By Allen Whittemore
If anyone knows this pleasant little stretch of A1A well, it’s Tom Hill.
He has been working here since 1973 and in the Delray Beach/Gulf Stream area since 1970. He is the first and only manager of the Ballantrae Condominiums, a 40-unit condo that has seen many changes over the years.
Hill has enjoyed the intimate quality of life at Ballantrae; particularly the busy time there around the holidays.
“I have interactions with all of the people … here we offer so many services that we could not in a larger complex. I get to know them better.”
He also has gotten to know their children and watched them grow up, many who now return with their families.
“It is rewarding for me to see the second generations wanting to buy homes here as well.”
Garrett Dering, president of the association board, called Hill “truly wonderful, and he knows these buildings like the back of his hand. His dedication is a great asset for us.”
Hill, 68, a Syracuse, N.Y., native, served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. After the war, he obtained a commercial pilot’s license and hoped to start a career with one of the airlines.
“There were so many pilots after the war that is was hard to get a job flying commercially, so I got a job as a crop duster.” First in Georgia, and then he flew over the fields of western Palm Beach County. A couple of close calls in the air led to him find “safer” employment on the ground.
He liked the Palm Beach County lifestyle and settled with his wife in Boynton Beach, where they reared their three children.
Around then, he met George Mara, the man who was to develop the St. Andrews Club.
Mara hired him to be the first maintenance manager at St. Andrews from 1973 until 1980, and he held that position while Mara began developing Ballantrae directly to the south. Upon completion of the units, Hill moved next door and began the job he has had for the past 31 years.
He was intricately involved in the early days as the property switched from the developer to the owners.
“That time was very hectic as we were finishing the buildings, painting, developing the condominium board, establishing the rules and helping people move in.”
Over the years things have evolved a little. “In the early days we did the lawn maintenance as well … I really did some walking in those days.”
Recently, the town of Gulf Stream annexed Ballantrae and other adjacent properties and Hill said the transition has been smooth.
Police, fire and paramedics are on site within minutes, and the town employees have been extremely helpful with their needs.
The residents of Ballantrae have been appreciative of the work Hill has done over the years. A few years ago they hosted a party for him and presented Hill with a photo collage of the property signed by all of the owners. That collage now hangs prominently on his office wall.
Hill’s job has been so much more for him that just a place to put in 40 hours a week and he seems in no hurry to retire. He takes great pride in the relationships that he has built here.
“I have been fortunate to work for some very nice, quality people who have been very successful … They are generous people who give back to their communities. They have taught me so much.”