Walworth native Tammie Carstensen is the general manager of Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva and is one of the city’s best ambassadors due to her involvement in many community organizations. She is married to Russ Carstensen, a retired sergeant of detectives for the Lake Geneva Police Department, and they have three grown children and two grandchildren. The couple purchased a condominium in Cape Coral, Florida after Russ retired and Tammie travels back and forth to enjoy the sunshine, escaping the cold Wisconsin winters. Her passion for Lake Geneva, however, doesn’t keep her away long from her job at Harbor Shores, where she’s worked for the past 21 years.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
That’s easy, the people. My team is more like family than employees. A majority of my staff has been here for at least 10 years; several for 15+ years. My guests also make my job enjoyable. There are so many who have been staying at Harbor Shores for as long as I have been working here. Many are like family to me. But in addition to the people, the hotel business never has a dull moment and I find that to be one of the best things about my job. Every day is a challenge!
HOW HAVE GUESTS’ TASTES AND EXPECTATIONS CHANGED IN THE 20 YEARS?
Guests are always looking for improvements. We try to make noticeable changes every year and I look forward to my repeat guests’ suggestions. Probably the most noticeable expectation from guests is their need for Wi-Fi. I feel we finally have it down to a science, it’s just a very expensive cost to the property and not one you can recoup. Another challenge has been with our complimentary continental breakfast, which is extensive but guests want an entire meal. Luckily, we can offer a selection of wonderful restaurants within walking distance of our property.
IN YOUR ROLE AS A VISIT LAKE GENEVA BOARD MEMBER, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING THE CITY?
Our biggest challenge has always been the mid-week, off season market. We are trying to become a year-round destination and we are close to becoming that, however, we need to be more proactive in getting corporate groups to Lake Geneva. We as a community need to be aware of the fact that if there are not family activities for all ages, we are missing the boat.
Another challenge is parking. Although the city has selectively created more parking, it’s still a challenge. I truly believe the parking garage would have eliminated parking and traffic issues.
AS A MEMBER OF THE LAKE GENEVA BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (BID), HOW DO YOU SEE THE DOWNTOWN EVOLVING?
As a member on the BID I want to see our communication strengthen. We have a beautiful downtown and I am very proud to be a part of protecting the interests of our downtown business owners. And before my time is done at Harbor Shores, my mission is to take the hotels along Wrigley and Center streets and implement the “lodging by the lake” mission. We need to promote our almost 400 guest rooms and meeting facilities as well as the Riviera as a destination for larger groups. Businesses within the BID tax themselves to be able to make downtown a beautiful and flourishing place to live, work and visit. A lot of our BID missions will be accomplished now that we have contracted with Bridget Leech, our new executive director. Her energy and enthusiasm will be a real asset to our organization.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT PROMOTING LAKE GENEVA, DO YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL? TO WHERE?
First of all, I am always promoting Lake Geneva and Harbor Shores — it’s my passion and life, but I do love to travel. I enjoy our home in Florida and we have a home in Charleston, S.C., where our son is a firefighter.
My husband has a Harley and when I ride with him it’s the only time I totally relax and it’s something we can enjoy together.