By Kiara Candelaria
©2021 Community Associations Institute
JANET L. “JAN" NEWCOMB, a homeowner at Springhurst Townhomes Homeowners Association in Huntington Beach, Calif., has served in various volunteer roles in her community and with CAI for more than 20 years. Chair of CAI's Homeowner Leaders Council in 2021, Newcomb worked for 36 years at an aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor—first as a typist, then contracts manager, and finally as the company's ombudsman after she finished law school. Since retiring, she has served on Springhurst's board and several committees and written the community's newsletter. She is active in the CAI Orange County Chapter and is an avid writer of nonfiction and poetry. Newcomb played an integral role in the development of CAI's newly released Community Association Living: An Essential Guide for Homeowner Leaders.
—Interview by Kiara Candelaria
How have you applied your professional background to your volunteer commitments?
I'm always encouraging people to address their problems by communicating directly with one another. I tell people to speak up for themselves, and I offer to get involved if they need help finding solutions, serving as an informal mediator. I also continue to press that more mediation and arbitration services be offered to associations.
What is the biggest challenge that Springhurst faces?
Homeowner involvement. This applies to my association and many others. Community associations were created with a self-governing approach. I think it's hugely important to be involved in your community even in the smallest way. Many people don't know what's going on in their community until there's a really big problem that then becomes much harder to solve.
What are your priorities as chair of the 2021 Homeowner Leaders Council?
We need to get the word out to more people about CAI and make sure that the homeowners' point of view is respected, understood, and addressed. This year, the council will be surveying homeowner members about CAI's direction, where it should be headed, their needs going forward, and problems that they need help solving.
How is the new Community Association Living guide relevant to associations today?
It's a great resource for anyone who wants to live or work in an effective and harmonious community association.
What motivates you to volunteer?
Two things: I see a need, and I just love people and helping solve problems. It's kind of a natural connection.
How can communities motivate homeowners to volunteer?
The best way is to personally approach people. When I was chair of Springhurst's landscape committee, I talked to neighbors and told them that we needed help. There are a lot of people who would like to be more involved but often need somebody to invite them.
How do you spend your free time?
I love new experiences, like eating food that I've never had before or taking road trips to new places. If I could, I would go to school all the time because I love learning and having fascinating discussions with diverse people.
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