Squires and Stags draws large crowd to candidate forum
By Scott Armentrout
The October 5 breakfast meeting of Squires and Stags, held before a large crowd at The Clubhouse on Lake Sconti, featured the four candidates vying for two upcoming positions on the POA board of directors. These candidates, listed alphabetically, are Grant Grimes, Lou Stephenson, Patricia Stimmel and Steve Wilson. This is the first candidate forum for the 2018 POA election. There will be two other forums with questions and answers to be held at the Community Coffee on Saturday Oct. 20 at 9 a.m. and a wine and cheese forum on Sunday Nov. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m., both at the clubhouse.
Each of the four candidates gave a prepared opening statement introducing his or herself and setting forth their general background and experience before arriving in Big Canoe and after. Following these statements there was a 30-minute question and answer session.
‘Community not resort,’ a common theme
If there was one common theme throughout all the presentations, it was that each of these candidates was in favor of maintaining the “mountain community” nature of Big Canoe and each was opposed to the thought of a “resort” within these gates. There was little debate of what constitutes a “resort” or how the makings of a resort might arise here, but it was clear that the very term “resort” is anathema to each of these four candidates. The assembled breakfast crowd did not seem to disagree with this approach.
As might be expected in a community such as Big Canoe, each of the candidates offered a unique resume` of past experience before arrival in Big Canoe. Each has detailed this in public announcements in Smoke Signals and on public media. In summary: Lou Stevenson was involved with small business involving both retail and construction, then as a fiscally conservative voice within the Federal General Services Administration. Patricia Stimmel was a project manager at IBM after having experience for several federal agencies. Grant Grimes’ experience was in real estate, accounting and finance, including the construction of an office building in the Buckhead area of Atlanta and residential development. Steve Wilson was the senior partner in a law firm before coming here and has been a member of the POA board for the past three years, serving as vice president under President Phil Anderson in 2017 and 2018.
Among the concepts put forth by Lou Stephenson in her opening remarks was that Big Canoe needs to focus it expenditures on projects with “value engineering,” getting the best work for the least money without cheapening any project. She advocated for a “residential wilderness community with a limited base of creative amenities, not a resort.” This theme seemed to echo throughout the whole discussion. Steve Wilson spoke of the items which had been accomplished by the board during his tenure. Among these are construction of the new fire station, development of the land use task force, water plan, internet solutions, recruitment of Jill Philmon as new general manager and Jasmine Ilazovic as clubhouse manager.
Patricia Stimmel advocated for a more efficient management system for Big Canoe. Stating, “We need to find a path that rewards ideas for savings and incentivizes the employees to think that way. We need a new frugal direction.” She added that the POA should slow down spending, stating, “Is more really where we want to go?” Grant Grimes spoke of the applicability of his direct work experience in development and negotiations to the work as a POA board member, saying that he had no allegiance to any particular person or group here. He stated that his goal is to “. . . do the right thing for Big Canoe, to continue to be the pre-eminent mountain community that we are.” He added that Big Canoe is a community first with some resort-like amenities and said he would argue that “we’re not a resort, we just have some resort amenities.”
Where should Big Canoe be in 10 years?
A question was asked from the audience as to where Big Canoe should be in 10 years and what the average age of residents might be. Grant Grimes replied that this community should continue to be the premier mountain community as it is now. Lou Stephenson said we should stay on the present path and expect that we can attract younger families to keep this community vibrant and fresh. Patricia Stimmel quoted Tom Cousins’ comment that “The only way we can mess this up is to change it.” Steve Wilson said we need to continue to maintain the right balance between “resort like amenities and the community life style that we all love.” He noted that with improved internet service the community should see more younger families who work via telecommuting. He said these families will likely need larger homes with room for children.
In response to a question regarding employee housing for those employees who are not from the immediate area and could not afford to rent or buy housing in Big Canoe, all the candidates seemed to agree that something needed to be done. The idea of locating some rental housing on Hubbard Road was discussed as was renting space in existing houses within Big Canoe.
Are changes needed?
Another questioner asked the candidates what they would each like to undo or change in the community and, conversely, what they’d like to see done here. Grant Grimes’ response was that he would avoid promoting amenities to people outside the gates. Amenities should be for those inside the gates, he added. Lou Stephenson said she was “Up to here with accommodating weddings.” She mentioned having heard that some mention of a “boutique type hotel” here and that she would oppose any such plan. As to changes she would promote she stated that she did not think we are as intense about preserving the natural environment as she recalls when first arriving here.
Patricia Stimmel stated, “What I want is what my pulse tells me the rest of the community wants.” She added that she’s not in favor of a spa or a zip line and favors improving the pool and beach. She would like to see Big Canoe be the first community that has turned root balls into beautiful forests--a “stumpery.” “Let’s take care of what we have, pay down the debt,” she added. Steve Wilson said all owners should start with scrubbing our permanent guest lists. People on these lists come in to Big Canoe, use the facilities and then go home with no ownership responsibilities. He noted that we have limited facilities for weddings and banquets now, but may have an additional venue for these events in the next 18 months. He added that we need to be sure that when we grow the community we don’t do that at the expense of property owners.
Consensus and property values
A questioner asked about how each candidate would react if they disagreed with a management action. Grant Grimes responded that it was each member’s duty to work within the confines of the board. If the board is concerned about any action taken by management that action has to be addressed with management. Lou Stephenson responded that residents want to know where we (board members) stand, and that it might be worthwhile for each member to discuss his or her position on individual issues publicly each month. Patricia Stimmel declared that it would be the obligation to let management know of a board member’s disagreement. The POA is required to support the general manager and the GM must be accountable, she said. Steve Wilson stated the board has oversight responsibility for the GM and throughout Big Canoe. He stated further that he agreed with what the other candidates had said.
The topic of property values was raised in the question and answer period. There was a discussion among the candidates as to how best to market properties here with the demise of Big Canoe Realty’s marketing program. One suggestion from Steve Wilson was to encourage medium and small companies to hold meetings in Big Canoe and make use of the facilities and amenities here, thereby exposing the attendees to life here. Patricia Stimmel said that the natural beauty of Big Canoe can sell itself to whoever visits here. Lou Stephenson felt that electronic advertising would be most effective, maybe supplementing with advertising agencies. Grant Grimes said we each should promote the lifestyle and feature available to all who reside here.
Ballots to be mailed November 9
The POA board election schedule is as follows: Ballots will be mailed out to all property owners on November 9. To be valid, a ballot must be mailed in ample time to reach the offices of the independent auditors by Wednesday Nov. 28. Pre-addressed envelopes are supplied with all ballots to property owners. Results as tabulated confidentially by the independent auditors will be announced at the POA’s annual meeting held in the chapel on Saturday Dec. 1 at 10 a.m.
Squires and Stags (which soon will have to “adjust” its name to accommodate the number of ladies in attendance – Squires and Duchesses/Countesses?) meets the first Friday of each month at 7:45 a.m. for breakfast and a presentation of a timely topic of general interest.