August 2020 Newsletter

The latest in our series…

The People of the Park:

Meet Mike Hacker

By Dale Dauten

“Mike is a quiet, soft-spoken guy, but I soon realized that he knows a lot. Every time I talk to him, I learn something new – and it’s all positive. He’s just what we need, a great fit.”

That’s head of the parks’ management team, George Igualt, talking about Mike Hacker, who George recently named as the new Maintenance Manager. We managed to get Mike to talk about himself and we’re glad we did – he’s had quite a life – and he even came through with some great photos from the 1980s that will make you smile.

Although he was born in Southern California and spent his early years there, Mike moved with his father to Southern Illinois at age 13, and went to Carterville High, where he blossomed into a three-sport athlete: football, baseball and wrestling.

While he was the halfback on the Carterville Lions football team that won their conference his senior year, it was baseball that won him over – he made the varsity even as a freshman, played centerfield all four years and kept at it, playing in baseball and softball leagues into his forties.

His high school sweetheart back then – this was the 1980s — was a girl with the interesting name of Manissa. Remember that name – we’re going to encounter her again.

Meanwhile, Mike finished high school and gave ITT tech school a try, but at age 21 joined the Army, serving for nearly a decade. His specialty ended up being Stinger missiles, the surface-to-air missiles that can be shot by troops or mounted on vehicles. Mike served in the Gulf War in Iraq and spent time on the DMZ in South Korea, but his favorite assignment was as in Instructor for NATO, stationed in Germany. For three years he taught classes to soldiers from around NATO, certifying them in the use of the Stinger.

(For Mike, the highpoint of the NATO training was working with a simulator. Trainees would see a pinpoint appear on a screen, along with sound effects to match, and there came incoming planes, any one of 35 aircraft. The trainee had to decide which was friend and which foe, then “shoot” it with a laser beam and watch the plane blow up on the screen. Among Mike’s trainees were regulars like the British Special Forces, along with the occasional dignitary, like the time the Prime Minister of Ukraine, contemplating a purchase of Stingers, stopped in to check out Mike’s operation.)

After Germany, the Army wanted Mike to “go ride on tanks” and that’s when he decided it was time to try civilian life. He had a sweet assignment lined up, working for a military contractor in El Paso, but abrupt changes in the company’s fortunes put an end to that plan and instead he went to school to become a truck driver. He drove semis for four years but, as Mike explained, “by then I was married and had babies and my wife said, ‘You need to come home.’”

Mike’s uncle, who lived in Phoenix, offered him a job doing maintenance work for apartment complexes, contingent on being ready to start on the upcoming Monday. So Mike and the family made an instant move to the Valley and settled in Phoenix. It turned out that Mike had a knack for the job – he was nominated five times for Maintenance Supervisor of the Year by the Arizona Multifamily Association.

Despite devoting himself to his job, he ended up starting a business of his own, cleaning offices at night. While Mike eventually moved to Mesa and ended up getting divorced, his business has been a constant for ten years now. Even with his full-time job at The Resort and Silveridge, he still spends three evenings a week and Sundays on his cleaning company. He says of holding two jobs, “I start at five in the mornings at the parks, and I’m done in the early afternoon. Then I go into the cleaning business in the evening.” Mike shrugged, smiled and said simply, “I work a lot.”

And now, as promised, we can get back to that high school sweetheart, Manissa…

She recently found Mike on social media and the two renewed their friendship. I’d asked Mike if he had any photos from his football days or time in the military, and no, he didn’t, but he said his old girlfriend had sent photos from high school. He passed along one of him and a classic one from the school prom:

(Thank you, Manissa. Naturally, we couldn’t resist asking Mike if there’s a rekindled romance? And he said that yes, there is. How does a guy with two jobs have time for romance? She lives in Chicago… but has been to visit.)

These days, you’re likely to encounter Mike in his golf cart, zipping from one project to the next. He described his goal for the parks’ Maintenance team: “

“We want to take care of the residents and we want the property to look so good that everybody wants to stay here.”