By Troy D. Lesan

It’s Sunday March 6 @ 2PM: As VVA Board Treasurer, I’m feeling pretty good about the upcoming Dredge Committee and Finance Committee Presentations at the Annual Meeting. Both will project a positive picture. At year-end 2021, the VVA Financial Summary Sheet shows $2,000,000 in reserves – even after the expense of $377,000 on the new silt basin construction, and a totally upgraded Safety Boat fleet – with no debt!

Yep, feelin pretty good, but then, in the recognition ceremony for Shad Mort, who is changing roles after 17 years as Lake Manager, Board Member Mark Leggett drops a “bombshell.” In one fell swoop, he stealthily extracts a small black bag and announces that the VVA is awarding Shad with a new Rolex!

A Rolex! Suddenly, I’m freaking out. Shad has been a great Lake Manager, a Rock of Gibraltar for the past 17 years – but a Rolex? Those things are very expensive! I’ve seen em listed for $50,000, $100,000 and even higher! What about our budget? Our budget – that Paula Hepinstall and staff worked so hard on and rewrote again and again, until they had it right. Then, Leggett, in a moment of reassuring clarity, goes full disclosure. The Rolex is a fake. He got it from a guy who met a guy behind a Greyhound Bus Station who rolled up his sleeve to reveal an arm loaded with bright shiny watches. We all know that guy. We’ve all met him at some point in our lives. Turns out that the glittering Rolex he offers us was purchased at a nice discount ($19.99 I bet), but it doesn’t tell the correct time. The hands are frozen and can’t move forward. Oh well, that’s OK, I’m thinking. Technology being what it is, most of us look at our Smart Phones for the time. My acute paranoia subsides. The budget is safe for the moment.

I digress. So Shad is then presented with a beautifully crafted wall-sized, polished steel map of Lake Viking made by Billy Hunter, the VVA Manager of Maintenance. It’s a true work of art, and Shad was appreciative. The Annual Meeting was Shad’s last official act as Lake Manager. He also thanked Sally Zerbe who had retired from the office, earlier in 2021, after many years of service. When I think of Shad I visualize the last 17 years (which all went by like a flash) when Shad and staff plowed snow on week-ends (it seems snow always comes on week-ends). Or after those all too common five inch rains, when he was out on the high water (which also seems to come on week-ends) with the crew on the old work-boat. Our very reliable and versatile Maintenance Crew often spent a full day or more, pulling in all of the drift and huge logs and tree-stumps that had washed into the lake from all corners in our 9200 acre watershed. Shad was a hands-on guy; you might have seen him running an excavator, a dump truck, endlessly bird-dogging tax-sale lots at the Courthouse, or going up and down the steep bank on the dam’s backside on a mower. Thanks for everything Shad. It’s been a good ride.

Back to the Agenda: there is an opinion, a critique if you will, that the VVA Meetings are staged events, but hey, I don’t mind. I remember the old days, when some meetings were long drawn-out affairs fraught with contention and mayhem and lasting till way past dark.  I prefer the “staged events,” because when we have all our ducks in a row with Town Halls in advance, the shorter meetings are much more tolerable.

The Annual Meeting also spent time recognizing members. Example: Mark Leggett is stepping off the Board after thirteen years. Most of us who have served for even a single term on the Board or have regularly attended monthly meetings are astounded at the thought of the 156 meetings Mark has participated in as a Board Member. The Lake won’t be the same without him, fake Rolexes and all. He and Missy and their group’s Church auctions under the big tent were a totally awesome sight to behold.

Also recognized was Paula Hepinstall for her work as a VOLUNTEER on the Dredge and Finance Committees. Paula has vast sets and subsets of numbers dancing around in her head from budget line items, retained earnings calculations, profit and loss statements, and journal entries for Dredge Fuel usage – and her number crunching skills have been of invaluable assistance to the Office Staff during this past year of massive transition.

Dennis Schlaiss, who has been a VOLUNTEER fireman forever and also pitches in at almost every Activities Committee event, and will even play his guitar if asked, was also recognized. Earlier I mentioned the advantage of shorter meetings, but if there was one part of the agenda that we could justifiably expand, it would be more recognition of our members. Times are changing fast; faster than ever, but the Lake’s future will always be reliant on the bedrock of our informed and engaged membership, whom we sometimes don’t take enough time to recognize.

It really was a unique Annual Meeting, and thanks to a supportive membership, a very good one.

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