Mark Meador has pretty much done it all at Casa del Mar.
He started as an irrigation technician and worked on the grounds for a half-dozen years or so. He then moved into the office to handle reservations before getting promoted to assistant manager 12 years ago.
He has spent so much time on the property that even his sons, Matthew, 19, and Michael, 18, know it by heart. When they were children, he could hand them a flashlight and tell them to check the valves in each of its irrigation zones.
But, until Nov. 6, Meador had never served as general manager of the 106-room resort. That’s when Meador was promoted to the position following the resignation of the resort’s 31-year manager, D.M. Williams.
Meador was 23 years old when he began working at Casa del Mar.
He and Williams were both part of the Cripple Creek Cloggers and were performing in 1985 in the Great Geauga County Fair in Burton, Ohio, when Hurricane Elena struck during Labor Day weekend.
Williams returned to find 3 feet of dirt deposited outside the resort’s hotel buildings and needed help. So, he called Meador, who was working for a Bradenton sprinkler company, and offered him the job.
He began work the following Wednesday.
“I always thought it would be 9 to 5, working on irrigation,” Meador said. “After a few years, I felt like I kind of had my employment home.”
The board’s president, John Zefeldt, declined to discuss the specifics behind Williams’ resignation and said only that the board wishes him the best. The board had renewed his contract through Sept. 30, 2013, but Williams, 81, expressed displeasure to the Longboat Observer in October about the fact that it would be his last year.
Instead, Zefeldt focused on Meador’s performance on the job during the past 27-plus years.
“He’d do anything,” Zefeldt said. “One day, he’d be doing reservations at the desk, then, the next thing I know, he’s digging up a pipe out of a ditch. That’s the kind of guy I like.”
Meador’s goals for the property include “bringing it into the 21st century.” He plans to redesign the office, replace the paver tiles in the parking lots and make various updates to the 40-year-old buildings. He also will institute a live reservations system so that guests can book their stays directly through the resort’s website.
Meador plans to continue the traditions that have become part of the resort, including the Christmas party, piano concerts and Easter egg hunt. Like Williams, he is a notary, so he can perform beachfront weddings at the resort, as well.
And what about the world’s tallest cotton plant, which was destroyed over the summer by Tropical Storm Debby?
“Six years is enough,” Meador said, referring to the past titles that the resort’s plants won.
Meador is a lifelong Boy Scout who serves as scoutmaster of Bradenton Troop 64, which he describes as his “lifelong passion.”
He wants to continue Williams’ tradition of community involvement, possibly by getting involved with the Longboat Key Historical Society and what is now the Longboat Key Gourmet Lawn Party.
“I guess it could scare you, having big shoes to fill,” Meador said. “But I’m ready.”