Keith Van Der Leest, Assistant General Manager, SMG Jacksonville - Sports & Entertainment
SMG JAX manages six Sports & Entertainment Facilities for the City of Jacksonville which include EverBank Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, Arena, Performing Arts Center, Ritz Theatre and the Convention Center. My particular responsibilities are oversight of approximately 75 team members in the Facilities, Technologies, Safety & Compliance, Security, Sports Turf & Grounds, Production, Housekeeping and Utility Departments.
What was your first job / How did you get into the FM business:
My first job was as a Groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles. This allowed me to get into the Sports & Entertainment business which brought me to Jacksonville when the Major League Baseball strike hit in the fall of 1994. I quickly learned my passion for the FM side of the business while serving as Director of Facilities for SMG JAX from 2006 - 2013.
What is the most significant professional event of your career:
In my profession, "event" can serve many meanings. Having the ability to be a part of the Jacksonville Super Bowl in 2005 was the most rewarding and nerve-wracking at the same time. Being told that we were the underdog gave us all motivation to work harder to achieve success.
What are your biggest strengths you can offer FM's:
Out of the different areas, I find that many of the FM's are challenged with some of the new technologies that are coming into play. In our business, we try to stay on the bleeding edge of new technologies and through our great team, I have a good sense of them. In addition, I find capital planning (sometimes with limited resources) and the prioritization of the projects is a strong suit.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life:
My biggest influence have come from a good friend of mine, Paul Zwaska who was the Head Groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles and gave me my shot in the business overall and a mentor Dan O'Keefe who was the Chief Engineer for Oscar Mayer while I was growing up in Madison, WI. Both were influential in shaping my work ethic today and who both taught me to work hard to achieve my goals in life.
Tell us something about yourself that no one knows:
Had several cameo roles in the blockbuster movie Major League II in 1994......hold the laughter.....can you find me?