When Bob LaCasse was appointed General Manager of Cheeca Lodge & Spa in 2016, he could not have foreseen Hurricane Irma. Although Florida is no stranger to hurricanes, there have been none in recent memory quite like Irma, the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in the state in over a decade. The September 2017 impact was felt in communities throughout the Florida Keys, including the village of Islamorada, and as a result of this historic hurricane, Cheeca was forced to temporarily close its doors. However, LaCasse was quick to take the lead at the resort, and has since played an indispensable role in guiding our team through recovery efforts. “Change affects everyone, and it’s made more difficult when it’s something out of your control,” he says. “Being a true leader means being understanding, exercising patience, and motivating your team to focus on the positives that the future holds.”
As the largest employer in Islamorada, Cheeca is more than an beloved icon—our historic resort is also a key driver of the local economy, bringing in thousands of visitors every year. “All the local businesses, from restaurants to stores to fishing captains, have felt the effects of Cheeca’s closure,” LaCasse explains. With a deep appreciation of the role this resort plays within the community, LaCasse has taken an upbeat, hands-on approach to management in the aftermath of Irma, while maintaining an inspirational and inclusive environment for his team. “Everyone has a seat at the table,” he says. “No single person has all the answers, so I rely on my team and involve them in most of the decision-making processes.” In addition to his dedicated staff, LaCasse also credits the resiliency and camaraderie of neighbors—from first responders to business owners—for the progress made toward recovery.
Looking forward to the highly anticipated reopening of Cheeca on March 30, 2018, LaCasse is excited on behalf of the entire team to finally reveal the results of weeks of hard work and daily commitment. Going above and beyond general maintenance needs, the recent property upgrades include room renovations and enhancements to public spaces, as well as the addition of new amenities and services that will delight our guests. “Despite the challenges the hurricane brought for many, we look at this as a truly unique opportunity to reopen bigger, better, and more brilliant than ever,” LaCasse says. “Cheeca really is a legend, and that legend lives on in 2018—we can’t wait to invite our guests and neighbors back, so they can start creating their own stories again.”