The Lake Martin Home Owners and Boat Owners held its 15th annual meeting at Red Ridge Methodist Church on June 12, 2021. Approximately 90 members enjoyed presentations by four guest speakers including State Representative Ed Oliver, Russell Lands Vice President Roger Holliday, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Representative Adam MacLeod, and Chad Gilliland, President of Towboat Lake Martin. We appreciate all of our guest speakers for their informative speeches to our association.
During the business portion of the meeting, the membership elected Harry DeNegre as the new president of HOBO. The members also elected new Board of Directors, Mrs. Mitzy Hidding and Mrs. Betsy Keown. Mr. Wallace Jones agreed to serve another term as a Board of Director. We welcome Mitzy and Betsy to our board. We thank Wallace for coming back for another term of service to our association.
We look forward to a great 2021-2022. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
WORDS FROM OUR NEW PRESIDENT
There’s a Gator at Lake Martin Homeowners and Boat Owners, but rather than lurk in swampy sloughs waiting for its next meal to come along, this one plans to be a positive influence on life at the lake. Harry DeNegre, a University of Florida alumni, was elected president of the local HOBOs organization in the spring and, along with the HOBOs board of directors, has outlined goals to improve quality of life for the nonprofit’s members.
DeNegre and his wife of 52 years, Bonnie, have had a presence at Lake Martin since 1990 and have lived here fulltime for six years.
“We had been looking for property at Lake Lanier, since it was close to where we were living outside of Atlanta, and I was at a dinner with some church members. They had pictures of Lake Martin, and when I asked where it was, I was surprised that it was just two hours away. The hooker for me was when my friend said they leased a lot on the lake for $100 a year,” DeNegre explained. “We bought a fisherman’s cabin then, and in 2018, we took the cabin down and built the lake house.”
Lake life is an important element in the DeNegres’ life. They bought their first boat when they married, and as their family grew, they found boat ownership was a great way to spend time together.
“It’s especially great for teenagers. We always had the kids’ friends here all the time, and it keeps us young, too,” DeNegre said.
Spending time at the lake was a welcome respite throughout DeNegre’s long career with public and private commercial construction companies, spanning materials manufacturing and distribution, as well as construction company ownership.
“I managed a 300-person sales force and administration staff, and most of what I did was find solutions,” he said.
He looks forward to putting his executive and sales experience to work for Lake Martin through HOBOs during his tenure as president. Working alongside other existing lake-oriented organizations and businesses, DeNegre hopes to expand HOBOs’ reach across the lake with assistance in establishing localized Neighborhood Watch chapters, organizing boating safety courses and sponsoring efforts to educate members and others about the lake.
He plans to engage members in the work of the organization and in supporting programs that address water quality and quality of life at the lake. Being accessible and visible are key components of the plan, he said.
“We are a voice for homeowners and boat owners and advocate for them on issues that come up at the lake, as well as a liaison when parties involved don’t always have the same priorities. We will have booths at events around the lake, where we can talk to folks about what their concerns are. We will be working with the chambers, with LMRA and continue to work closely with Lake Watch Lake Martin,” he said.
While HOBOs was active during the relicensing of Martin Dam from 2008 to 2015, today’s issues focus on water quality and development, DeNegre said.
“We’ll never be able to stop it, so the best we can do is manage it – to be an influence in the guidelines for things like multi-use docks for off-water residents. I think we will see more of those kinds of things. We can’t keep them from coming in, but we can hope to influence the regulations that allow them by working with the agencies involved in the decision making,” he explained.
DeNegre said he has been impressed with the work of past HOBOs presidents, including Jesse Cunningham and Dave Heinzen and outgoing president, Steve Smith, but he also looks forward to working with Alabama Power and others around the lake.
“My experience with Alabama Power has been extremely positive. They do a great job of monitoring the lake. And when there’s an issue, Alabama Power will sit down and talk to you and work out solutions that are acceptable to all parties. Nobody really gets everything they wanted, but everybody can live with the solution,” he said.
HOBOs also will be present at county commission meetings for all three counties that border the lake.
“We want people to be able to reach out to us. If I go to county meetings with an issue – maybe about a lake access road that needs to be paved – it will be easier to talk about it if they know me,” he said.
To rebuild its ability to influence, DeNegre said, membership needs to increase. The organization’s membership rose to more than 2,100 during the Martin Dam relicensing process but has dropped since then in the absence of crisis. But lack of a crisis does not mean there are no issues.
“Water quality will always be an issue, and right now, a water quality concern is the rising number of chicken houses. Homeowner value, road access to the lake, boat traffic, speed and safety are growing concerns,” he said. “We’re also working with the relicensing effort at Harris Dam. They are upstream of us, and what they do there – their water level – will affect Lake Martin. We want to help them but also influence what they do as being positive for Lake Martin.”
In addition to building the individual and family memberships ($15 and $25, respectively for annual membership), HOBOs hopes to rebuild business memberships that will benefit member interests.
“The lake is the big economic force in our community, and what happens in business affects all these factors of living here,” DeNegre pointed out.
Members will be invited to bi-monthly board meetings, and a quarterly newsletter will help to keep members informed. The organization recently launched a new website at lakemartinhobos.com and updated the Lake Martin HOBOs Facebook page, where timely notices regarding meetings, throw-away days and other important information will be available to the public as well as members.
“I am proud of the work HOBOs did for the relicensing at Martin Dam and the Neighborhood Watches we’ve helped to establish. I appreciate and respect Jesse Cunningham and Dave and Judy Heinzen. They’ve worked hard for the membership and have done some great things for the lake. I’ve got some big shoes to fill, and I want to make them proud, make our members proud,” DeNegre said.