From the islands to the highlands: Medwedeff leaving JW Marriott to open Colorado mega-hotel

Lance Shearer

It’s a day that many on Marco Island – including Rick Medwedeff – thought would never come.

After 12 years as general manager of what is now the JW Marriott resort hotel, and a total of 20 years on Marco, all at the Marriott, Medwedeff is moving on.

On Jan. 6, Medwedeff begins his new job as general manager of a hotel that doesn’t even exist yet. He will be at the helm of the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center just outside Denver, a 1,500-room hotel with 400,000 square feet of convention and meeting space, a property which is scheduled to open for the first time by the end of 2018.

After 12 years as general manager, Rick Medwedeff is leaving the JW Marriott to open a new resort hotel near Denver.

Three years ago, as the Marco Marriott was working to get their renovation and expansion literally off the ground and through required government approvals, Medwedeff couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

“I’m not leaving,” said Medwedeff at the time. “I’ve turned down corporate jobs, and being general manager at larger properties. This is where I want to finish my career. As long as the owners think I’m doing a good job.”

Apparently he was doing such a good job he was tapped to run “the largest resort hotel being constructed in the United States,” another Marriott property.

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“It was very important to me to stay in the convention/resort network. They are typically the highest volume of business, and the most complex to run.

“I wouldn’t have left for anything less. I love everything about this job here. But this opportunity was truly unique – something I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “It had to be something spectacular. This allows me to fulfill my career aspirations.”

On a personal side, said Medwedeff, “this gets me closer to my kids, one in San Diego, one moving there, and one in Hawaii. I’m going to be a grandpa – my first time.”

Medwedeff and his wife Debbie have two daughters, Lara, 29 and Rachel, 28, and a son, David, 26. David is an explosive ordinance disposal specialist in the Navy. The move will also put them closer to Debbie’s aging parents, who live in New Mexico.

Professionally, said Rick, he is disappointed he will not be remaining here as general manager until the Lanai Tower at the Marriott opens, after Hurricane Irma delays, but he promised to return for the event.

“I will back for the opening of the ballroom on March 21 – and that’s our drop dead date,” he said. His team at the JW Marriott Marco Island was not happy to see him go, he said, but he is confident he is leaving the hotel in good hands.

“Amanda Cox, our director of sales and marketing and her team, and Gary Drake, our director of revenue management, will be the catalyst of our success here for years to come.” Medwedeff said he had no idea, and will have no input, into who will replace him on Marco.

After 12 years as general manager, Rick Medwedeff is leaving the JW Marriott to open a new resort hotel near Denver.
After 12 years as general manager, Rick Medwedeff is leaving the JW Marriott to open a new resort hotel near Denver.

Besides his staff, many on Marco will be sad to see Medwedeff, who has taken the lead in a number of civic and business endeavors, leave Marco Island.

“Losing Rick Medwedeff is a big loss to the island,” said Jack Wert, Collier County’s tourism director. “He served on the Tourist Development Council for years, and has been a solid positive voice in the community. We’re going to miss him.”

Marco Island Academy founder Jane Watt said Medwedeff has been a strong supporter of the charter high school she created.

“I’m excited for him, but from my point of view, I’m not excited,” she said. “He’s been a good friend, a mentor, a supporter and and advisor. Rick served on our national advisory board, and hosted our leadership team. I’ve been able to model a lot of what he’s done in management. He’s played a very active role.”

Just over a month after Hurricane Irma made landfall roadside cleanup crews, utility providers, and private contractors continue efforts to bring the island to normalcy Thursday, October 12, 2017 in Marco Island, Fla. While debris can still be seen throughout the island a majority of the buildings, businesses, and homes remain structurally sound as tourists continue to flock to the area.
The Marco Island Marriott can be seen one day after Hurricane Irma passed through the state of Florida Monday, September 11, 2017. The hotel was fine except for some scaffolding up above.

Medwedeff noted with pride that the JW Marriott team in the ACS Relay for Life was the number one team, raising over $162,000, and sparked Marco Island being the number one team in Florida, placing eighth in the entire country.

He said he will have to make an adjustment, and buy a new wardrobe, to live in the snows of mile-high city Denver. But he does love to ski, and will be 95 miles from Vail, and closer still to Winter Park, Breckenridge and others.

“I haven’t lived in cold weather since 1986. But you can get a tan on the ski slopes,” said the eternally bronzed Medwedeff.