LIHU‘E — Thursday marked the final day of work as the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas for General Manager Denise Wardlow.
“Whew!” said Julie Pavao, Wardlow’s executive assistant. “So much to go over with Denise before she leaves us.”
Wardlow said a new general manager will take over the Westin Princeville on Aug. 1. In the interim, Angela Nolan of Ko Olina has allowed Christina Gabriel, the former manager at the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club, to come back home.
“We have her for about a week,” Wardlow said. “Then, she goes back to the Ko Olina.”
Both Nolan and Gabriel were among the retirement well-wishers from the Marriott Vacation Club who met at Cafe Portofino.
“Denise Wardlow is a one-of-a-kind lady,” Pavao said in an email. “She has inspired so many people, and that includes me. Denise’s knowledge of all aspects of hospitality is boundless. She is very conversant with all departments and makes the leaders comfortable in communicating with her.”
Wardlow has been general manager of the Westin Princeville since 2007, and her retirement closes a book that spans more than 35 years in the hospitality industry.
The long road included management positions at Hanalei Bay Resort, the Princeville Hotel and the Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort.
Other positions she worked at during her relationship with the visitor industry included being the president of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau board of directors, president of the board of directors of the Waipa Foundation and president of the Hawai‘i Lodging &Tourism Association Kaua‘i Chapter.
She also served as president of the Hawai‘i Visitors &Convention Bureau Kaua‘i Chapter, chairperson for the annual Kaua‘i Visitor Industry Charity Walk, chairperson of the Kaua‘i Tourism Strategic Plan Committee, and more.
Kerry Warlow, Denise’s husband, said as a University of Hawai‘i graduate majoring in Hawaiian studies, her passion for the Hawaiian culture and her love for Kaua‘i have always been major influences on her management perspective.
“I first worked for Denise at the Hanalei Bay Resort where she was the front-desk manager,” Pavao said. “She was very strict, and my first impression when there was an issue with paperwork was ‘OMG, this lady is mean!’ I later learned that Denise wants her workers to excel in what we do so there is no room for guest complaints. Denise is a visionary!”
“When the Princeville Resort was under renovations for about two years, Denise called me before it opened and asked if I would like to work in the Sales Department with her. Saying ‘yes’ was the best decision I made. It was wonderful working for Denise again. She taught me so much on the aspects of conference services for groups, travel agents and events,” said Pavao.
Pavao said when the Westin Princeville was in the process of being built, she transferred to the project office and worked in an onsite trailer.
“That was very different for me,” she said. As the project progressed, she found out Wardlow was appointed the general manager. Days later, Pavao saw Wardlow showing some people around the property.
“That was when I had my resume on hand to ask if there were any admin positions open, and I would be very interested,” Pavao said.
“Denise beat me to it. Just as she was leaving, I opened the trailer door, and she was right there. We both started to talk, but I let her speak first. Denise asked if I would like to be her executive assistant. I told her that I was going to give her my resume to be considered for any admin position. She said she didn’t need the resume, and boom! I was Denise Wardlow’s executive assistant from February 2008 until today. What a fabulous ride with a fabulous lady!”
As for plans following the “ride,” Wardlow said she wants to just wake up in the morning and ask her husband, “What are we going to do today?”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.