A lively personality matched with a hardworking attitude and passion for her island community makes Kara Lundgren one of the Florida Keys' top hospitality leaders.
Lundgren was born into a military family in Twin Falls, Idaho, and grew up a self-described "military brat." Her family was constantly on the move, bouncing from one city to the next.
Eventually Lundgren and her family moved to Texas, where she attended high school and Stephen F. Austin University. After earning a degree in hospitality administration, she immediately started her career in the hotel business. She worked in Texas, Louisiana and subsequently South Florida where she got a job on Miami Beach.
For 10 years Lundgren worked for Marriott in nearly every position, from the front desk to banquets and events. Her hard work paid off when she became the director of operations at the historic Courtyard Marriott Cadillac Miami Beach.
Then, as is the case with so many "mainland" residents, island life beckoned.
Lundgren moved to the Florida Keys and became general manager of the Hampton Inn in Islamorada, where she remains today.
In early February 2014, Lundgren used her many talents and immense hospitality experience to assist with the sale and purchase of the Hampton Inn and its transformation into The Islamorada Resort, a brand-new and more upscale property. The property subsequently has been relaunched as Amara Cay Resort.
She and her dedicated staff have been busy with extensive renovations and enhancements — including increasing the number of rooms, updating outdoor amenities and adding an event lawn and a new restaurant.
"We're upgrading our product and really taking it to the next level," Lundgren said.
"I really played a large part in the process," she explained. "I was involved in both the buying and selling ends."
In addition to her enthusiasm for the hospitality industry, Lundgren has a deep love for the Islamorada area that she expresses through seemingly endless community involvement. She currently is president of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the Young Philanthropists of Baptist Health at Mariners Hospital.
Lundgren and her co-chair Audra Hill started their own Florida Keys chapter of YPBH about two years ago, and since then have raised more than $50,000 and funded two major projects for Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.
Lundgren also shares her knowledge of the industry with young people in the Florida Keys. Teaching two classes at Florida Keys Community College, one in hospitality and another in marketing, she offers insights to her students based on her many years of experience.
When Lundgren isn't running one of Islamorada's top resorts or volunteering for philanthropic causes, she enjoys spending time her dog Hatteras.
"You can always find us out on the water, whether it's fishing or boating," she said. "I really enjoy island living at its best."
When she speaks of her island home, the conviction in her voice communicates her passion for the community — and proves that the nomadic "military brat" has found her place at last.
"Islamorada has that small-town feel but it's close to the big city, the best of both worlds," she said. "I really just love Islamorada."
When Lundgren isn't running one of Islamorada's top resorts or volunteering for philanthropic causes, she enjoys spending time fishing or boating.
Jason Basler and Lundgren at one of Islamorada's community events.
Lundgren is spearheading the former Hampton Inn's transformation to The Islamorada Resort, a brand-new and more upscale property.