulation-sized croquet court, walking trail and expansive open space.
Outside of the facilities' upgrades, there has been an intensive effort to enhance the natural beauty of The Plantation. The latest upgrade can be seen as you drive by the new A1A entrance.
How did you become interested in the hospitality industry?
This actually goes back generations. My father and grandfather were also general managers of private clubs. I guess you can say that managing a private club is in my blood. My first job at a private club – I was the front desk operator at a club in Wilmington, Delaware way back in 1976. My father managed the club and we lived on the property. I worked, lived and grew up in private clubs and went to University of Houston, where I received my degree in hospitality management. Throughout my career, the club business has always intrigued and challenged me. You are able to lead a multifaceted organization while creating lasting memories for individual members.
Do private clubs and communities present different challenges than other hospitality properties, such as a hotel or public resort?
The hospitality industry is very challenging and the private community field offers specific challenges. Not only do the operations of the club have to perform at a very high level, the management of the community has particular issues that need to be addressed. You can find yourself working with a member on renovations to their home at 9 a.m., meeting with the county about the bald eagles nesting on the property at 10 a.m., attending a meeting with other neighborhoods about traffic concerns at 10:30 a.m., then meeting with Beaches Energy to discuss power outages at 11:30 a.m. This is just a typical morning – if there ever is a typical morning. Although, the largest difference is that you are able to enhance the lifestyle of your membership through your actions and leadership.
You serve on the board of directors for the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce’s Ponte Vedra Beach Division. How important is tourism and hospitality to the local economy?
I have had the pleasure to serve on the board for the past two years and have seen incredible growth in our area. I believe the quality of life is uniquely enhanced by the growing hospitality options in Ponte Vedra Beach. With this strong sector, we will continue to be the most desirable place to live not only in Florida, but also the Southeast coast.
Are there any charitable groups or activities with which you’re involved?
One of the best assets our area has is the natural beauty of the beaches and Palm Valley. To help preserve this asset and divert some of the pedestrian traffic off our roads, I have become involved with the PV Greenway Alliance. Working with Deb Chapin and many dedicated volunteers, we are securing a greenway and trail that will connect Landrum Lane to Sawgrass Village. There are still many hurdles to overcome; however, this will happen and future greenways will expand from this central path.
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
Free time is a very precious commodity for me. I enjoy time with my wife, Tena, and our two daughters, Addie and Ila. We are all adrenaline junkies, so roller coasters, scuba diving, boating, surfing or other sports are always on the agenda. If I have some free time, you will most likely see me paddle boarding in the ocean, running, working on an old car or cheering on the Carolina Panthers.