It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago Lakewood Ranch was just undeveloped ranch land. For nearly two decades, the area has grown to be one of the most prominent communities in Southwest Florida, and Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, has overseen that growth. We sat with Jensen to discuss the things that shaped his own life development.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY EVAN SIGMUND

Robert E. Brown My history professor at Michigan State. I went there to study as an undergraduate in history, economics and political science. He taught me how to write coherently, which has really stood me in good position. It was how to write in an organized, thorough and efficient way— active phrasing instead of passive.

My Wife Fran Jensen  She is directly responsible for my having this job. When I was asked to put my name in for it, I declined. I didn’t want it, but I went home and she persuaded me I could do it and I should apply. I changed my mind and applied and things have gone downhill ever since. 

Capitalism Business and capitalism are very important to the country and to the world, and to be thought of as someone who embodies those principals is very flattering. In the end, it’s kind of a paradox. While a little Darwinian, it’s, in the end, the kindest philosophy from a big picture perspective. Self-incentive is a much better thing for the gene pool than handicapping to bring everybody down to a level of equals. With communism and socialism you run out of other people’s money and you slide into a morass of mediocrity and oppression.

MusicI listen to a broad range of things, and I love various forms of country, bluegrass and blues. I love Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Lucinda Williams. I listen to the Legendary Shack Shakers, too.

Press Conference PhotoI have kept a photograph of my first press conference where we announced a project (the Ann Arbor Technology Park) that was initially opposed by the Michigan Speaker of the House. By the time I finished the process to get the project going, he was at the press conference supporting the project. I was 29 years old and to sway the most powerful person next to the governor of the state stuck with me. It made me feel there wasn't anything I couldn't do if I put my mind to it.

Eastern PhilosophyAll the Chinese philosophers, Sun Tzu, Hung Fei Tzu, Moht Tzu, Confucius. I also like The Book of Five Rings by Musashi. But whether it’s The Art of War by Sun Tzu or the Book of the Dead, which is a Buddhist thing, I need to read something that’s different. As a teenager that was one thing I gravitated to. It’s not that I embrace it or believe it all, but it’s something I wasn’t exposed to as a child and I have always sought out different things and experiences.

Sci-Fi/FantasyYou can't be tough unless you have ever read Conan The Barbarian by Robert E. Howard. I like Tolkein. I like The Saga of Seven Suns by Kevin Anderson. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The whole Dune series. I like more thought and complexity to what I read.

ShootingI have five pistols. I like my Beretta probably the most, followed by my Ruger LC9. One of the things we just did here was implement a range by Ancient Oak Gun Club. That is something I thought about here for years before I proposed it to board. Until I shot there, I hadn’t shot a shotgun in probably 30 years. If I had to, I’d pick pistols, but the shotgun shooting is more social. There is a group I meet up with. With the pistols, the mood has to strike me.

Problem-Solving I love to create and solve problems and form partnerships. [I like] the process of helping as part of a larger team, and in this community, there is an incredible team that has been able to help solve issues. We don’t show signs of letting up. The thing I've brought to the team is being able to solve series of unsolvable problems. I get permits when others can't. I like solving big problems through partnerships; more often than not a given problem is bigger than you are.