At the close of each summer day at Six Flags White Water in Marietta, guests will find park director Trevor Leonard at the exit gate bidding water parkgoers goodbye as they head to the parking lot.
The routine ends Leonard's typical 12-hour summer work day, which begins at 7 a.m. with a comprehensive walk through the 69-acre park off Cobb Parkway. Leonard climbs every tower and touches every point guests will encounter when they come through the gates. Next, he meets with his management team to review the prior day and address pending issues.
"Everything starts with safety and works from there," said Leonard.
As a 39-year veteran of the water park industry, Leonard has had a lot of experience in the inner workings of aquatic amusement. While majoring in hospitality management at The Ohio State University, the Delaware, Ohio native worked part-time at the Wyandot Lake water park in Columbus, Ohio.
"My first year I dipped the corn dogs ... it was an awesome job," he recalls.
By the time he graduated in 1990, the park had a full-time food service manager position open, and Leonard took the job.
"I loved what I did at the park, so I stayed," he said.
He was quickly promoted to in-park revenue director. During his tenure at the water park, he was promoted to purchasing manager, food service director, and director of retail service.
After marrying his wife, Leonard recalls a moment in 1998 that would permanently change their latitude.
"When my wife and I got married, she pulled out the Six Flags property map and circled the cities in the South where she would live," recalls Leonard. She circled Arlington, Texas, and Atlanta.
The plan crystallized in 1999 when Six Flags Entertainment Corp. purchased White Water from Silver Dollar City, the company that developed the park in 1984. There was an opening for in-park service manager, and Leonard got the job.
In June of 2007, he was promoted to park director. Today, White Water is the largest water park in the Southeast and employs 650 people - including 230 lifeguards - from May to September. The park does its own lifeguard certification geared specifically for water parks.
"They are trained to be proactive," said Leonard. "We have never had any major incidents because they are so proactive."
Leonard says seeing former employees come back years later with their own children is especially satisfying.
"It's nice getting to know the team members, then 10 years later that same 16-year-old boy is wheeling a stroller in," he said.
In July 2011, White Water was the first water park in the world to introduce the "flash pass," a virtual queue system for rides. The park served as a testing ground for the system that worked so well, nine other Six Flags water parks added it the following year.
White Water opens May 18, and the following weekend, the first new thrill ride introduced since 1984 will open. Typhoon Twister will move riders 32 feet per second down an enclosed five-story drop into a 67-foot wide bowl that spins riders in concentric circles before dropping them into a splash pool.
Leonard attributes White Water's success and longevity to its mix of attractions, which includes 29 water slides, three kid areas, an 800,000-gallon wade pool, thrill rides and family favorites like the Little Hooch River raft ride.
"We've always been able to rely on our season pass holders. ... There is a lot of loyalty," said Leonard. "We have been fortunate - White Water has continued to grow."
Melinda Ashcraft, who recently retired as Six Flags Over Georgia park president, said Leonard has a great future with the company.
"Trevor is a very strong, solid leader," she said. "He is a fine man with exceptional integrity and compassion for the teams that he leads at White Water."