Craig Allsopp, new President of the Quechee Lakes Landowners Association (QLLA) Board of Trustees, and I sat down recently on a beautiful fall day in Quechee to talk about his new role.
Allsopp and wife, Jo, moved to Quechee full-time in 2007. Allsopp describes moving here as “a bit of a ‘bucket list’ lifestyle change.” They had always liked Vermont, enjoyed ski vacations at Okemo, and summer visits to Woodstock and the Upper Valley area. Both are avid golfers, and that was the Quechee Lakes lure. They visited in 2005 for a weekend, and ended up buying a lot on Fletcher Lane, excited to build a house and eventually move here full-time.
In 2007, the “Bob Vila house” on Willard Road came on the market. (Yes – you can view the building of the Quechee Vermont Farmhouse by Bob Vila in 2001 at www.bobvila.com.) “It was the right price at what seemed the right time, so we bought it,” he says. “Little did we know a real estate crash was unfolding. We were lucky enough to sell the lot on Fletcher. I wish I could say the same for our house in New Jersey. So much for planning.”
Eventually they did sell their New Jersey house and there was no turning back. “We really like it here,” he says. “And so does our family. What a great place for our kids and grandkids to visit.”
The Allsopps met playing softball at college—Davis & Elkins in Elkins, West Virginia. They married after graduation, and then moved to State College in Pennsylania where Allsopp went to graduate school at Penn State. They raised their three children—Drew, now in Rhode Island, Emily in Los Angeles and Erik in Portland, Oregon—in Pennington, New Jersy. Allsopp worked for Dow Jones, and was later CEO of a small publishing company. His background in journalism and business set the stage for his work now—advising small business owners on growth strategies. The Allsopps have two grandsons thanks to Drew and his wife, Lindsay—Elijah, 5 and Jasper, 1.
The Allsopps became immersed in Quechee soon after making it home. Jo volunteered at the library, and served on the Golf Committee. Allsopp joined the Strategic Planning Committee in 2009. “Jo and her friends ran most of the volunteer organizations in our town back in New Jersey,” he says, “and I coached kids soccer, and served on the boards of our local swim and golf clubs.”
His philosophy centers on trying to add value. “I’ve worked with small teams, and managed far-flung groups. I figure if I can identify things that need to be done and think I can help solve a problem, I’ll get involved and give it a shot.”
Allsopp was on the QLLA Greens Committee in 2014 when he was asked to run for the Board. He took over as treasurer in 2015, and then president this July. He chuckles at his time as treasurer. “I was an English major. I’ve got a working knowledge of finance, but Jo won’t let me near the checkbook at home,” he says, adding, “it’s a good thing we’ve got a good accounting staff to do the heavy lifting.”
Role of Board of Trustees
Allsopp explains that his view of the Board’s role is to set direction, allocate resources, and monitor performance. “QLAA is a $10 million operation with lots of moving parts,” he says. “I’m glad we have skilled managers and dedicated staffers to run the day to day.”
As president, he believes the Board’s biggest challenge is balancing the needs of different member constituencies. “QLLA is like a jigsaw puzzle with 1375 pieces [members]; it’s not always easy to make them fit together.” He says he always wants the Board to be “member-centric” in its decision-making.
“We want to get participation up,” he says, noting the member survey in 2014 revealed that barely more than 50% of members actively used QLLA amenities. “I think we’re starting to make headway with our policies and programs in areas like golf, tennis, fitness, and ski, but we’re still not where we want to be.”
He notes usage of the new pool and increases in the number of golf rounds played since 2010 as positive signs. “There were times when I had to park on the grass this summer because the lot was full,” he says. “That more than anything—plus all the kids at the tennis and golf camps—says we’re on the right track.”
Allsopp also cites increases in property transfers—to 68 through September versus 59 for the same period last year—and meaningful developer activity as encouraging signs. Taurus made a business decision to resume investing in Quechee, and has five homes in the works now with plans to build 10 to 20 new homes a year in the foreseeable future. That’s a big change.
There are also some interesting capital projects underway. The Board has authorized updates to the locker rooms and Deck Bar to make the member experience more enjoyable. And the playground at Lake Pinneo will be replaced with modern and safer equipment.
“I consider these to be high-impact, relatively low-cost improvements,” he says. “I think we are in pretty good shape otherwise. The Facilities Planning Committee is looking to provide more space in the Base Lodge, but as far as big projects like the pool there is nothing in the short term. This will give us a chance to bank some money for the next big project.”
He says overall QLLA is in good financial shape. “It looks like we will end 2016 ahead of budget and, thanks to previous Boards, we have a solid plan for capital improvements. “
“I think back—since we moved to Vermont, QLLA has endured a major recession, and a 100-year flood [Tropical Storm Irene]. We’ve made millions of dollars in improvements since then without any extra assessments. That’s pretty remarkable.”
Speaking of Irene, I asked him about the Board’s view on the pocket parks issue and other town related matters. He said the town and FEMA—with prodding from Senator Leahey’s office—are trying to sort out their differences on the park design. Everything else is status quo.
Allsopp says he and Jo are giving serious thought to getting an RV and traveling the country in the near future. Since moving to Vermont, they have taken golf trips to Scotland, Ireland, and Canada; and made visits to Switzerland and to Hawaii to celebrate their 40th anniversary. “There still are lots of courses to play, and mountains to ski,” he says.
Meanwhile, he has a new job this year as a ski instructor at Killington. He won’t spend all his free time skiing there though. Elijah is ready for the chair lift at Quechee. “He was asking me this summer when he was at Kid’s Camp—which he loved—what the cows were doing on the ski hill. I explained that they share the space with us in the winter when they are in their warm barn.” It’s the magic of Quechee!