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Jeff Matheson: Keeping amenities strong, affordable is top 2024 goal

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


As Jeff Matheson finished his first year as Rossmoor’s general manager, the News sat down with him to ask him about surprises he encountered, both good and bad, during 2023; about the most imposing challenges he and Rossmoor faced this year; some expected challenges in the near future; and the balance between keeping Rossmoor an affordable place to live, and one that attracts people to move here.

Q: Did you encounter any major surprises on the job since becoming general manager on Jan. 1, 2023?

“First, the storms in January — the atmospheric rivers, trees falling, the deaths and injuries, all the damage … Mother Nature showed herself big time, and it presented some real challenges.

“Then, there was the post-COVID, post-storms rebound. Recreation returned to normal in the second half of the year. Rossmoor returned to being an ‘active adult community’ again, and that was phenomenal.

Also, the turnover in staff, including among the senior managers – a lot of new faces have made for some significant adjustments.”

Q: What was the best thing to happen in Rossmoor in 2023?

“Having things getting back to normal after the (COVID-19) pandemic. That’s the heart and soul of what this community is about — the activity level, of the residents and of GRF. Having that happen for our residents’ having that come back, is key.”

Q: How has the GRF management restructuring you instituted early this year worked out so far?

“It’s still a work in progress, but I think it will continue to evolve. We will need to fill Kelly (Berto)’s position (see story in this week’s News), and we hope to give that position more focus on service — clubs, bus operations, facility reservations will all receive a greater focus within the new structure.”

Q: Are any more management structure changes planned?

“No more major changes are foreseen. We’re looking for a recreation manager; that spot has been vacant since Kelly’s promotion to senior manager of resident services. And we’re looking to replace Kelly in that position.”

Q: What’s shaping up as Rossmoor’s greatest challenge in 2024?

“The insurance problem, which has far-reaching implications. If we can’t provide 100% value coverage, that could potentially impact buyers’ ability to move in here and get a mortgage.

“We’ve been meeting with Fannie Mae and with Freddie Mac (enterprises sponsored by Congress to help fund and enable mortgages through the secondary market), and they seem open to conversations. We’re feeling good about our Firewise USA efforts, the upcoming “shaded fuel break” to be carved out on the ridges (above Rossmoor). We’ve heard directly from insurance underwriters that this makes a difference.

Also, we have challenges with (other) rapidly rising costs and keeping Rossmoor affordable presents a challenge that will need a lot of discussion and focus. Maintaining what we have and stay “affordable” is a challenging dynamic in the Bay Area.”

Q: Have there been any changes regarding your main management goals since you became GM?

“No, not really. The main goal of this position is to keep the amenities and the activities working strong. That’s why people move here, and that’s what makes this a special place. People move here for the level of services, and the activities. It’s all here, and I work to maintain that, to keep this an attractive place.

The 1.6 percent price jump in the GRF coupon (for 2024) is a ‘goals’ effort, but at some point, where’s the breaking point going to be in maintaining (low) costs while maintaining good levels of service? That will be a big challenge, and a goal, moving forward.”

Q: Did all that rain in early 2023 help take pressure of Rossmoor’s search for new future water sources?

“I don’t envision us returning to plans for the SRWF project, the Satellite Water Recycling Facility, in the near future,” first proposed in 2018 and shelved in 2022. “But conservation is still important, still top of mind, for (Rossmoor) residents.”

Q: Do Rossmoor residents seem to be taking your call to volunteerism to heart?

“I think there’s a lot of good intent, but we need to continue to beat the drum on that. This is a volunteer-based community, in terms of governance, club leadership and everything else. It’s an ongoing effort, but with us coming out of the pandemic, we’ve got to get folks engaged.”