With the proposal of a $5m+ new clubhouse, the hiring of a new General Manager, and the prospect of skyrocketing costs to replace infrastructure, the question I have is do we trust our board to make the right decisions? In the coming few years we will be facing decisions that will impact the community for decades. The question is, does our leadership have the competence, the back bone and common sense to make these decisions?
My name is Darrell Trimble, a home owner of over 14 years, a LWW resident, and a 50 something who will be living here for at least another 30 years god-willing, I am a straight shooter who is not driven by politics or how many people like me. I am very concerned about what I have seen over the last 5 years in our leadership. I got an inside look in LWW operations when I headed the IT Committee in 2010, which did an in-depth operational assessment of LWW business processes and systems (or lack of) status. We documented the processes and gave very direct advisements to the Board along with a long term IT Plan. I also, am a successful business man who has a record of successfully starting companies and taking them to successful results. My current company is one of the fast growing companies in Nevada County. Not bragging here, just making a point that I consider myself a pragmatic business man with a background in building and managing organizations, budgets and projects.
I will be doing a series of articles which are opinion, mixed with facts and reality. I invite others to join in and with comments and your perspectives. I hope that we all have a common objective, that of making our community a great place to live together.
The first of my posts will be on our board leadership in the past 5 years and its impact on our community. I am publishing these here, because quite frankly the TWI will not publish negative articles especially about the board or general management because in part they are funded by Lake Wildwood HOA at the discretion of the Board.
LWW Board Leadership 2009 until now.
As I write this article I first want to state that the LWW Board is a volunteer position and these people put in long hours and all have the right intent. I commend them for that.
The best description of our Boards over the last five years can be relayed in 3 basic terms, “avoidance“, “lack of accountability“, and “short termed thinking“. All of these have combined to put our community in a very bad fiscal situation. Lets take a look at several areas:
Article I – Operations.
Our recently terminated General Manager, was a core issue for our operational effectiveness. Within six months after hiring him the Board had concerns about his performance. While Edward Simpkins was a nice guy, his inability to get things done became apparent early on. Externally there were many signs of this. Almost every project went over budget, internal operations like the restaurant losing money, new projects approved by the board sitting on Mr. Simpkins desk (along with everything else). Internally the IT Committee quickly uncovered that business processes did not work because the GM was a bottle neck. He did not know how to delegate, he did not take input from people who had expertise in the community, and he continually did not deliver on operational objectives. However, the Board apparently had one goal for the GM; “keep the annual dues flat”. Unfortunately, that is a very vague and high level objective that is easy to meet if dollars are moved around correctly. It also was the short sightedness that has put us in the situation we are in today.
Mr.. Simpkins was very good at arranging the operational numbers to make this happen. Using things like one time revenue windfalls from Comcast contracts and other one-time financial events to make it appear that operations were being managed effectively. During that time several of us asked the Board about details of operations accounting and how these windfalls were applied. Rather than investing them in reserves or giving them back to the community, they were often absorbed into the operating budget. Major projects like the bathrooms in the parks and others all missed budgets by at least 20% or more on a consistent basis. Contractors I know in our community have stated that Lake Wildwood overspends on most projects because “they just don’t know how to plan or manage the projects”. The nice bathrooms you see in the parks for instance originally were to be $25-30k, but ended up costing $50k per bathroom!
From a management perspective many including myself in 2011 sat down with the Board president (Don Hatten at the time) to let him know in detail that the GM had grave management issues. Don stated to me that they knew and were working on it. He also stated that they did not “want to look for a new GM right now”. Not long after that the Board promoted at the request of Mr. Simpkins to COO of Lake Wildwood and extended his contract (locking us into several more years). Many of us asked, is there any management accountability in Lake Wildwood? Other things like the IT system we worked for over a year to evaluate and work with Mr. Simpkins to choose ($65,000 plus other costs) never got implemented. Now we are paying for two systems, the old accounting system and the new one that never got put in. Finally another area is Security. As of the last budget, we are paying over $875,000 per year for that operation, not counting underlying costs like high workman’s comp insurance because our officers carry guns. In other similar communities, the cost of security is 1/2 our costs, something that should be looked at, but is not politically popular.
Good things have occurred operationally, our second level of management hires have been competent effective managers. Our new Public Works Director and Golf Greens Director seem very good. But, we have also gone through two or three Finance Directors, which is very troubling.
Not until recently has there been a Board with enough back bone to finally end the operational fiasco of this General Manager. It took over 4 years and how much did it cost us? Now the board is searching for a new General Manager. Do they have the experience and competence to pick the right one? I am not sure. This is the same Board who thought closing the club house early was a good idea. The same Board who has overseen the repair of the Chaparral culvert.
Coming Soon – The Board and “Reserves”, avoidance in preparing for our future?