More than 25 Hiddenbrooke property owners attended the Meet the Candidates night on June 1 at the 19th Hole Pub. All candidates and incumbent board members attended the event. James Campagna departed once he realized it wasn’t a formal board activity and that he was not up for reelection. He said he had a party going on in his car that he wanted to get back to.
The purpose of the event was to give homeowners a chance to meet the board candidates in person, ask questions, and get their responses to questions of concern to the community prior to casting their votes. There are three vacancies and four candidates. An election was not held in 2022, because only two candidates applied for two open seats.
Current Board members of the Hiddenbrooke Property Owners Association (HPOA) are:
- Laurie Foster – President (Term Ends 2023) – candidate for reelection
- Joseph Joslin – Vice President (Term ends 2024)
- Bob Schussel – Treasurer, HMD Liaison (Term Ends 2023) – candidate for reelection
- Troy Killorn – Secretary, HARC Liaison (Term Ends 2023) – candidate for reelection
- James Campagna – Member at Large (Term Ends 2024)
Ed Thomas is a new candidate. Ballots have not yet arrived in the mail. They will include all the candidate statements, but some candidate statements may be viewed online at https://neighborexchange.org/vote/
Each candidate made an opening statement.
Ed immediately declared victory! His goal was to make sure that an election occurred, and that HPOA members have an opportunity to make a thoughtful selection, rather than simply going with the status quo. Ed moved to Hiddenbrooke in 2012. He spent much of his career in the energy industry in association communications, marketing, and management, and owned an association management company for a number of years. He launched Hiddenbrooke Neighbor Exchange in January 2023 to increase resident engagement.
Bob has been a resident since 2001. He is the current Board Treasurer. His statement is also posted on Neighbor Exchange. He has a long history of serving the Hiddenbrooke Management District. Hiddenbrooke was originally designed as a Golf Course Resort with a master plan that the City did not allow to mature. Key points he knows about our community is that affect property values:
- Landscape is important to maintaining the beauty of the neighborhood that attracts new buyers.
- Effective communication regarding violations is essential, and he is working to help the inspector be more clear about noted concerns.
- More community involvement through activities will also attract new homebuyers and keep residents engaged and happy. Board support of informal activities of interest to the overall community through the message board and emails could facilitate more community involvement.
Troy has lived in Hiddenbrooke since 2017. He has served on the Hiddenbrooke Architectural Review Committee (HARC), and is now Board Secretary and Liaison to the HARC. He also emphasized that property values are significantly impacted by landscaping and community involvement. He is concerned that many people don’t know what the HARC does. He was disappointed that the Social Committee survey did not receive much response, but he’s glad to see the community doing things like Neighbor Exchange events to help people get out and meet each other while supporting local businesses.
Laurie moved to Hiddenbrooke in 2020. The Treasurer had just resigned and there was a call for applications. She submitted and was appointed to that position until the next election. She was elected in 2021, and has served as President since that time. Laurie has experience serving on the board of large HOAs in other areas, and finds the HPOA to have a simple structure because the HPOA does not own any property. Low annual assessments help keep the budget simple. Much of the Board’s responsibility revolves around negotiating with the city and making sure our funds are properly utilized doing things that help keep the property values up. She said she’s heard that people do not move to Hiddenbrooke looking for social interaction, other things attract them.
Following introductions, the event was opened to attendees to express concerns and ask questions of the candidates.
- Lack of Board communication is an issue; residents would like to know what is going on in the community. The monthly email and sparse postings on the marquis near the entrance are insufficient, and people won’t stop to read it anyway. Many people don’t even know the Board’s mission or purpose, or how their tax dollars return to the community. Zoom events will not attract participants to the Board events. Everyone is tired of it after spending all day on them. The monthly emails are not designed for engagement and do not attract readers or help them engage with the member portal (e.g., attachments could be made available behind the login so people would need to log in and see them, but would avoid clogging up the inbox).
Ed noted that numerous communication professionals live in Hiddenbrooke and could assist with:
- determining how people would like to be contacted,
- designing engaging reasons to use the websites more,
- exploring the technology Real Manage has to support the membership,
- forming special interest groups that are not a lifetime commitment, but perhaps resolve issues or provide education in a single event.
- Lack of access to facilities for community activities now that the golf club has completely stepped away from supporting the residents. Hiddenbrooke Park (Alder Drive) and the Children’s Park (Bennington Drive) were both discussed as potential locations, with diverse activities available. When the Easter Egg hunt was canceled at Hiddenbrooke Park, the Social Committee didn’t think to move it to the dry and accessible Children’s Park, but Laurie and others handed out candy at the welcome center instead.
- Need to have more diverse activities. Older people are looking for interaction, but there are many new families with young children also looking for activities for their children. Ethnic diversity should also be considered when planning and promoting activities, such as the Vallejo Filipino Festival.
Several examples were given by HPOA members of activities that were community driven and received HPOA support for announcements, as well as several that have not received HPOA announcement support but have been very successful. Perhaps small groups handing out flyers could be effective to let people know what’s going on, like has been done for the food drive, warm coat drive, taco Tuesday, etc. The guards could assist. Bob thought the Board could be a partner to the community by assisting with printing fliers, including mentions in the emails and on the marquis, as well as posting things online. Chuck Cochongco mentioned that safety is important and nametags or other official designations would be useful if people go door-to-door.
- Community activities provide a way to meet people (open houses, dinners, ice cream social) are places where people meet each other. Formal business sponsorship could help support more activities if done in a transparent way. Neighborhood Ambassadors could be appointed for each of the 7 neighborhoods, in a manner similar to the Neighborhood Watch and they could support the Welcome Committee and Social Committee in helping people feel included and encouraging participation.
- Interest groups could be promoted by the Board to facilitate activities using the marquis and emails without the Board actually managing them or forming new committees–simply helping interested people meet would be a first step. Posting online a list of upcoming activities of many types would be helpful and could drive people to the member portal, where they could share information. Joseph suggested the marquis could be used more often and perhaps it is time for it to be updated to be more visible for cars entering the neighborhood, and encouraging a full stop to read the notices.
- The Resident Portal is underutilized, and many people don’t even know it exists to pay assessments online and could even have been used for electronic voting. Some don’t even know the main website exists and has public information about the HPOA available: https://hiddenbrookeonline.org/. It contains governing documents, HARC information, and reports along with other things.
- National Night Out would be a good opportunity to have tables for the various committees (HARC, HMD) and potential interest groups (e.g., yoga, kid’s bike rodeo, yard sale, bingo, pool parties, walking) to evaluate interest and answer questions. Laurie mentioned that tables for committees wouldn’t be needed, because everyone can go to the website. She did suggest that the board email address could be used as a sign-up opportunity, along with other technology.
- Board bureaucracy needs to be avoided when it comes to social engagement. Not everything needs a committee.
Everyone agreed that the evening was informative and useful.
Addendum from Laurie Foster on June 2, 2023: We will hand out flyers at the Welcome Center on Sunday afternoon to try to get the information to the community about the Ice Cream Social. The information about the ICS is also on the ‘message board’. We hope for a good turnout for the event. We can have a few people there with clipboards to ask about events of interest and to ask for potential volunteers. If someone wants to help with that effort please use the board email address to let me know of your willingness to volunteer. firstname.lastname@example.org I plan to ask the Board to consider adding a new committee for HPOA, “Community Outreach Committee”. This committee would make contacts with the community to determine what activities might be of interest to residents. And, the committee could locate volunteers to assist with various types of activities. For example, it was suggested that some residents might want to gather at a park for Yoga, and we might want/need to find out if we have a resident willing to lead a Yoga group. It is true that I don’t think many residents moved to Hiddenbrooke in search of a very active social calendar. If that is a priority there are other communities set up to provide multiple activities on a daily/weekly basis. Since we don’t have a clubhouse it is very difficult for us to host indoor activities. We will continue to host activities at the park(s), will try harder to include the park at Bennington/Waterfall in our plans.
Addendum from Ed Thomas on June 2, 2023: I am very disappointed that Laurie Foster prevented this Meet the Candidate Night event from being publicized on the message board and in community-wide emails in her role as HPOA Board President. This is one example of bad governance for Laurie to not recuse herself from decision-making on election matters since she is a candidate. It is an internationally-accepted governance practice for decisions on election matters to be left to the board members who are not running for reelection to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. I appreciate the 2 board members who advocated on my behalf in email correspondence. Their email exchange with the other Board members and myself cites Section 4.20 in the CC&Rs Master Declaration published online at https://hiddenbrookeonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/119_2019-12-06-Amended-CCRS-recorded.pdf that states: “Signs as approved by the HARC and/or Board for a purpose reasonably related to the affairs of the Association.” Laurie overruled them and she has sole possession of the message board lettering. Further, I have had no official response from the Board after two requests for “equal access to association media” as set forth in Article 1.1 of the HPOA Election Rules as published at https://hiddenbrookeonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/119_2021-Election-Rules-ADOPTED-SIGNED.pdf . A prompt, positive response to my official request would have allowed me to promote the event “on my own” via a community-wide email. It added further insult for me to see the message board left blank on June 1 (see photo) and to receive a Board email of upcoming events on June 2, the day after the Candidate event. I have told Laurie and the Board that her actions have the appearance of a clear conflict of interest in election matters that she refuses to publicly acknowledge. Yesterday, I emailed all the Board members to tell them that I planned to make my governance concerns about these matters public. I’ve had no further response from Laurie beyond the Addendum that she provided above. If elected, I hope to bring more transparency to how the Board governs and how the Board officers fulfill their roles.