Six candidates will compete for three open seats in the Annual Meeting balloting for the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association Board of Directors.
They are Jim Beaty, Jim Greaves, John Hildebrand, Jack Lattin, John Shaughnessy, and Bernadette York.
The Times’ Ellen Marcus interviewed each of the candidates by telephone, using the same set of questions as conversation starters.
We asked about the opportunities and challenges facing Seven Lakes West, about the candidate’s previous experience and preferred assignment is elected. We asked about dues increases and controlling expenses. And we asked how the community should respond to its growing diversity.
Our goal was not so much to elicit specific answers to our questions as to give the candidates an opportunity to talk about their understanding of where Seven Lakes West is and where it should be heading — and how they might contribute to moving the community in that direction.
You’ll find summaries of our interviews below.
Seven Lakes West Board Candidate Jim Beaty is the Associate Director of Pharmacy at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. He and his wife have lived in Seven Lakes West for eight years and plan to remain the community long term.
Beaty believes that strong rules and regulations maintain property values.
“My primary reason of running for Director,” he told The Times, “is to build off the success of what I have seen come out of the Board in the last three years: the construction of the mailhouse, front entrance, and initiating of the road paving.
“These three things were all greatly needed, and it put this community back on track where we need to be. I want to carry that flag.”
Beaty said the Westside’s number one priority should be completing the road repaving project.
“Personally, I see us moving forward, marketing Seven Lakes West as a premier community,” Beaty said. “If voted in, I would like to focus on beatification, including improvements to Johnson’s Point, and better maintenance of the grass along Longleaf Drive. It needs to be mowed on a more regular basis; sometimes it can get as high as twelve inches. I would also like to see new street signs put in.”
One of Beaty’s key concerns is the appearance of the back gate.
“I would like to see a makeover of the back gate,” he said. “I would like to see the split rail fence taken down and replaced with some sort of wrought iron railing — similar to what you see up at the front, and an island of some sort. A little bit of turf. Also replacing the arm’s hardware, so that it doesn’t look rusted and outdated. I think it should be made more consistent with the appearance of the front gate.”
Beaty believes his dues payments to the Association provide a good return.
“If you look at what we pay in dues for what we get, I think our dues are cheap,” he said. “In setting dues, you take the community into account as a whole; and, at the end of the day, you have to make a decision that is right for community as a whole. When I look at the total of that, I don’t find a dues increase unreasonable.”
Beaty supervises more than fifty people at FirstHealth.
“Due to my personality and attention to detail I would like to serve on the Architectural Review Committee,” Beaty said when asked what position on the Board he would prefer.
“I am level-headed enough to deal with people in a respectful manner. We can work together to get all of our points across and come up with some good compromises.”
“I think the change in demographics is positive,” when asked about the shift of Seven lakes West from primarily a retirement community to one that includes more families and children.
“I think the retired population has a lot to offer in terms of experience and history on certain issues that have gone on in the community,” Beaty said.
“I think the younger group brings a whole lot of different perspectives that have gone unnoticed for a whole lot of years. They are important if new families are to move here. Walking trails are a part of it. I feel we need them if we want our community to be viable and competitive. It is something we need to look at.”
“I think we have done absolutely nothing in marketing our community,” Beaty added. “We have one of the nicest lakes on the East Coast. Horse lovers can have horses on their property — golfing, if that’s your thing. We need to raise our hands and say ‘Come look at us!’ We are having a branding issue and I think we need to consider a rebranding of ourselves.”
Jim Greaves is the youngest of the candidates running for the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association Board this year.
However, that does not make him the least experienced. At age 40, Greaves has experienced first-hand the need for good planning, organization, and focus.
Greaves paid his way through Purdue University while working at a commercial construction company. Recognizing his talent for writing statistical software, he switched gears and schools and earned a B.S. in Computer Science from De Paul University.
At the age of 25, he co-founded Robotics Integration. Greaves and his wife Megan have two young children at West End Elementary.
“We moved here almost eight years ago,” he told The Times. “We love the weather and enjoy the amenities and activities.”
“I feel like I have an obligation to step up and do this. It’s my way of contributing to my home and community,” he said. “I don’t like complacency and would rather be active and planning.”
While living in the Midwest Greaves rehabbed several homes.
“I have also done some work down here,” he said. “It was more of a hobby when I had more time.”
Living in Chicago, Greaves recognized the need for revitalization of economically hard hit areas.
Looking at the area around Seven Lakes, he said, “The lack of planning and organization in the outlying community is concerning.”
“Seven Lakes West is part of a bigger community,” Greaves said. “What I would like to see is more conversation with the Seven Lakes Landowners Association and the business district. There are some good solid businesses.”
“There needs to be some amount of collaboration,” he continued, “and we should start a dialog, if there is not one already going on that I am unaware of. We need a better understanding of what is the current plan and what are everybody’s interests.”
“Inside Seven lakes West, I am really happy with all the work that has been done,” Greaves said. “The construction of the front gate and mailhouse was needed. I don’t want to see off the charts growth, but I also don’t want to see the community become stagnant and decay.”
Asked about the wisdom of annual dues increases, Greaves replied, “The membership determines the dues increase by voting on it. If there is pushback then the board needs to rethink the increase.”
“My take is: as long as the money is being used in a way to better the community, and the community can afford it, then I am okay with an increase.”
“I have an interest in the Architectural Review Committee,” Greaves said, when asked what post on the Board most interests him. “I went to Purdue for building. My work is very flexible, so that I can be available. But, with work, family, and two small children the time commitment will be my biggest challenge. We will make it work.”
Greaves doesn’t see the changing demographics of Seven Lakes West as a big issue.
“There is already a lot of amenities here for everyone,” he said. “I am all for continuing that. We have parks. We do a lot of biking and hiking. We use the pools and the lakes. We have the community center, programs, and events.”
“This is home,” Greaves said.
John and Lisa Hildebrand and their family relocated to Seven Lakes West from Pinehurst. “We had friends who lived out here and they highly recommended it,” Hildebrand said.
John, a commercial real estate appraiser, is a candidate for the Westside Board of Directors.
The Hildebrand’s two sons attend West Pine Middle school, and both enjoy water skiing.
“We use a lot of the amenities: the lakes, volleyball courts, community center, walking trails,” Hildebrand said.
“We love the community. After being approached about coming on the board, I decided to get involved. I would like to continue the good work the current board has done.”
“I think they have done a very good job on completing the front gate, the mailhouse, and beginning work on the roads. It takes so long to get certain things done. I would like to try to level it out and to get approval quicker,” Hildebrand said.
“I work a flexible schedule; if it were necessary to call an emergency meeting I could be available. I think that would help getting things done quickly in an efficient manner. I also think there are some small things that could probably be done a little bit better.”
Hildebrand and his family fall in the younger generation of Westside homeowners and he said he appreciates the changing demographics of the community.
“We need equal representation,” he said, of the younger segment in the community. “The demographics are shifting from a retirement community and are continuing to change.”
Asked what position on the board he would like to fill, if elected, Hildebrand said: “My interest are in the Lakes and Dam Committee. We use the water actively.”
“I was in the early stages of trying to start a ski club,” he said. “It would be great if we could get a slalom course on the lake. The ski club could manage the use of it. One of my sons briefly competed in a ski competition. Ultimately, I would like to form a Seven Lakes ski team from both the Seven Lakes North and West communities.”
In addition to a ski club, Hildebrand would like to see the back gate updated, and lights added to the volleyball and basketball courts.
“A lot of it would also benefit retirees,” he said. “It would make our community more active,” he explained.
Moving to other priorities, he said, “I am still not convinced that the dam needs to be closed. I think one thing we need to do is to continue and accelerate the walking trails — especially along Longleaf — and make it wide enough to get golf carts, bikers, and walkers off the road.”
But, before anything new projects are launched, they first must be budgeted, Hildebrand said.
“I don’t like a fee increase period,” he explained. “I am fiscally conservative. However, things have to be paid for.”
“They [the current Board] are recommending a substantial increase to pave the roads. Once the work has been completed, I would like to see the fees come back down. I don’t think anyone is going to have a problem with fluctuating fees if they go back down. If people know where the money is going and have a reasonable explanation of why there are increases then they are more apt to pay it.”
Hildebrand believes his career and experience would make him a good fit for the board.
“I think I would be good for the board,” he said. “I am a commercial real estate appraiser. It is my job to get all the facts. I want to have all the information before I make the decision. I don’t make any decision on emotion. You can make a lot of errors basing a decision on emotion. I base my decisions on logic and facts and asking what is in the best interest for the majority.”
Michigan natives Jack and Lori Lattin have been Seven Lakes West property owners since 2002. After twenty-seven years of service, Jack Lattin retired in 1998 as a Command Sergeant Major in the US Army. Balancing a second career in Business Management for 35 years, he retired as an Assistant Plant Manager at General Motors.
The Lattins built their Westside home in 2012.
“I think everybody should serve in the community that they live in, one way or another,” he told The Times, explaining his decision to run for a seat on the Board of the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association. “Our home is built, and we are settled in. Everything is kind of quiet. I think it’s time to do my part.”
Lattin is quite familiar with the governance of Homeowners Associations [HOA].
“You might say I have I have a lot of experience,” he said. “I served on our HOA in Michigan for five years and was President.”
Lattin serves on the SLWLA Architectural Review Committee and feels his talents and experience would be well utilized as ARB Director. But he said he is open to taking on other roles on the Board.
“I have some working knowledge of the ARC,” Lattin said. “I am open to any seat, having served from President to legal to infrastructure to ARB, I feel that I am fairly familiar with the responsibilities.”
Lattin has been a SLLA landowner for twelve years and compliments the efforts of the current and past Boards of Directors.
“I am very familiar with what has been going on,” he said. “The only downside is that I do not have all facts that the Board has in front of them. For me to say I disagree with decision that they have made would be wrong, because I don’t have all the information.”
Maintaining the community’s infrastructure, while continuing to build reserves need to be top SLWLA priorities, Lattin said.
“I think that the completion of the road paving project in a timely manner, while making sure that we have adequate reserves for infrastructure, are two of SLW’s biggest objectives,” Lattin said.
Prioritizing projects so that they can be completed without raising dues is another key priority for Lattin.
“Let me explain,” he said. “I think the most difficult thing I had to do as a board member was to spend other people’s money and have to tell them that we needed to raise dues. It has always been my position to do everything possible to avoid raising dues — and do everything possible to be prudent about spending money.”
Asked about the impact of the demographic shift in Seven Lakes west that is seeing retirees replaced by younger families does not have to be issue, Lattin told The Times.
“I think there is some friction between the old established retirees and what some of the younger members are expecting,” he said. “It’s extremely important to embrace both groups, and find ways to work together to continue to make this a vibrant community.”
John Shaughnessy has decided — with a little encouragement from his friends — that it’s about time he ran for the Seven lakes West Landowners Association Board of Directors.
“I’ve been asked a few times prior to this year to run,” he told The Times. “We moved to Seven Lakes West in 1999 and have been living here for fifteen years. I have been active in other organizations, including the Kiwanis.”
As chairman of the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, to be held this Saturday, February 7 at West End Elementary , Shaughnessy puts in a plug for the upcoming event.
“Tickets are on sale!” he said laughing.
“My wife Alice and I both believe we should take active roles in our community.”
Shaughnessy brings to the table experience from a long career in education, coaching, and administration.
“I am happy to serve in whatever seat available,” he said. “I am open to helping the community and if I can do that in a specific way that’s fine.”
Longevity runs in Shaughnessy’s family. His mother is 105 years of age and sharp as a tack. She recently returned to her native Hamburg, New York to settle down.
Though Shaughnessy and his wife are in good health he recognizes current and future needs of Seven Lakes West’s aging population.
“We have the opportunity to research and see if any developer would be interested in building senior housing here in the area,” he said.
“I think one of the priorities for Seven Lakes West is that we need to accommodate our seniors. Transitional housing that would allow them to downsize and accommodate their physical needs so that they don’t have to move away from their home and community.”
“I don’t know if it would have to be an assisted living facility, but it possibly could be a much smaller scale Belle Meade or Penick Village. I would be in favor of that.”
Shaughnessy said he would support a dues increase when needed.
“I think probably the maintenance of SLW and repairing the roads will take a large amount of funding,” he told The Times. “The paving is going to continue over the next three years — and then we start over.”
“Fortunately, we have paid for the construction of the front gate, community center, and our recreational facilities. I think we should be really satisfied with what we have at the present time, and we need to maintain what we have. We have to prioritize and budget for new projects.”
Acknowledging the demographic change in Seven Lakes, Shaughnessy said differing age groups can complement one another.
“I think it is great that our demographics are changing,” he said. “Being a teacher, I enjoy working with kids. I have four granddaughters and we follow them daily.”
“I think young families who live in Seven Lakes actually are very fortunate. We have lots of infrastructure that is designed for young families, if they take advantage of it. We could expand on what we already have and have botany and natural history programs for the trails.”
“We have a great community with people that have various skills. We could also provide a volunteer mentoring program,” Shaughnessy concluded.
Bernadette York is tenacious. Applying up to be a candidate for the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors was not as easy as York expected.
After the required interview with the SLWLA Nominating Committee, York failed to win their recommendation. Undeterred, she organized a signature drive and won a slot on the ballot as a petition candidate.
“I am a good listener,” York said. “I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of members when I was out collecting signatures.”
“I think we should bring back the Advocacy Committee,” York said, referring to the Landowners Advocacy Committee established by then Treasurer Dale Erickson in 2013 and eventually disbanded.
“I served on the Committee and found it an important tool to better understanding our community. It provided members the opportunity to express their views and for the Board to gain valuable insight in prioritizing projects. I want to be a voice for the community.”
York believes that better understanding of members’ interests will increase volunteerism.
“If we are prioritizing the members’ interests, then they will be excited to volunteer,” she said. “The members can do things that are good for the community — fun things that don’t require a vote.”
York is a mother and grandmother.
“I love seeing the children getting of the school busses,” she said. “I think it’s great. It’s where our future lies. We should do more for our young folks. We also need to remember our seniors and veterans. I want everyone to be comfortable and happy to be here.”
“Organizing group activities doesn’t have to be expensive,” she added. “We could have a community vegetable garden, and a community shredding and recycling day.”
“We could build a fenced-in area for a dog park. It might curb members that let the dogs off their leashes. You can hope,” York said laughing.
York said she would be happy chairing any committee. But if she could pick it would be Lake & Dams or Architectural Review.
“I live on the lake, and I have a vested interest with what goes on the lake — how we can keep it clean, fed, and protected,” she said.
York worked for 24 years as a project manager and corporate trainer for Hewlett Packard.
“I have a strong accounting background and enjoyed finance,” she said.
York compliments the work of the current Board.
“We very much needed the seven year road paving plan,” she said. “It’s great that construction has begun. One of Seven Lakes West’s biggest challenges and biggest assets are our roads. They have needed repair for a long time.”
“But we have to remember that money is also an issue,” York said. “We have seniors that are retired and on a fixed income and we also have some younger families that are barely making it.”
“We need to be very careful about prioritizing our projects with our income,” she said. “There could be improvement on our back gate. If it is affordable, we also need automated gates for our dam so that emergency vehicles can cross. That is something very important to us that live near the dam. It would afford life-saving minutes if there was an emergency.”
“I think communication is key,” York told The Times. “I want to get us all together.”
“We live in a golfing community. Golf is part of our history. However, golf is not as popular as it once was once. At some point, our community might also like to have bike paths, trails, and leash parks. It seem to be what younger families are looking for.”