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Cassie Turner works to revitalize Oakmont

Monday, July 14th, 2014 | Posted by
Cassie Turner is Oakmont's new manager, and a babyboomer.   (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Cassie Turner is Oakmont’s new manager, and a baby boomer. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

By JIM GOLWAY / Special to Towns

“Fasten your seat belts; change is on the way.”

That was Cassie Turner’s message to Oakmont residents shortly after she arrived as the new administrative manager.

Some heard it as a warning, others as a call to action. But like it or not, with 8,000 Americans turning 65 each day, the baby boomers are coming, and Turner sees it as her mission to give them what they want. At Oakmont, that means giving them a new dance floor, sport courts and places to meet people and hang out.

Oakmont’s population is collectively growing younger. The 2010 census pegged the residents’ median age at 76, with only 20 percent of them born between 1946 and 1955. But during the past three years, a majority of the 1,271 homes sold in Oakmont went to buyers with a median age of 66, according to the escrow data.

With the nation’s boomer population estimated at 78 million, the influx of young retirees and empty-nesters into Sonoma Valley’s venerable adult community will only accelerate. At Oakmont, Turner has enthusiastically embraced the challenge of balancing the needs and desires of the baby boomers with those of its previous generations. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, she has extensive experience in managing the complicated and sometimes contentious affairs of homeowner associations.

“I think one of the reasons I was hired is my ability to build consensus through communication,” she said. Turner is a boomer herself and admits to often “telling it like it is.”

“Let’s face it, Oakmont is 50 years old and is beginning to look its age,” she said. “So we need to keep it looking good and well maintained. It will help us stay competitive and make things more pleasant for residents.”

So far, the changes are mostly cosmetic. Turner calls it “remodel and refurbish,” such as buying new patio and pool furniture, updating a locker room, adding new stucco to a worn-out façade and, to support the desires of the boomers, installing a new dance floor.

“The dance floor was near collapse and dangerous,” says Heide Klyn, events coordinator for the Boomer Club. “We needed a new one, because our members sure like to dance. That’s what I do, bring in bands that play music from our era.”

The Boomer Club is the oldest of three boomer groups in Oakmont, started in 2011 and with more than 400 members.

“Oh gosh, we are growing like gang-busters,” Klyn said. “It seems like whenever a house goes on the market, bang! A boomer moves in.

“And it’s changing Oakmont. Thanks to us, Oakmont actually now has a night life.”

Turner has plans more ambitious than just providing the young folk a safe place to boogie. She also wants to give them a new place to play.

A little over a year ago, pickleball arrived. The sport that’s a hybrid of badminton and tennis quickly gained popularity among the boomer crowd, and the Pickleball Club plans to ask the board of directors to finance six new pickleball courts.

“I think it would be great,” Turner said. “One of the courts could be multi-purpose, where residents could play volleyball, badminton or even shoot baskets.”

Built behind the community’s central pool, the pickleball facility would become the cornerstone of a plan to create what Oakmont’s maintenance manager Mark Roger, calls, “a central campus core.”

“The idea is to give residents a place to spend the entire day,” Rogers said. “You could work out in the fitness center, swim in the pool, and play sports and picnic.”

In the same area, Turner would like to see a coffee bar and lounge with WiFi.

It would be in a central place to meet friends or make new ones. “The thing about Oakmont is we are so spread out,” she said. “We really need a place where you can relax and talk or just hang out.”

But what really energizes Turner is the larger challenge of keeping Oakmont competitive among retirement communities that are undergoing rapid transformation.

“We have to start thinking about creating a vision and develop a strategic plan to get us where we need to be in a 55-and-older community marketplace,” she says. “How does Oakmont fit into that spectrum so we keep attracting quality buyers? We need to find out.”

“It’s all about developing a message that really communicates Oakmont’s personality and all that it offers.”

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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