PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Long-time Shipwreck Island Manager Buddy Wilkes announced his retirement Saturday.

Wilkes worked for the Lark family for 40 years. Twenty-six of which were as the Manager of Shipwreck Island. 

“He’s probably one of the hardest-working people that I know,” Lynn Haven Police Chief Rickie Ramie said. 

Ramie said he met Buddy Wilkes when he was working at Shipwreck Island when he was 20 years old. 

“He set a new standard, I have to say,” Ramie said. “I mean he kicked it up a notch.”

Saturday marks the end of Wilkes 40-year career.

“Today is the last operational day in the park. And at the end end of the month is the last day for me,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes originally worked at Miracle Strip, but later transferred to Shipwreck Island and has been there ever since. 

Wilkes said his favorite part of the job has been working with the young men and women he employs each summer. 

“One of the neatest things is working with all these kids,” Wilkes said. “We have wonderful kids in this community and just been really close to so many of them, thousands of them.”

While Wilkes has made Shipwreck Island as successful as it is. He’ll be remembered for the impact he had on the thousands of employees he had over the years. 

“Calls you one night and says, I just want to let you know, tomorrow I’m going to do my dissertation for my Ph.D. and there’s no way I would have gotten unit I hadn’t worked there and learned a little bit of work ethic and responsibility, that you taught us. I mean, it gives you goosebumps,” Wilkes said. “I got a now, but again, I was just thinking about how many of those there were out there.”

Wilkes said while he’ll come back to visit Shipwreck Island he is looking forward to spending more time with family and friends.