Leadership Profile: Stephanie Schmidt
Stephanie Schmidt, OHP
Operations Manager, Elizabethtown/Hershey KOA, Elizabethtown, Pa.
Co-Chair, ARVC Young Professionals Group
How did you become involved in the campground industry?
My parents, Karl and Linda Schmidt, own ARVC member-park Elizabethtown/Hershey KOA in Elizabethtown, Penn., so I’ve been in the industry since I was four. When I was five years old, I was cleaning bathrooms, doing kids’ crafts and picking up trash on playgrounds. I got paid in rolls of quarters or candy from the candy jar. It’s been a different lifestyle from a lot of the kids in my class, but I’ve grown up with a strong work ethic.
What other experience have you gained that has helped you run your campground?
I received my degree in criminal justice and originally wanted to go into victim advocacy, but I graduated in a recession year when a lot of the grant-funded advocacy jobs were pulled. So I found a job at a local hotel and then continued with a management company here in my area, where I managed group sales, reservations and housekeeping. This gave me experience in how to apply customer service, operations and housekeeping procedures to help streamline the process and be more cost effective.
Tell us a little about your involvement in ARVC’s Young Professionals (YP) Group.
I’ve been involved with the YP group for two-and-a-half years now. I’ve always been very involved within the industry, so when there’s any way I can help and share my expertise, I try to do so. I’ve been the co-chair of the group since November (when Stephanie was elected during OHCE2020). I was approached by the co-chair at that time, Jacob Hagofsky. He thought I would be a good fit because of my experience.
What are some of the other ways you are involved in the industry?
I attend all of the conventions as much as I can. I’ve also completed two years of the National School of RV Park and Campground Management and I’m an ad hoc member of ARVC’s Education Committee. We’ve been a KOA campground for 17 years now and we’re part of a 20 Group through KOA, that I am the secretary for. When it comes to the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA), I have been involved pretty much our entire time owning a campground. My dad was on the board, so I was asked to volunteer for a lot for things. I’m now serving on committees for our convention, our auction and our RV show we put on every year. I’m also on the Board of Directors—I’m our region director here in our state.
Why do you feel it’s so important for campground professionals to be involved both in their state and national organizations?
It’s a way to get your name out there, but you also gain a lot of knowledge by talking with others. Even if you’re not involved on the boards or committees, just being able to attend the conventions and meetings, you learn so much from other people. I take a lot of information home from every meeting or convention I go to. There’s always something I can apply to our park. I think it’s really important to be involved as much as you can in order to gain that knowledge. Also, whatever time you can put back into the industry helps the industry grow. I look back at the whole COVID situation and being shut down. If it wasn’t for my state association, we would have not been able to open up when we did.
What do you think young professionals bring to the table for the future of our industry?
Young professionals definitely bring a new outlook and some fresh ideas to the industry. A lot of us have backgrounds in different areas. I’ve worked for hotel chains—Marriott and Hilton and IHG—so I bring my hotel experience to the young professionals. My brother is a commercial electrician, so he uses that knowledge and we bounce ideas off of each other. One thing that the young professionals do very well is that we’re always communicating. There’s a connection that we have as the next generation coming up into the industry.
What do you think makes our industry unique?
The fact that we all come from different backgrounds and we’re able to pool all of our expertise. One thing this industry has been really good at is communicating with fellow campground owners and not just keeping trade secrets. That’s how our campground operates. We share information with other campgrounds in our area and they share information with us. My family has been in the industry for so long that anyone that knows us knows they can ask us any question and we’ll be glad to answer them and they’ll do the same for us.