Stephany A Madsen - "First Lady of Timesharing"

By Rosalie E. Leposky

Two years ago, the American Resort Development Association opened its Florida office in Orlando to serve as a base for state-by-state organizational activities. Led by Stephany A. Madsen, ARDA's vice president, state legislative affairs, the office has coordinated the creation of ARDA's Model Vacation Club Act, and continues to foster the formation and expansion of statewide groups modeled after ARDA- Florida.

"She's the First Lady of Timesharing," declares attorney Max F. Morris, a partner in the Orlando office of Baker & Hostetler. "Stephany never gets credit for the work she does. If she were eligible, she would deserve to receive ARDA's Outstanding Contribution of the Year award. To many people, she represents ARDA and the whole timesharing industry."

  Stephany A. Madsen

"She's the First Lady of Timesharing," declares attorney Max F. Morris, a partner in the Orlando office of Baker & Hostetler. "Stephany never gets credit for the work she does. If she were eligible, she would deserve to receive ARDA's Outstanding Contribution of the Year award. To many people, she represents ARDA and the whole timesharing industry."

Madsen is widely known by her initials (SAM), and for her energy, modesty, and willingness to let other people enjoy public attention. Stuart Marshall Bloch, senior partner in the Washington law firm of Ingersoll and Bloch, Chartered, claims credit for Madsen's nickname and describes her as "a good writer who always had an academic bent, a gifted journalist and voracious reader. Sam's strength is her ability to retain vast quantities of information, and to translate and communicate complex legal issues into language people can understand."

Always A Diplomat

"Stephany is always a diplomat," says Morris, who has known her since the mid-1980s. "She shares secrets and confidences with everyone, and is the best friend you feel you have known forever. The two words that best describe Stephany are intelligence and integrity."

Thomas C. Franks, ARDA's president, says Madsen has "one of the timesharing industry's best legal minds, even though she has no formal legal training."

M. Rickliffe (Rick) Choate, II, executive counsel for Disney Vacation Development, Inc., says, "The timeshare legal community respects Stephany's legal knowledge. Because she is not a trained lawyer, she brings a different perspective to legal problem-solving."

Franks has known Madsen for about 13 years. "I worked with Sam when we were known as the American Land Development Association (ALDA). She is a very principled person, an important professional advisor, and a great source of information on our industry. She's not generally aggressive, but she is very persistent, and can turn the pressure on when she needs to."

Two of Madsen's private passions are shopping for non-boring tailored clothes and browsing in large, well-stocked bookshops for the recent writings of favorite popular "escape" fiction authors, including John Grisham, P.D. James, Jane Smiley, Scott Turow, and Alice Walker. Madsen has only slight regrets about leaving Washington to open ARDA's Orlando office. Although she no longer must endure Washington's traffic or winter weather, she does miss shopping in Borders, Inc., for books and Nordstrom, Inc., for clothing; and attending cultural events at Kennedy Center.

Accompanying Madsen to Orlando was her husband of 26 years, Carl J. "Buzz" Madsen, co-owner with Lewis Cassidy of Federal Support Group, Inc., a Washington-based consulting firm specializing in government computer contracts. The Madsens live in Orlando's southwest section, between downtown and the heavily- traveled resort section. "Traffic is not bad where we live," she says. The couple's only child, Theodore "Ted", 25, decided join his parents in Orlando after graduating from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.

Morris encouraged Madsen to move to Orlando, and offered her office space and secretarial help in Baker & Hostetler's office in the Sun Bank Building adjacent to Church Street Station. "It took a while to convince Buzz to move, but now we share Orlando Magic season tickets," he says.

College Sweethearts

Stephany Madsen was born in Evansville, IN, in the late 1940s. She is the oldest of two children of John and Kay Sadler, who still live in the family home in Vincennes, IN. Her younger brother, Dr. John Z. Sadler, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Center in Dallas. Given the nature of her career, she is "grateful to have a board- certified psychiatrist in the family."

During high school and college, she wrote for the daily Vincennes Sun-Commercial newspaper. "I learned most of what I know about journalism and writing from my high-school English teacher, David Jackson," she says.

Stephany and her husband met while attending college at the University of Evansville in Indiana. After college, he joined the navy. "He was assigned to Washington, which was better than Viet Nam," she says. "I tagged along to Washington with our young son. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, I wanted to be a journalist."

From 1973 to 1975, she worked as a research coordinator for ALDA, but a combination of economic depression and oil crises all but killed off the land- sales business by 1975, so she left to join the Land Development Institute (LDI), a publishing subsidiary of the Ingersoll and Block law firm. "For 10 years I edited the LDI's legal newsletters and references on land development, timesharing, and campground resort law, including the Digest of State Land Sales Regulations , Guides for Timesharing and Land Sales Personnel , Land Development Law Reporter , and the Timeshare Law Reporter (now called the Resort Development Law Reporter )."

During this time, Madsen also helped to edit two books written by Stuart Marshall Block and William B. Ingersoll for publication by The Urban Land Institute (ULI): Timesharing (1977) and Timeshare II (1982). Although she edited both volumes, her name appears only in Timeshare II .

Heavy Workload

"Sam occupied a small cubbyhole just outside my office," says Bloch. "She edited our four monthly newsletters and four annual legal treatises on U.S. and Canadian federal, state, and provincial laws and the laws of half a dozen other countries on campground, condominium, and timeshare law. We dealt with a variety of subjects, including licensing, land development, and consumer protection. In addition to this, Sam helped with our two ULI books and about six legal journal articles a year -- more work than two average people might attempt."

Madsen also hired and trained Veronica Jennings, now the minority affairs director of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington. After leaving LDI, Jennings worked as a reporter for the Washington Post and USA Today in Washington, and Cocoa Today (now Florida Today ) and The Orlando Sentinel in Florida.

"LDI was my second job out of college," says Jennings. "I was a journalism graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and LDI gave me my first professional writing opportunity. When I started with LDI they produced one monthly newsletter. When I left, I was associate editor for three monthly newsletters. Sam allowed me to develop my journalism skills and to learn about the advertising, design, editorial, marketing, and promotional aspects of journalism, including a six-week publishing course at Stanford University. Sam is a great mentor and friend. I still call her for advice."

During these years, Madsen admits it occurred to her that she should attempt a law degree, "but by the time I thought about attending law school, I was frustrated by the cost and was very involved in the application of the law." From 1975 through 1985, she also was involved in organizing an annual spring legal seminar, Land and the Law , jointly sponsored by ALDA and LDI.

Tracking Legislation

The year 1983 was particularly busy for Madsen, as 26 states introduced timeshare laws. She tracked these laws with three others: Choate, who at the time was the corporate counsel for Resort Condominiums International; Franks, who was ALDA's director of government relations; and Craig M. Nash, then the director of regulatory affairs for Interval International and now that firm's president and chief executive officer.

"We spent the year trying to keep track of pending legislation and beating down bad timeshare legislation," recalls Madsen. "It was a year of constant surprises. I worked on LDI news stories and learned an incredible amount from Bloch and Ingersoll."

"Craig, Rick, and Sam were involved in the 1983 state legislation effort before me," Franks says. "Sam quickly helped me learn in which states to place our emphasis, and the types of laws required. As editor of Ingersoll and Bloch's magazines, she knew when another bombshell was going off, and she would tell me. I would get on the phone to plan with Craig and Rick, and soon thereafter I might see Sam in some middle American state capital, helping us to write another state law. Sam did not always join us in the field, but as a great general with good local contacts and a Washington staff of researchers and writers, she often provide us with the first information on a new state preparing timeshare legislation and helped to lay the groundwork for the industry's current success."

"In this grassroots endeavor," Nash says, "our networking and sharing of information helped us to function as a team to shape a legislative and regulatory environment that could and probably would have been far more onerous without our efforts."

Choate says business competition was secondary to this legislative mission. "Stephany did the hard work from Washington. She would alert us. We wanted to promote the National Time Share Council's part of ALDA's Model Timesharing Act, but we were forced by events to be proactive in states such as Hawaii that wanted to ban all timesharing."

"The four of us developed a close working relationship," says Franks. "Craig, Rick, and I were traveling as a triumverate, representing our industry rather than our particular employers. The industry has come a long way, and I often applaud the foresight of the ARDA board and volunteers for pushing ahead legislation to regulate themselves, something unusual in the business world."

In 1985, Madsen rejoined ALDA as vice president and executive director of the National Timesharing Council, with a variety of responsibilities that through the years have encompasses education, legislation, and program development for meetings, public relations, resort management, and timeshare law."

Since 1985, Franks had wanted to develop an active state- legislation program, but Madsen says "state activities were hit- and-miss, that I focused on when I had free time." The early 1990s saw an expansion of legislative activity in some 20 states, to which ARDA responded by forming a variety of state and regional groups -- many modeled on ARDA-Florida. Also at this time began almost three years of concentrated effort that involved many Florida-based participants in writing ARDA's recently-approved Model Vacation Club Act. These factors shaped the decision to open ARDA's Florida office as a base for Madsen's activities.

Madsen also was instrumental in the creation of ARDA's educational program in 1988. After being starved for funding initially, it has in recent years become a great success that makes additional demands on her time. "Most trade associations don't make money on their educational programs, which provide valuable services and benefits to members," Madsen says. "Originally, many ARDA members thought that our educational programs should make money for ARDA, in spite of the experience of other associations."

With the timeshare industry finally becoming a recognized part of the international hospitality and travel industry, Madsen predicts a bright future for the industry. "Timesharing organizations are now using modern technology to take advantage of international relationships, opportunities, and worldwide resources," she notes. "ARDA now is talking about incredible information resources that are not yet at our fingertips, but discussions are beginning within ARDA and the International TimeShare Foundation about ways to do research and make this information easily accessible."

Rosalie E. Leposky is managing partner of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

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Copyright 1996 Ampersand Communications
All Rights Reserved
Published in The Resort Trades, January.

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