Lake Q&A: Dave Commander
Dave Commander was born in Enterprise, Ala. and graduated from Decatur High School. He attended the University of Alabama and earned a degree in Manpower and Industrial Relations. Out of college, he began working with Russell Corporation and for 25 years held various management positions including President, Jerzees; and President, Russell Athletic Team Sports. In 2003, he joined Russell Lands as VP of Marketing and is now President of Russell Marine. He and his wife of 35 years, Lynn, have two daughters and two grandchildren.
Describe your job at Russell Marine.
My job is to oversee the sales and operations for Russell Marine, which includes Kowaliga Marina, The Ridge Marina, Real Island Marina and River North Marina. My primary focus is on our customers, vendors and employees making sure we have all the necessary tools, training, equipment and products in place to do a great job.
How and why did you get into this line of work?
I have always thought that Lake Martin was one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and after I left Russell Corporation, Tom Lamberth, President of Russell Lands, asked me to join the Russell Lands team as VP of Marketing. This was like a dream come true to have an opportunity to market Lake Martin and the Russell Lands products. In 2004, the General Manager of Russell Marine left and I was named interim General Manager and eventually, permanent General Manager. Even though I had not been in the marine business, I enjoyed boating and had developed sales and managerial skills from my 25 years of experience at Russell Corporation. I now have my dream job managing our marinas, working with wonderful employees and building relationships with our customers.
How long have you lived in the Lake Martin area?
In 1979, I was transferred to Alexander City. At that time, Lynn and I knew we wanted to live on the lake so we built a house in Raintree subdivision. We were actually the first residents of Raintree. Unfortunately, I was transferred to Dallas two months later. Good news, we were transferred back to Alexander City four years later. We lived for a while in Willow Point and now live in Windover. So, you can say that I have lived in this area for over 30 years.
How did you meet your spouse?
I am a big Alabama fan but believe it or not, we met on a blind date in Auburn. It was at a Santana concert in 1973. The concert was not my favorite and my date kept leaving me to talk to her friends, but we’ve managed to stay together for almost 40 years.
What’s your favorite spot on Lake Martin and why?
My favorite spot on Lake Martin is in my slough in Windover. It always seems to be so peaceful and, even on holidays, it’s not crowded. I also like hole #14 at Willow Point because of the beautiful view and I have a big investment in golf balls in that area.
In 2011, Russell Marine was recognized in Boating Industry Magazine as one of the Top 100 dealers in the country for the fifth year in a row (with a current ranking of 12th). What factors do you think contribute to Russell Marine’s success?
There are many factors that have led to our success. One of the foremost is our world-class employees. It’s their dedication and focus on great service and unsurpassed customer satisfaction. Of course, it is easier when you have leaders like Ben Russell and Tom Lamberth that give you their support. We also have some of the best facilities in the world.
What’s your favorite part of the boating season on Lake Martin?
I love to boat in the fall. It’s so peaceful and very relaxing. Before most of the Alabama football games were on TV, I would love to go out in the middle of the lake and listen to the game on the radio.
What’s your personal boat of choice?
I have now graduated to a pontoon boat. It is very grandchildren and dog friendly and I like cruising in the late afternoons. I presently have an AquaPatio by Godfrey.
What do you like to do on your day off?
I like to boat and play golf. I might give slight edge to boating since that’s the business I’m in and I can be with my family.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have no scars. As the movie goes “I’ve had a Wonderful Life.”
What’s the funniest thing that’s either happened to you or you’ve seen happen on the lake?
It was when my two girls were 11 and 13 and we decided to get our SeaDoo out for Spring Break. Of course, it was still cold but it was Spring Break and we wanted to get out on the lake. After reviewing safety precautions, we all hopped on our SeaDoo and off we went. I decided to show off my driving skills and when I made a sharp turn, we were all thrown off. I even skipped a couple of times. I feared the worse for my girls but when they came up from the water, they were just laughing. To this day, we still talk about it.
Who are three people – past or present – you’d most like to meet and why?
When I was growing up my heroes were Arnold Palmer and Mickey Mantle. I’ve seen them both in person but I’ve never been able to meet them. I would also like to meet Jesus Christ because he is my savior.
What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?
When I was 6 years old we went to a family reunion at a family farm in Sumter County, Ala. Close by was a small pond and we decided to go fishing. Cattle also used this pond frequently for their water so we had to be careful not to step in the piles of manure. I finally caught a fish. I was so excited that I brought the fish up too quickly right in the middle of my face and I went tumbling down the hill into a big pile of manure. My mom and dad were not too happy since we had no extra clothes. We finally found a towel that I wore the rest of the day and I think we threw the clothes away. This was embarrassing because I’ve always been modest even at 6.
What’s your favorite Lake Martin event?
My favorite event is the Lions Lake Martin Charity Poker Run. The event covers the entire lake and everyone seems to have a great time. It’s a great way for family and friends to enjoy the lake together. There is a “Best Dressed Crew Contest” and some of the costumes are hilarious. It has also raised a lot of money for local charities.
What do you think Lake Martin will look like in 20 years?
Lake Martin in 20 years will still be as pristine as it is now. There will probably be a few more people and places to go. I still plan to be on the lake because I love Lake Martin.