The Grand Lady of Walton Way

Tijuana Jenkins’ hard-won ascendancy at Partridge Inn an inspiring tale

It’s not just the guests who can make themselves at home in the hospitality industry.

 

We were proud and delighted to read in Sunday’s Chronicle of Tijuana Jenkins’ extended stay at the Partridge Inn: Starting out as a front desk clerk, she’s risen all the way to general manager — and next month will celebrate 26 years with the unique Augusta institution.

As you might imagine, she’s seen it all over that time span — including the wild ups and downs of a dynamic, ever-changing industry.

And few hotels have endured so much of it.

How historic is the Partridge Inn? Well, it has legitimate ties to the nation’s founders: It sits on land purchased from Declaration of Independence signer George Walton. It has since weathered multiple changes in ownership and economic vagaries over several iterations, while even narrowly escaping the wrecking ball.

Most recently the 143-room treasure was acquired at auction by NorthPointe Hospitality Management LLC of Suwanee, Ga., in 2014, and in 2015 it underwent a sparkling $6 million renovation and entered into an exciting affiliation with Hilton Worldwide Holdings’ “Curio Collection,” which features distinctive destinations that are in a class by themselves.

No doubt our Masters Tournament visitors, as well as longtime Augustans who feel their own sense of ownership about the Grand Lady of Walton Way, would agree with that assessment.

Now, after 26 years of sticking with it and now steering it, Ms. Jenkins could rightly be called a grand lady herself.

A 1984 graduate of Lucy C. Laney High School — where she learned leadership skills from the school’s Army JROTC program — Jenkins was a young wife and mother when first stationed at the front desk. She thrived, and rose to leadership there and in sales before taking over as general manager in February.

The hospitality industry, while contagious and alluring — Jenkins “fell in love with it” — is challenging, and travelers’ expectations keep going up. Many people get formal schooling in it, it’s become such an advanced science. Jenkins learned on the job.

And she learned from people like Joel Sobel — then managing director at the inn, and now chief operating officer and general manager of the downtown Pinnacle Club. We can tell you, there’s no better mentor in the hospitality industry, if you seek excellence and elegance.

Jenkins has sought it all her life — first as a self-avowed nerd and bookworm in her youth, and now in her inspiring career at the Partridge Inn.

Her pathway illustrates the difference between a day-to-day job and a lasting career.

“You have to educate yourself,” she told The Chronicle’s Joe Hotchkiss. “You have to research everything that your job entails. If there are classes for it, whatever it is, you have to do that so you become the subject-matter expert at what you do. Nobody does it like you.

“If you just want a paycheck – punch a clock, work from this time to this time – you won’t have a career. You’ll have a job. If you want a career, you have to apply yourself, and you have to do it until you get the job done.”

As much as any of us are self-made, Tijuana Jenkins is.

Tell your kids about her.

May her uplifting story of lifting herself up on Walton Way propel others along their way.

 

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