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After 28 years, Mac Chaudhry has become tightly woven into the fabric of Marco Island. And now he’s tearing himself loose.

Chaudhry, the longtime general manager of the Marco Island Hilton, has decided to leave the hotel and the island, moving with his wife Qudzia to be closer to their two children, both attending University of Central Florida in Orlando. They will be considerably closer, as the plan is for son Areeb, 21, and daughter Areesa, 19, to live in the family home and commute to school.

“It was a very, very tough decision, to be honest with you,” said Mac Chaudhry. “We’re sad to leave the island, such a great community, with great friends.”

Originally from Gujrat, Pakistan, near Lahore, Chaudhry has spent the great majority of his career in the hospitality industry on Marco Island. He started at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort in 1988 as assistant front office manager – “on the desk,” as he put it, and was promoted to front office manager before leaving to spend four years as general manager of a Marriott Courtyard hotel in Baton Rouge.

Returning to the Marco Hilton as general manager in 2000, Chaudhry has overseen four renovations of the hotel, most recently last year, when the Hilton was closed for six months to complete a $40 million makeover. He served on the board of directors for the Marco Island YMCA, the Leadership Collier Foundation, the Marco Police Foundation and the Collier County Lodging Foundation.

He won the Spirit of Marco Award in 2012, and was president of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce in 2007-2008. Chamber executive director Dianna Dohm said, “after 28 years, Mac has become an institution on this island. His community support has been incredible. He has always come through for us, every time I have gone to him and asked him for his support.

“Every time you see him, he’s always smiling – such a positive person. He is going to be so missed. I know he’s going to be with his family, and that’s so important to him. But he’s leaving a big void.”

Rick Medwedeff, general manager of the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, the only larger business and hotel on Marco, was effusive in praising his colleague.

“Mac Chaudhry was not only a great hotelier and representative of the Hilton Brand, but was a community leader who was respected for his wisdom, his congenial approach, and for his unique way of bringing people together,” Medwedeff said in an email.

“His involvement in Tourist Development Council and the Collier County Tourism and Lodging Association contributed much to the success of our destination for both leisure and convention travelers. Although the Hilton is a competitor, through Mac’s leadership the hotel assisted the Marriott throughout the year for overflow or oversell situations that would occur. Mac’s leadership and friendship will be missed immensely.”

Chaudhry wanted to be clear that he is crossing the bridge from Marco Island, not burning it.

“Marco Island will always be in our hearts – we consider it our home,” he said. “I will be surprised if we don’t come back” after his children are through with their schooling.

The Hilton is hosting a retirement party for Mac on Sunday at the hotel, with luminaries including Mort Olshan, patriarch of hotel owner Olshan Properties, Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala and former State Senator Garrett Richter expected to attend.

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