Small Town Leaders with Big Impacts

Text by Dionna Russell/
Photos Lashanna Brooks

Being from a town like Savannah, Georgia opens many opportunities to learn about history and even gives you the chance to create history. When I think of a women leader, I think about change-makers like Meghan Geis, my local source of inspiration. 

Oprah once said that “The World’s most prominent women leaders show the importance of honesty, courage, impact, and decisive action in leadership.” These traits are why I recognize Meghan Geis as an outstanding leader of my generation. Geis started her career in hospitality at age 15 lifeguarding at the Splashdown Beach Waterpark in Fishkill, New York. In 2014 she moved to Orlando, Florida to take a job as head lifeguard for Universal Studios Florida’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Four years later, she joined the JW Marriott as a food and beverage supervisor. 

“I fell in love with the chaos that is food and beverage,” said Geis. “I never saw myself in food and beverage, I always saw myself in recreation.”

2020 signaled the start of a new chapter for Geis when she transferred to Savannah, Georgia to open Marriott’s new JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District hotel. This is when she started to sharpen her leadership skills when tasked with managing people of various age levels and experience, while growing the business.

Meghan Gies standing outside during daylight wearing her Marriott polo shirt in front of a gate with water and town in the background
Meghan Geis at the Plant Riverside District located at the JW Marriott Kessler Collection Hotel in Savannah, Georgia. Photo: Lashanna Brooks

“Coming into a new job as an assistant manager, without a manager, was terrifying. Everything we did to open that restaurant was made on me and my own decisions.” she said.  “Now, it is a very successful outlet that generates 1.5 million dollars a year.” 

Geis has shown me and my fellow associates that with a little faith and courage there is room for everyone. Geis is most proud of the growth of her team. 

“Developing someone, motivating someone, and encouraging someone to be a leader is very rewarding,” she said. 

Geis advised her employees who aspire to follow a similar career path as hers to focus on themselves and their own personal goals. 

“No one is going to make it happen for you. If you want to learn how to do something, do not be afraid to try it,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to go after what you want, even if you think you won’t achieve it.” 

Meghan Gies standing outside during daylight wearing her Marriott polo shirt making a beverage indoors

Meghan Gies standing outside during daylight wearing her Marriott polo shirt making a beverage indoors
Meghan Geis showcasing drinks made at Baobab Lounge at the JW Marriott Kessler Collection Hotel. Photo: Lashanna Brooks


Student Biography:
Dionna Russell is a Senior at Kennesaw State University majoring in Criminal Justice. She is from Savannah, Georgia.

Women’s Leadership through Virtual Exchange: Youth Sharing Digital Stories (WLVE) is a project engaging 100 undergraduate and graduate students from Hassan II University Casablanca with 100 undergraduate students from Kennesaw State University in a unique cross-cultural virtual exchange experience focused on better understanding women’s leadership through research, analysis, and digital storytelling. This virtual classroom-based project will collect biographical stories of successful women leaders in both countries written by the students and publish them online on Bokeh Focus. 

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