Who We Are
TradeWinds Island Resorts includes TradeWinds Island Grand, the largest beachfront resort in St. Pete Beach, and RumFish Beach Resort by TradeWinds, home of the popular RumFish Grill restaurant. In October 2019, it was acquired by 1754 Properties, a South Florida-based institutional owner and manager of hotels. The properties will continue to function as two independent resorts, with the “stay at one - play at two” concept. New investment capital will provide additional resources to further enhance the resort’s widespread appeal and position TradeWinds as one of the top beach resorts in the country, focusing on the needs of its consistent and loyal customer base.
The resorts have long been a friend of the environment, and have been awarded the Florida Green Lodging certification by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for protecting the area’s natural resources, reducing waste and minimizing pollution. It was the first resort on St. Pete Beach to plant sea oats which help prevent erosion and install turtle-friendly amber lighting on the beachfront. The TradeWinds EcoTeam raises awareness about the effects of the human footprint, and holds beach cleanups and brings guest speakers to speak to employees, guests and local residents.
TradeWinds has stepped up to serve the community as well, supporting such programs as Ronald McDonald House, Fishing for Hearts, Habitat for Humanity, Academy Prep Centers for Education, Tampa Bay Watch, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Salvation Army and more.
Learn more about our management team below:
Bob LaCasse, Managing Director
Bob LaCasse, Managing Director. Bob is a longtime industry veteran bringing more than 25 years of hotel and resort management to his new position. Prior to joining TradeWinds, Bob was the Managing Director for Cheeca Lodge Resort in the Florida Keys where he and his team were recognized by the prestigious National Gold Stevie Award for leadership in hospitality in 2019 from the American Business Awards. LaCasse has traveled throughout the country managing many top-quality resorts and hotels, including the Marriott in Delray Beach, FL as General Manager, Le Meridien in San Francisco as Managing Director, Area Director of acquisitions and transitions for HEI Hotels, Regional Director of Operations for Interstate Hotels overseeing five hotels, including the International Hotel, all adjacent to the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Bob also served as Managing Director for Hyatt Hotels at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Newport, RI. Bob began his career in his hometown as Executive Steward at the 1200 room Sheraton Boston with ITT Sheraton, later Starwood Lodging, which led to his first time General Manager role. Bob is a Boston native, married, and has three sons.
Travis Johnson, Hotel Manager
Travis Johnson, Hotel Manager, supports the Managing Director with all day-to-day hotel operations and oversees the hiring of new staff and the resort’s marketing efforts. Johnson, who has been with TradeWinds since 2001, has held a variety of key roles with the company, including Director of Recreation/Activities, Guest Service Manager, Director of Resort Operations, General Manager (SandPiper Beach Resort), and Vice President of Marketing. Johnson currently serves on the Pinellas Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Board of Directors. He previously served on the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce Board from 2009-2016 and was Chairman in 2015. A native of Canada, Johnson attended Bemidji State University and graduated with degrees in Mass Communication and Sport Management studies. Johnson resides in St. Petersburg with his wife and two daughters.
Jeffrey Fredrickson, VP of Food & Beverage
Jeff Fredrickson, TradeWinds Food & Beverage Director, has been with the properties for 18 years. Fredrickson oversees all aspects of food and beverage service at the Island Grand and RumFish Beach Resort, which includes 14 dining and entertainment venues. With more than 34 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Fredrickson is a graduate of the esteemed Culinary Institute of America. Before joining the TradeWinds, he worked as the Executive Chef for several prestigious venues, including Trump Taj Mahal Casino & Resort, the Hotel Condado Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Grand Bay Hotel in Miami. In conjunction with his culinary team, Fredrickson helped launch the first-ever TradeWinds Island Resorts cookbook, “Flavors of the Beach.” A Boston native, Fredrickson currently resides in St. Petersburg with his wife, Ella, and their three children.
Terry Popelka, VP of Sales
Terry Popelka, Vice President of Sales, is the most recent addition to the TradeWinds executive team, coming on board in 2009. In this position, Popelka leads the group sales team along with the conference services and catering programs for both TradeWinds Island Resorts. A 20-year hospitality industry veteran, Popelka spent five years with TradeWinds from 1995 to 2000. He left as National Sales Manager to continue his career with Starwood as Director of Northeast Sales for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. During his nine years with this property, he was named the 2008 Sales Manager of the Year for large hotels. Popelka attended Valencia Community College and the University of Central Florida and is a member of the New York Society of Association Executives (NYASE) and Financial and Insurance Conference Planners (FICP).
Shelly Palmquist, VP of Revenue Management
Shelly Palmquist’s career has been dedicated to the hospitality industry, having served more than 33 years at the TradeWinds Island Resorts, in addition to several other vacation ownership companies. Currently, she is the Vice President of Revenue Management, responsible for overseeing the room revenue department, group and leisure reservations, and the tour and travel market. Palmquist began as a reservation agent and worked in several positions including reservation manager, group reservation manager and reservations and revenue director. She is responsible for daily revenue forecasting and rate adjustments as well as the annual room revenue budget. Palmquist has participated in numerous revenue management workshops and is Navis certified. A native of Trenton, New Jersey, she has lived in the St. Petersburg area most of her life. She resides with her husband in Seminole and has two grown children.
Elda Vaso, VP of Finance and Accounting
Elda Vaso, Vice President of Finance and Accounting, has been with the TradeWinds Island Resorts team for almost twenty years. Vaso joined the accounting team in 1998 and has held different positions within the department, including accounting assistant, staff accountant, assistant controller, and financial controller. Her responsibilities as Vice President of Finance and Accounting include financial reporting, banking, budgeting and leading the accounting team. A native of Albania, she moved to Florida in 1996. Vaso attended University of Tirana, and graduated in 1995 with a degree in Economics, specializing in Financial Accounting. She lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and two children.
James McKenna, VP of HR
James (Jim) McKenna, Vice President of Human Resources, has a long history of helping hospitality employees around the Tampa Bay area. Before bringing his talents to the team at TradeWinds in 2021, he served as the Area Director of Human Resources for a company called Aimbridge Hospitality which manages both South Seas Island Resort and the Inns of Sanibel. Prior to spending the past 8+ years with Aimbridge, Jim also served over 5 years at Saddlebrook Resort as the Director of HR & Loss Control and 5+ years at the neighboring Don Cesar Resort as the Director of Human Resources. A true champion for company culture and the people who make it all happen, Jim’s passion for hotel employees has been a motivating factor throughout his career. He attended Penn State Erie, receiving his degree in Business Administration and Management. Jim currently resides in St. Petersburg with his wife.