During our recent interview for this article, POA Board Director John Rothengast reaffirmed my conviction that Fairfield Harbour is in excellent hands. His passion and dedication come through loud and clear, and combined with his previous life experience, he provides the kind of volunteerism that benefits everyone in our community. He is the Director of Strategic Planning and is a liaison to the Safety and Security Committee, the Road Gang Committee, and the Harbour Club Committee.
His mantra is "Numbers Matter." After graduating with a BBA in Accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York, he went on to a 40-year career using his accounting and finance skills. His jobs included ten years as a Controller at Kurt Wayne Inc. in Manhattan, sold to Tiffany and Company and Neiman Marcus, and getting secret clearance to work on a $25 million yearly budget for the B1B bomber.
Before moving to Fairfield Harbour seven years ago, John served on the Board of Directors of his community in Montauk, New York, for nine years. During that time, his Board reversed a poor financial situation. After retiring and moving here, he had no intention of serving on a Board again. However, with the devastation of Hurricane Florence, and the interruptions caused by COVID, he was concerned about property values in Fairfield Harbour, especially since he owns two lots. He didn't want to see our property values go down and strongly desired to build the new community center, Harbour Club. He threw his hat in the ring and was elected to our Board two years ago. Now the Board is doing its best to reverse the trend that was happening here during Hurricane Florence and COVID. As POA Attorney Hope Carmichael said at one of their Board meetings, "There are two types of communities, those that are growing and those that are dying." John and the Board want to be the former!
John's expertise is in bringing business-like and financial acumen to Board decisions. There is a constant necessity to make decisions about allocating funds. The goals of the entire Board are to keep our community competitive with other areas around us while keeping dues in line.
A primary goal is to get the golf course and restaurant self-sufficient so that more revenue can go to amenities like a golf cart and walking paths, boat docks, and tennis and pickleball courts. Last year, the five-member Harbour Club Committee completed a survey comparing five similar local communities and found that Fairfield Harbour was one of the largest communities, but our dues were among the lowest. John assisted the committee in the consolidation and financial presentation for the annual budget and sang their praises for their work. Hope Carmichael agreed with the committee's findings, saying that of the 1800 POAs she services in Virginia and the Carolinas, we are one of the biggest and have some of the lowest dues overall.
To keep competitive locally, John believes we need a Community Center that provides a place to bring people together. The Harbour Club Committee has been working diligently, narrowing a field of 19 architects to four. A final decision should be forthcoming in the next month or so and will be publicized when it is made. After that, quarterly updates will be provided to the community. John is proud to be serving on this Board. He says they all have different skills and a good mix that work well together. He also is pleased that all of the items on previous wish lists from 2015 and 2017 have been completed except for the Harbour Club.
He claims that when you run for the Board, you must "put your personal interests and growth of the community first." He also says you must expend three times the energy you thought you would. It appears that John is truly living up to those beliefs. However, that doesn't mean that he doesn't have time to enjoy many of the activities offered in Fairfield Harbour. He participates in the Sports Car Club, pickleball, Boys Night Out, and the New Bern Newcomers Golf Club, where a different course is played each month, providing an opportunity to see other communities' golf courses and Community Centers firsthand. His other hobbies include baseball, music, and American History. He has read a biography of every founding father of the US! His wife Deb retired in February and pursued a hobby of photography. They have one grown daughter, Tiffany, who lives in Ohio.
One of John's concerns has to do with social media. He wants to clear up misperceptions/miscommunications from some who make uninformed declarations. We have a set of DORs by which the Board has to abide. They do their best within their parameters and try to keep things as transparent as feasible. He encourages residents to familiarize themselves with the DORs so they will be informed. He also requests that those on social media try to be positive. Negative comments often go outside the community and are a detriment to us all. He says, "Think twice before you hit the 'send' button. It can give an adverse, usually unfair, impression of our community."
John also encourages residents to volunteer for one of our many committees. In particular, they still need more people for the Road Gang. Dick Steward is now chairing that committee that has existed for 25 years, and some of his volunteers have been on the committee that entire time! There are 25 zones, each requiring about 45 minutes to clean during the last weekend of each month. John still picks up several zones and is proud to say that he did that job at the beach when he was 18 and is now doing it again because he wants the first appearance upon entering our community to be good. Other committees need more volunteers as well. Using volunteers saves the Board from having to pay for services. Many talented and retired residents in the community still have a lot to offer. John implores, "Please volunteer if it means something to you."
Fairfield Harbour is so fortunate to have many talented people like John willing to give of themselves to make our community a better place for us all. We salute him and thank him for his enthusiasm, dedication, and efforts!