Welcome to High Desert Living
Reminders and Notices
Voting Members Informed by Board that Vote to Change Bylaws Failed
Voting Members learned at their quarterly meeting January 23 that the Board declared the recent vote by Voting Members to amend the bylaws as “officially failed.” Voting members were asked to approve changes to the by-laws to meet state law. They were also given the option to individually accept or reject two optional provisions. Clay Wright, Board president, told Voting Members that 43.9 percent voted in favor of the change and 37.1 percent against. Since High Desert bylaws can only be changed by a 75 percent vote in favor, the change to the bylaws failed. “At this time, the Board has no plans to conduct another vote,” he said, citing the expense and time to mail ballots, collect and tally the votes.
The Board proposed one optional change to allow quicker revisions to bylaws without going through the process of a full vote each time the state passed a change that did not agree with the High Desert bylaws. The association is, according to its own bylaws, required to abide by state law. Allowing the Board to pass changes bringing the association and its bylaws into compliance with state law would streamline the process, Board members felt. The Board would not be permitted to change the bylaws for any other reason except to bring the association into compliance with state law.
“The Board will continue to follow state-mandated changes to the bylaws,” Clay told Voting Members. “As a result, our governing documents will remain in conflict with state law.” One of the changes that are in conflict with the law involves state-required notification to homeowners when a policy change is under consideration by the Board. “We are publishing notification online right now even though it is not required under our current bylaws,” Clay said. The state also requires open Board meetings which are not required in the bylaws. Board meetings are currently open, Clay told Voting Members. Violations notifications should be 14 days, according to state law. High Desert, which used to give 30 and then 10 days notification, now gives 14 days notification.
Voting Members asked if there were any consequences to High Desert if the bylaws remain unchanged. Clay said as long as the association follows state law anyway, there will probably be no official problem, but he could not guarantee that.
“Why does the state want to be involved with our governing documents?” asked one homeowner. Clay responded, saying, “The state wants some control over what homeowner associations do. They don’t want us overburdening residents with overly restrictive rules on dog walking, grass growing and parking. That’s their rationale.”
Another Voting Member asked if another vote could be taken, saying the ballots came during the holidays and were too easily put on the back burner. Clay said the board had no plans to have another vote.
Board Treasurer Tom Murdock presented the financial report to Voting Members saying he was currently working on the fiscal year 2020-2021 High Desert budget. He will be holding two meetings for homeowners in Gated Villages to garner input about their village’s budget needs. “This is your opportunity to have real input,” he said. Homeowners will be notified of their gated villages meeting date. The final budget will be approved or denied by Voting Members at their April 23 Annual Meeting. A final budget will be mailed to all homeowners in early May. Following his presentation a Voting Member spoke, commending Tom for his association work. Voting Members applauded.
Neil Wetsch, Board Director, and Nominating Committee Chair, asked Voting Members to consider running for the four open positions on the Board of Directors. Statements of Interest must be submitted to the Nominating Committee by February 14. (Click here to fill out an online version.) Interviews by Committee members of homeowners interested in election will be conducted in March and April, he said. A slate of four nominees will be presented to Voting Members at the Annual Meeting. Nominations can also be made from the floor. Any homeowner in good standing can run for election.
Wildland Fire Prevention Working Group Update
Camille Singaraju, High Desert homeowner and chair of the Wildland Fire Prevention Working Group, spoke to Voting Members about its recent activities. The group was formed last year in response to several recent fires in High Desert. The group is working closely with Albuquerque Fire Rescue to identify areas of High Desert that pose increased threat of destruction by fire through excessive brush, weeds and deadfall. Camille asked Voting Members to make sure their represented homeowners all have evacuation plans if a fast-moving wildfire begins. “Also,” she added, “if there is a fire somewhere in High Desert, please don’t drive up to see it. Your car will block the bigger trucks that come in to fight the fire.” Homeowners should clear excessive growth three to five feet away from their home’s walls. “We’d like to extend it out to 10 feet,” she said. “And we are looking at different ways to manage growth in the arroyos.”
Added Clay, “Look after yourselves. Have a plan. If there is an issue, fire services will be taxed. You must take care of yourself. If you don’t want a fire in your backyard, don’t leave stuff around to burn. Don’t store firewood up against your house. Don’t leave gasoline stored in your garage.” He also encouraged homeowners to contact their legislators to purchase another brush truck for Albuquerque Fire Rescue. The trucks cost $185,000 each.
Homeowner Russ Rhodes told Voting Members that he recently spoke with the Board and different Voting Members about forming a smaller co-group of four or five homeowners to discuss pertinent issues and resolve differences. He said he first considered forming the group when he observed “increasing tensions and anxiety” between Voting Members and Board Directors. “We want to get any tensions out of the way and get a good conversation started between the two groups,” he said. He said the initial group will be made up of Board Directors Dave Williams and Robin Troy, and Voting Members Harrison Jones, The Trillium, and Eric Frow, The Legends. Responded one Voting Member, “Great idea! We do need more discussion.” Voting Members did not vote on the proposal but did offer general agreement
News & Articles
By Rebecca Murphy, Apache Plume Editor
A Tribute to Tom Murdock
Tom Murdock, who spent 16 years in continuous service on the High Desert Board of Directors and who devoted countless hours to the association as a volunteer since 2000, died July 27 following a fall at his home in Solterra.
“Tom was first elected to the Board in 2004 along with Ray Berg and me,” said Jay Hartfield. “He was then re-elected seven more times for a total of 16 years of continuous Board service. Nobody else even comes close.”
Tom began volunteering in 2000 as a Voting Member shortly after moving to High Desert with his wife Margo (a gardening columnist for the Apache Plume) from Houston, Texas. He went on to be elected to the first entirely homeowner-controlled High Desert Board of Directors in 2004, where he was elected Treasurer. Tom served as Treasurer for six years, as Vice President for two years and as President of the Board for eight years. Throughout that time he continued to operate his software company, Spring Lake Software, from his home.
If there was a High Desert special event in the park, a Welcome Committee Wine and Cheese party, a Run for the Hills race event, a quarterly Voting Member meeting or Board meeting—Tom was there.
“I first met Tom in early 2006 within a year of my arrival at High Desert,” said Reg Rider, current President of the Board. “I served with Tom from 2007 to 2012 as a board member and board president. Tom was completely dedicated to ensuring that High Desert was the best in Albuquerque in everything we did. He was the Treasurer, set up the Run for the Hills race event annually, was an advocate for a multitude of resident activities and knew the High Desert covenants and bylaws in detail. I learned a lot from Tom and have always respected his opinion. He will be missed by High Desert."
Jay met Tom in 2000 when both were members of what at that time was a very small group of Voting Members that met monthly. “I didn’t know until Tom, Ray Berg and I were elected to the Board in 2004 that we had all been at Purdue University at the same time some 40 years earlier,” recalled Jay, “although none of us knew the others. A small world indeed.”
Ray Berg, current Board Treasurer, added, “All of us had a history with Purdue University, so we were referred to as the Purdue Mafia.” As members of the first homeowner-controlled board, the responsibility weighed heavily on members to get it right.
“Although the developer left the Association in excellent financial condition,” Ray said, “we had to devise our own procedures since the developer didn’t want to bias the board. So Tom had to come up with processes to manage all of the finances. We have continued to be in excellent financial health due in large part to Tom’s influence.”
“I guess that the one thing that impressed me most over the years,” said Jay, “was Tom’s unwavering commitment to the well-being of the High Desert community and to the preservation of the ideals upon which it was founded. In that regard, he had no equals.”
Voting Member Chair Harrison Jones agreed. He observed Tom in action when he first attended a Voting Member meeting in 2015. “Tom’s intelligence, thoughtfulness and dedication to all things High Desert were abundantly clear,” he recalled. “His concern and personal advice regarding the relationship between Voting Members and the Board was a major factor in my decision to seek the Voting Member chairmanship. Tom was always ready to listen and share his experience and perspective. All of us will miss him.”
Clay Wright, past president of the Board, worked for several years with Tom. “His dedication to our community is unquestioned,” he said. “I cannot begin to calculate the hours of time he donated in the service of High Desert. He did so with no interest in accolade or recompense. Our community’s thoughtful stewardship was his single focus. I will deeply miss my friend.”
Lynn Claffy, current Contracts Chair, first met Tom in 2000 at a block party in Solterra. “The woman who hosted the party had an electric range that literally would not boil the large pot of water to cook the shrimp being served,” Lynn said. “The woman knew that my husband and I had a gas stove, so Tom carried the ten-gallon pot of water filled with tons of raw shrimp down to our house to cook the meal.”
Lynn remembers Tom as a close friend. “He was someone who was always there no matter what,” she said. “When I was laid off after 35 years, he coached me on how to become a consultant in my field. My birthday is New Year’s Eve. Tom and his wife Margo have prepared a delicious dinner for me and whomever I want to invite as guests for the last 15 years. When my husband was scheduled for surgery last summer, he drove us to the hospital. Tom will be missed by so many.”
David Bentley, former Vice President of the Board, recalled his time with Tom. “Working with Tom was a learning experience for me because I had no experience as a member of a board of directors for a homeowners association,” Dave said. “Tom immediately took me under his wing and helped me to learn the ropes. I was amazed with the wealth of information he had about how the Board of Directors functioned and situations ranging from a welcoming party for new residents to handling legal issues in court cases. Tom knew all the rules and regulations and was very adamant that following these was a necessity. He devoted a huge number of hours each day to this end and consulted with me by telephone at all hours including early mornings, late evenings, and mealtimes! I was always uncomfortable when Tom would vacation away from Albuquerque because I knew I could not fill his shoes. I am proud that Tom and I became very close friends.”
Susan Camp, Communications Co-Chair, remembered that Tom never avoided unpopular issues “Tom was usually the first one to step up when Voting Members brought up sensitive issues,” she said. “Even when he knew people would be unhappy, he didn’t shy away from the discussions that needed to happen.”
Russ Rhoades, former Chair of the Voting Member group, remembers first meeting Tom back in 2004 when Russ was on the Nominating Committee considering homeowners running for the Board of Directors.Tom had put his name in and Russ and the Committee interviewed him and put Tom’s name on the slate. “Tom’s heart was always in the right place,” Russ recalled. “He always tried to serve the best interests of the High Desert community and the association.”
Dr. Janet Brierley, former Board Director, worked for several years with Tom. “When I joined the Board, Tom was already something of a legend in High Desert,” she said. “He had been working for the community for years and had a wealth of knowledge. As Board President, he patiently explained the background of ongoing issues and used his historical knowledge of the community to give measured and thoughtful opinions in Board meetings. As Treasurer, he streamlined the reports, making them concise and easily understood, and completely overhauled the method of calculating reserve funds. The residents of High Desert will benefit from Tom’s hard work for years to come.”
In 2014 Tom was asked in an interview with the Apache Plume why he continued to remain so involved with the association. “I will continue to volunteer as long as my contribution is wanted and valued,” he said. “There have been some challenging moments over the years, but I have tried to make a positive difference for High Desert.”
This article first appeared in Apache Plume, August 2021.