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Jeff Matheson promoted as new General Manager

Director of Resident Services succeeds retiring CEO Tim O’Keefe

 

By Ann Peterson

Managing editor

 

(Tuesday, Dec. 13) After a lengthy nationwide search, the GRF Board decided the best leader to move Rossmoor into its future is the one who happens to know Rossmoor the best.

The Board unanimously voted to promote Jeff Matheson, director of Resident Services, as the new general manager, starting Jan. 1. He replaces retiring CEO Tim O’Keefe, whose last day will be Jan. 6.

“We conducted a nationwide search yielding 31 applicants for this important position. After an extensive vetting process of qualified candidates, it was clear that Jeff, with his knowledge of Rossmoor, is the best candidate for the job,” GRF President Dwight Walker said.

“He knows how Rossmoor operates and has been delivering exemplary services to residents for 12 years,” Walker added. “He also plays a key role in managing major capital projects that are important to the vitality of Rossmoor as a community. Jeff clearly rose to the top of the field of candidates, and the Board is confident that he will provide the leadership to keep Rossmoor a vibrant community.”

The four-month search and hiring process officially ended Tuesday, with the Board announcing Matheson’s promotion. He has signed a four-year contract to serve as general manager – a title change from CEO that the Board decided is more in line with the job’s responsibilities.

Matheson has worked as director of resident services in Rossmoor since 2010. In that role, he has overseen completion of the Event Center, a major renovation of the Fitness Center, adoption of the Facilities Master Plan and the ongoing water resilience efforts. He also directs capital projects for the GRF and supervises the senior directors for Golf and Public Safety and the managers for the Recreation, Counseling, Custodial, Transportation and Aquatics departments, as well as the Fitness Center.

Having a front-row seat with some of the biggest amenities in Rossmoor prompted Matheson to apply for the top job.

“I wanted the job really because this is a fantastic community,” Matheson said. “Everywhere you go, there are people engaged in activities, which is inspiring. I come from a recreation background and planning background. To see people participating in things and using facilities that you planned is top notch.”

He added: “The other reason  is the solid senior management team that is in place. I know that with  their support we will be able to deliver on the needs of the community.”

Matheson’s professional background also met another important criterion for the Board – having a candidate with experience in city government. Matheson, who has a master’s degree in recreation administration, served 10 years as director of recreation and community services in Dixon. In his final two years, he also assumed the role as Dixon’s director of public works.

“City government experience is important because of the structure of the Board and the way we work with the general manager role,” GRF Vice President Leanne Hamaji said.

Hamaji has worked closely with Matheson in her role as the Planning Committee chair, which included the drafting and adoption of the Facilities Master Plan this year. Matheson’s work with the Planning Committee and the continuity he brings to his new position are why he earned her vote.

“He’s a known entity with a wealth of knowledge and experience,” Hamaji said. “We are trusting this important role to someone who has delivered on some of the most important projects in Rossmoor.”

Previous experience managing an active senior community and a proven ability to effectively lead were two important qualifications identified by residents in a survey conducted as part of the search.

In that survey, residents also identified wildfire resilience, drought resilience and public safety as the three most important near-term priorities for Rossmoor.

“Jeff has been involved deeply in all three of those things,” Walker noted.

The survey was a key tool used by the Search Task Force, consisting of Walker, Hamaji, two senior staff members and former GRF president Bob Kelso, who were tasked with helping to find O’Keefe’s replacement.

In August, the task force interviewed three recruiting firms and eventually selected CEO Heather Renschler from Ralph Andersen & Associates to begin the nationwide search.

Renschler advertised the position with industry and local government sources that included Community Associations Institute, League of Women in Government and the California Association of Community Managers, among others. She received 31 applications (23 men and eight women) from five states beyond California, including as far as Connecticut and Maryland.

She then narrowed the group down to seven, looking at current and recent leadership roles, including staff and budget oversight with consideration for size, scope and complexity. The task force then conducted Zoom interviews with five candidates (three men and two women, including one of color), narrowing the list to three finalists. One finalist withdrew from consideration for personal reasons.

Matheson and an external candidate then met over two days with the Board and senior managers, which included formal interviews and 10-minute presentations. The full senior manager team endorsed hiring Matheson but was not present for the Board’s 90-minute discussion about the candidates or subsequent vote.

Although O’Keefe was not part of the interview or hiring process, he recommended promoting Matheson because of his “intimate understanding of Rossmoor” and his ability to seamlessly transition into the role. He also praised Matheson’s ability to withstand the high level of complaints inherent in the job.

“He’s calm. He’s smart. He’s patient. He listens, and he executes. Those are all essential for anybody doing this kind of work,” O’Keefe said. “He’s already exhibiting these traits before he’s even sat in this chair.”

Matheson said he recognizes the challenges facing Rossmoor but also the opportunities, from enhancing online services, access control and security, program and facility improvements and the stability returning after the “tumultuous time” from the pandemic.

Asked what three areas he wants to tackle first, he quickly rattled off a half dozen. Among them are reorganizing staff to fill the position he is departing and address upcoming retirements, continuing ongoing projects and working on the relationships with the Mutuals by identifying common goals.

“We’re two separate organizations, but we’re intimately reliant on each other,” Matheson said. “We’re here to serve the same residents.”

He is also cognizant of a concern that was “loud and clear” in the survey of residents – maintaining control of spending and the coupon.

“We need to address that moving forward to ensure Rossmoor remains affordable and yet still delivers the services that are expected,” he said.

Walker said Matheson has the experience and resources to transition into his new role quickly. “Jeff takes the reins of an outstanding senior manager team that strongly supports him, which will allow him to take the role of general manager and be ready to go immediately.”

 

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