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By JEFF HUGO
of Wakulla Springs
It’s my loss. You know how you meet people who are at once friendly and easy to talk to.
They strike a chord with your values and emote a concern for your well being.
John Ahler is one of those people.
The sad news is that John, who has faithfully served at Wakulla Springs for 20 years, is moving on to a new opportunity.
Of course, it is good news for him. He has been the lodge manager since 2006.
Before that, he had served as the assistant lodge manager for 15 years.
He started out as the assistant manager of the lodge while it was still under the auspices of Florida State University back in 1991.
He continued that role when the lodge came under the operation of the Florida Park Service in 1994.
He and his family had a residence on the park grounds and he recalled how the park was such a great place to raise his family.
He was very much a hands-on assistant manager – always willing to lend help where needed.
He wasn’t afraid to skirt tables in the dining room or assist with event set up. The dining room manager and chef reported to him and he assisted with inventories and budgets.
It was great preparation for the lodge manager position he assumed in 2006.
As lodge manager, from time to time, there would be customer service issues with which to deal.
As Park Manager Brian Fugate recalled, “It was John’s easy going manner and professionalism that went a long way in resolving problems which arose. I greatly valued his good counsel.”
There are few people who know the lodge and its history as well as Ahler.
“Mr. Ahler has been a true steward of this treasured historic resource,” Fugate said. “His departure severs a connection with the rich history of its past.”
The John Ahler I know insists on minimizing all of these platitudes.
He assured me that the pleasure was all his.
“I have always enjoyed working here,” he said. “The staff is superior and has always felt like family.”
And in a fatherly way, he talked of his hopes and concerns for the people he would leave behind.
I know that I am not alone in feeling the loss.
But I also know that John’s park family wishes him the best as he begins a new endeavor.
Isn’t that what family is all about?