Run a Google search of the name Ken McKelvey and other than a few references to other men, such as a Frisbee disc golfer, you’ll find result after result after result about THIS Ken McKelvey. A well-known figure in the timeshare industry. You’ll see results for him speaking about timeshare, fighting for timeshare owner’s rights, spearheading protection laws, and being on the forefront of the ever changing industry.
This Ken McKelvey is the Founder and CEO of South Carolina based Defender Resorts. This Ken McKelvey is the current chairman of ARDA-ROC and this is the one that is profiled in this article.
When asked about a moment that made McKelvey truly proud he fondly remembers the moment that one of the finest men he has ever known, Mr. Lynn Weas, asked him to serve as a member of the ARDA-ROC executive committee. As McKelvey was recognized by Weas, the late chair of ARDA-ROC who is credited with helping the influential committee reach a substantial level of growth, as a leader, it seems he held on to that recognition and has worked tirelessly to make sure to make his own impact.
McKelvey didn’t start out in the timeshare industry, or even the resort industry for that matter. A lifelong South Carolina native, McKelvey spent his early career in the financial field as a partner and principal at a CPA firm for 15 years and controller and vice president for a large, privately held industrial maintenance and real estate firm. That firm participated in developing a few resorts in Myrtle Beach and after Ken helped with the development he didn’t stop there. Once the resorts were developed he began the management duties and turned those couple of properties into a family, a resort management company now known as Defender Resorts.
With a financial background and experience running companies, McKelvey set out to use that experience to run resorts. The pathway he has taken Defender Resorts and his own career is not one he ever had in mind, but one that causes him to radiate with pride.
The further he got into the timeshare world, with Defender Resorts picking up the management duties of additional properties (26 currently) as he saw the issues facing the industry and he felt a responsibility to do something about them. So began his long and storied tenure with the American Resort Development Association.
As Defender Resorts was founded more than 36 years ago, McKelvey has been a member of ARDA for more than 23 years and listing his every accomplishment and position with the organization would be a list too long to read and too tedious to write, but many of the positions highlight where his passions reside. For example, he chaired the resale task force in the 1990’s. Resale has been a large part of his career. Unfortunately, over the years timeshare resale developed a bad name due to false transfer companies and scams. Many of Ken’s achievements have aimed to both inform and protect owners and the general public from scams and showcase the true benefit of timeshare ownership.
He has had a large part in creating ARDA’s Timeshare Resale Resource Center, to make sure viable information is easily available to the public. He has also had a strong part in passing many laws in Florida, South Carolina and elsewhere that give owners legal protection and ability to go after scammers in an effort to put an end to shady practices.
The theme of Ken’s life and professional career seems to be giving back. There’s been plenty of opportunity for Ken to retire, travel more or just pick up a few extra hobbies, but it appears that this industry is where he found a true calling. As the Chairman of ARDA-ROC, a position previously held by the man that originally got him involved, Lynn Weas, McKelvey has been awarded Volunteer of the Year twice and served as a speaker or facilitator too many times for him to remember.
Current Defender Resort’s President and Chief Operations Officer, Mark Westbrook has worked with Ken since 1985 and has a high regard of Ken’s impact on timeshare.
“The support Ken has been able to supply on behalf of the timeshare industry through his many years of voluntary services with ARDA-ROC and other committees have greatly enhanced the timeshare industry and how it’s perceived by the public. All of his and the many professionals for whom he works with has been significantly influential in generating a legitimately positive impact and image on our industry,” said Westbrook.
After watching Ken speak at numerous events, interviewing him multiple times and just being in a general discussion with him, it’s obvious how deep his knowledge and strong his passion for the industry lies. His vision for the industry is clear because he has a thorough understanding of it mixed with an entrepreneur’s mentality and ability to see needs and the pathway to the necessary change to meet those needs.
When asked about pivotal moments in McKelvey’s career there is no mention of hitting a certain financial goal, acquiring the management of a new resort or other tangible accomplishments. They are passion and people focused. There’s the time he helped save the Maritime Beach Club (a resort still managed by Defender Resorts) from the destruction of Hurricane Hugo after the developer left the owners stranded in 1989. There’s the time a retiring board member stood up and told him she knew “without a doubt that Defender Resorts is a moral and ethical company that will always do the right thing.” There’s the experience of having an employee retire and realizing that he was part of creating a career for someone else and helping them build a life.
It’s this people centered view of the world that fuels McKelvey’s involvement in ARDA and ARDA-ROC. For him, it’s the perfect place where his knowledge for the industry merges with a forum where he can help make deep, impactful change that affects real people.