Marketing research director of the TDC
There are certain people who help make Key West be a better place without a lot of showy fanfare. When $2.7 billion dollars (yes, BILLION) is the value of tourism to Key’s economy — which generates $120 million in tax revenue, and creates one out of every two jobs — being the marketing research director of the Tourist Development Council is pretty darn important. Jessica Bennett is the woman behind the stats that help the TDC, city officials and business owners grow our city economically. These numbers keep us moving in the right direction, making Bennett nothing short of an expert on the strengths and weaknesses of our Southernmost Paradise. And here’s the thing, like Bennett herself, it is all largely positive.
Bennett and her husband, Brian are born and raised Cape Cod natives. They assumed they would stay in Massachusetts forever pursuing their careers, raising kids and driving the minivan to soccer practice. Until one day landing in eight-degree weather at Logan airport, they agreed on “just six months in Key West before returning to the real world.” That was 13 years ago. Armed with a masters degree in Computer Information Systems from Bentley University, Bennett began at Sloppy Joe’s and the Chamber of Commerce. She won the Betsey J. Peterson award, a scholarship at Georgia’s Marketing Research Certification program and the TDC was Bennett’s calling.
Remembering her own childhood vacations, she said, “My mom instilled in me how important that time was and I love how we help others find those experiences.” With a 99 percent positivity rating from tourists, Bennett knows the Keys are doing something right. And it is right for her. Daily she studies our stats on tourism, workforce housing, illegal rentals, etc. helping to improve our quality of life and her dreams came true, she’s driving her minivan in paradise.
- Full Name? Jessica Heath Bennett.
- Worst nickname? Ya-ya. My brother was 1 year old when I arrived and couldn’t say my name. My Greek friends found this hilarious since it means grandmother.
- Name one famous person you would bring back to life, why? Walt Disney. He was an incredible visionary entrepreneur who was once fired for not being creative enough.
- If you could put one famous person on the TDC, who and why? Jimmy Buffett. He has turned his laid-back island lifestyle into a widely successful international brand.
- Who is your celebrity crush and why? Tom Brady. Though I think my husband has it worse than me. Die hard Boston sports fans.
- What’s the funniest thing that happens at the TDC? You know those crazy labor scenes in movies when a woman’s water breaks — dramatically — and everyone starts to panic and scrambles to get her to the hospital? That happened once in the TDC office. I was the woman.
- Which TV character is your alter ego? Veronica Mars.
- What is your nerdiest passion? Do not watch a show about furniture building with me. I will commentate throughout, excitedly pointing out the tools, pausing and rewinding and exclaiming, “Did you see that?” Furniture building is my nerdy hobby and I love it.
- Name a superhero that should live in the Keys? Wonder Woman.
- If invisible what would you do in Key West? That might make me brave enough to snorkel among sharks … but probably not.
11.What was your first thought this morning? I have two kids; so, whose foot is in my eye?
- Favorite guilty pleasure? Sundaes on Sunday at Sunshine Grille Café. You get to build your own sundae and part of the proceeds go to Healthy Start Coalition.
- Best/ funniest Key West sighting or encounter you’ve ever had? My husband texted me to hurry down to the Lazy Gecko. He and his friend were hanging out in the back pool room with Tony Stewart. I walk in, don’t see my husband but I see his friend so I go talk to him and another guy he was standing with. After a bit I say, “So, where is Tony Stewart?” The other guy offers me his hand to shake and says, “Hi, I’m Tony Stewart.”
- Worst job you ever had? I had a Devil-Wears-Prada-type boss once.
- If you could change someone’s opinion, what would it be? I want to tell people to go for it, now. Don’t put it off because tomorrow isn’t promised to us. You’ll never regret the time you spend with the people who are important to you.
Finish these sentences …
- Living in Key West… for 24 hours, maybe 60 good years it’s still not that long a stay.
- I will change … the station when Jon Bon Jovi is done singing. And not a second before. So stop begging, Brian.
- Helping others … is the most rewarding thing you can do with your time. Really.
- When I go, I will … still follow my kids around in my ghostly form. Momma is a clinger. Sorry, kids.
- Who would you have your last meal with? My family, the whole big extended crazy clan back in Agawam Beach.