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Voice of the people

Resident-staff partnership thrives at Highland Springs

Created date

November 3rd, 2016
The 2016 Resident Advisory Council of Highland Springs.

The 2016 Resident Advisory Council of Highland Springs. (Front row, from left) Joe Bendzick, Francine Daner, Joyce Friedheim, Catherine Johnson. (Back row, from left) Barbara Gill, Sam Davidson, Norma Hill, Jack Daniels. (Not pictured) John Shadduck.

With the November elections just days away, it won’t be long until this presidential race is tucked away in the history books.

While candidates for federal and state office have been hot on the campaign trail, one organization in North Texas has continued its steady work to make improvements, heed suggestions, and work toward solutions.

The Resident Advisory Council (RAC) at Highland Springs is a group of nine residents, elected by their peers, who partner with staff to work on behalf of the community.

“The purpose of the RAC is to share in the decision-making process at Highland Springs,” says Sam Davidson, who has served as chairman of the RAC for the past year. “The staff has the final say, but they make their decisions with input from the RAC.”

Each RAC member serves a three-year term. Elections are held in the fall, and the terms are staggered so three members rotate off and three new members join the council each year.

Setting measurable goals

Members of the RAC meet twice a month, once to crystalize the council’s requests and suggestions and once with the executive director to resolve requests and act on suggestions.

Each RAC member also serves as a liaison to a subcommittee that partners with a specific department at the North Dallas community. The RAC subcommittees include dining, resident life, philanthropy, general services, conservation, medical and continuing care, finance, and communication.

“At the beginning of the year, each committee meets to set measurable goals they’d like to accomplish throughout the year,” says Sam. “Once the committee sets its goals, the committee chairperson, the RAC liaison, and the staff member from that department sign off on the goals. At each subsequent meeting, the committee reviews its goals and the progress made toward meeting those goals.”

As an example, Sam points to the general services committee and its goal to more clearly identify parking spaces at the community. They implemented a solution of color-coded parking spaces that distinguish resident parking, visitor parking, and open parking spaces.

“Our residents make our committees function, and they are dedicated to getting results,” says Sam.

“The level of partnership with the Resident Advisory Council is very strong, and we enjoy working with such a passionate group of resident leaders,” says Highland Springs’ Executive Director Matt Neville. “The hard work has paid dividends as Highland Springs has been recognized as a leader in resident satisfaction within Erickson Living for the past several years. As a community that celebrates the journey toward excellence, we all benefit when residents and staff work together toward shared goals.”

More ways to get involved

More than 20% of the resident population at Highland Springs is directly involved with the RAC.

“We’re in the beneficial position of having more people sign up for the RAC than we have available spots on the committees,” says Sam. 

To encourage as many people as possible to have a voice in the community, any interested resident is invited to join the Community Advisory Group, an arm of the RAC that meets several times a year to assess progress within the community.

As another avenue for resident involvement, when new residents move in, the RAC invites them to join the New Resident Club.

“New residents belong to the club for a year, and each month we cover a specific topic to ease their transition to the community,” says Sam. “It gives them the opportunity to learn more about the workings of Highland Springs.”

When community members have suggestions for a campus improvement, they can drop their suggestion in the RAC suggestion box located in the lobby of the Hillcrest Clubhouse.

“We typically receive over 50 suggestions a month,” says Sam. “A member of the RAC will follow up with the resident who submitted the suggestion and let them know which committee is taking it under consideration. The outcome of each suggestion is published, along with committee minutes, in the RAC’s monthly report.”

And while every suggestion may not be actionable, Sam says it’s the information exchange that’s invaluable.

“People like to know they have a voice, and they’ve been heard,” he says. “That’s our secret. We get people involved.”