River Hills begins search for new general manager

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comApril 9, 2013 

— River Hills residents are looking for a new manager, but they’re leaving plenty of time to say goodbye to their current one.

Martha Simmons announced late last year that she’ll be retiring from the River Hills Community Association. Now the search for someone new begins, though Simmons will stay on until the end of the year.

Lon Adams, association president, is hopeful the last month or two of the year will be a transition period, with Simmons helping the incoming leader. But right now, it’s still early in the search.

“We just started,” Adams said.

This month, Simmons begins her 29th year with River Hills. When she started it was a “one girl office,” working from a sales trailer at the maintenance building. The past five years as general manager, she’s helped grow the association to include 33 full- or part-time employees and a $1.5 to $2 million annual budget. The association has its own office now, too.

“It has become the hub of the community,” Simmons said.

Several more projects await her final months in office. There is the repaving of Heritage Drive, and a new park at Heritage and Honeysuckle. There’s “always road work to do,” though the new manager will have a few tasks cleared from the table. Reserve studies for community roads, equipment and trees are needed every five years, but they were all done in the past year.

“I just look forward to being able to do whatever I want to do,” Simmons said of retirement. “I’m going to miss my job. I’m going to miss the people. It has been a wonderful experience.”

Ricki Alley moved to River Hills just ahead of Simmons, coming to know her voice before her face. Back then the EMS service, where Alley volunteered, and the community association shared the same radio frequency.

“You would hear Martha every once in a while calling one of the maintenance guys,” she said.

About 15 years ago, Alley served a term as association president. She describes Simmons as doing the “lion’s share” of work for the neighborhood regardless of her title, and someone who made another person’s concern seem “like the most important part of her schedule.”

“She was always a consistent factor in running River Hills,” Alley said. “She never did anything halfway.”

Now the Clover resident wants to spend more time with six older siblings in her native Spartanburg, and with her vanloads of grandchildren. She hopes to spend more time working with her Gastonia, N.C., church, too. But she’ll also offer any help or advice to the new general manager.

“Be yourself and be honest,” Simmons said. “This community likes honesty. I’ve told the community they have to be open and honest, too. It’s a two-way street.”

With its own road maintenance, security and other unique features, River Hills can feel like it’s own little world at times, Simmons said, which is part of what she’ll hate leaving.

“Every day is a surprise,” she said. “Every day is different. That’s the beauty of the job. It’s not a boring job by any means. You don’t have time to get bored.”

Simmons enjoyed her time in River Hills too much to say she’s thrilled with the next life chapter. But as she’ll be living so close, she can’t imagine she won’t be back on occasion to reconnect with the neighborhood.

“I don’t think I’ll have any problem getting in the gate,” she said.

Resumes for the position are being accepted. A 10-member association search team is looking for a community service-oriented person who can plan, budget and present those plans to residents in 1,100 homes. Visit riverhillsplantation.com for more information.

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