FAIRMONT - "This hotel is a human institution to serve people" is a phrase from "The Stranger Within Our Gates" travelers prayer that made an impression on Jason Subbert from the first time he read it.
Throughout his management tenure at 58 hotels in nine states, the Fairmont native has held on to that philosophy.
Subbert, the general manager for Torgerson Properties Hotels in Fairmont, recently was recognized by his peers in the Minnesota Lodging Association as the General Manager of the Year. The annual award will be presented Dec. 12 in Minneapolis.
"You have to be involved at the local and state level," said Subbert, who has served on the lodging association's board since its inception and was president in 2011.
Among the highlights of his career is the financial growth Torgerson Properties experienced in recent years, despite the Great Recession.
"The key is to really understand what people want," Subbert said.
And that means more than finding out what size bed a guest wants. The little details can make a big difference, like knowing that senior citizens prefer first-floor rooms, with a lounge chair and ottoman to prop up their feet.
"What we do is an art; it's not a science," Subbert said.
And it's not a one-person job. Asked how he manages all his responsibilities, Subbert laughed, and said frankly, "My staff will tell you: I don't. They do. And they're right."
"We've got a great group of people who do a fantastic job," he said.
Not to be forgotten in the mix is his wife of 20 years, Lois Subbert.
"I couldn't do this job without her," he said. "I take that for granted so often. ... There are a lot of personal interruptions, since we're open 24/7, and she and the kids and everybody has always been so understanding."
As Subbert has aged and matured, he has developed a different understanding of success than what he had as a younger man: "The greatest compliment you can get is when you see people you've been privileged to work with succeed."
Growing up in Fairmont, Subbert got his start in the hospitality industry at a young age, working as a busboy in 1985 at the Redwood Supper Club. It was a great job for a teenager - in fact, hospitality provides more entry-level jobs than any other industry. It was fun, but it was also meaningful.
"When I started as a busboy years and years ago, I figured out quickly that people liked being there and they liked spending their money there," Subbert said.
After high school, he attended a program for hotel and restaurant management at Alexandria Technical College, graduating in 1991. He returned to his hometown, to work as night property supervisor at the Holiday Inn, working his way up to front desk manager, then director of sales/catering, and then general manager of the Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn and Super 8 in 1995.
Subbert would remain with Torgerson Properties in Fairmont until 1999, when he left to become director of operations for seven Preferred Management Company hotels. He continued to work his way up the industry ladder when he accepted a position as a regional manager for Northcott Hospitality's.
But after eight years with Northcott, Subbert decided the time had come to return home. He wanted to be near family, and he missed his roots. Subbert resumed his role as general manager of Torgerson Properties Hotels in Fairmont, with the addition of the Hampton Inn.
"Fairmont has a lot to be grateful for. When you're from Fairmont and you don't really travel a lot, you don't necessarily realize how much businesses in Fairmont are committed to being in Fairmont and helping Fairmont," he said.
It didn't take long for Subbert to get involved in his community after his return. He serves as the chairman for Fairmont Convention & Visitors Bureau and sits on the marketing committee. He is a board member and treasurer for Fairmont Opera House, serves on Fairmont's CER advisory committee, the Fairmont Area Top 20 committee, and Fairmont Area Community Calendar task force.
Subbert also has coached basketball for his three children and is currently a junior high track coach. At Grace Lutheran Church, he is president of the church council.
When he isn't working or volunteering on a local board or committee, Subbert enjoys spending time with family and friends, boating, hiking, watching his kids' activities, working at the family race shop, and dirt track stock racing.