On any day of the week, you can find Jeff Plamondon at the Renaissance Newark Airport. Just don’t look in his office. Plamondon has been general manager of the hotel since December 2010—just as the hotel was about to undergo a massive renovation—and he’s managed the hotel through that process and then some. A self-admitted “hands-on” manager, Plamondon doesn’t have much use for his office or his computer—and for a while, his own home.
“I’m not a big office guy. I’d rather be out with the associates and the guests,” says the 36-year veteran of Marriott International. “It’s a little unusual, but it seems to work.”
Plamondon began his hospitality career as a pot washer right after graduating from high school. He’s also worked as dishwasher, waiter, and bartender before attending Boston College, where he studied law and political science. “I’ve pretty much done every job that the associates do,” he says. And those skills he learned early on have stayed with him as he makes the rounds at his hotel helping out where needed.
“Most of the associates in a hotel work very hard and I find this way more conducive to management,” he says. “I get to be Jeff and not Mr. Plamondon, and I get to know them and they get to know me.
“It just more my style. I’m not saying I’m washing pots every day, but I’d rather be out with the associates and the guests,” he continues.
It was after graduating college that his hotel career unexpectedly became a reality. In fact, before Plamondon ended up working for Marriott, he sought out a career in law enforcement. He originally traveled to Washington, D.C., to interview with the CIA and FBI.
The Newark native wanted to get more experience interviewing so he went to Marriott since it was in the area. “After talking to them, and they realized I had spent my career in hospitality, they said I belonged in their management training program,” he recalls. “I thought that sounded great.”
Over the 36 years since that fateful day, he’s worked at several hotels and has been a general manager for the last 16 years. And in that time he’s become somewhat of an expert in hotel conversion, which eventually brought him back to his hometown.
“I converted the Princeton Marriott from an independent hotel. Two jobs prior to that, I converted another independent into a Marriott,” he says.
With that experience, he was a perfect choice for overseeing the extensive overhaul of the Newark Airport property. And, he didn’t disappoint, even making the commitment to, in effect, move into the hotel during the renovation.
“We were doing the guestrooms simultaneously with the function space, so they were going on non-stop. We had had two different contractors working at the same time so we could get done as soon as possible,” he says. “To keep an eye on what was happening I thought it was best to be here.”
The renovation itself was a top-down overhaul. Every guestroom was gutted, and everything was replaced, except for the bathtubs, which were resurfaced. “We took the guestrooms, stripped them, and started all over,” Plamondon says.
In addition, all of the meeting rooms were gutted and given new looks and new audio/visual technology. “And the restaurant and lobby were redone from scratch, other than the marble,” he says. “It was a total concept change in addition to the construction.”