South Australian & Northern Territory Village Manager of the Year, shares secrets for success

Vicki Neilson, Village Manager of the picturesque Elliot Gardens retirement village in South Australia, is what you might call a jack-of-all-trades. From overseeing the operation of the entire village of 340 people, 194 homes, common buildings and large gardens, to being the lead singer in the village residents’ band; Best Friends, there’s not much at Elliot Gardens that Vicki isn’t across.

Last year, Vicki was awarded the winner of South Australian & Northern Territory Village Manager of the Year by the Property Council of Australia – an award that highlights Vicki’s excellence as a manager, but also emphasises what a great place Elliot Gardens is to live. 

Vicki shares the details of her big win, and what makes Elliot Gardens so unique.  

What led you to an award-winning career in retirement living?
For many years I was a real estate consultant for agencies and new home builders. In March 2010 I joined Lendlease on a 12 month contract as Sales Manager at Elliot Gardens. At the conclusion of this contract, Lendlease offered me a similar position at another Lendlease village; Trinity Green. During this period I changed from my position from Sales Manager to Village Manager and really enjoyed the challenge. I enjoy the organising and collaborating required for a position such as Village Manager and I really love to ‘make a difference’ where ever I can. The other enjoyable factor is dealing with genuinely lovely people every day, both residents and staff alike. These people motivate me to be the best I can be.

So how does it feel to now be awarded the 2016 Village Manager of the Year for South Australia and Northern Territory? 
Honestly, I felt so honoured just to be nominated by my peers for the Property Council of Australia award, but when I found out I’d won, I was in disbelief... at my age ….really? This win isn’t just a reflection on me though; it is a reflection of my wonderful team and our residents. These awards bring with them a renewed sense of pride for the village for those that live and work here.

Why do you think you were chosen as the winner?
I take an inclusive, supportive and innovative approach to managing the village. We have monthly staff meetings and several ‘think tanks’ during the year and these sessions always produce the most creative ideas about making the village better or improving internal processes and procedure which assist in us working smarter. But I think what brought it home was the village video the staff, residents and I created after being nominated for an internal Lendlease Village of the Year recognition in 2015. It was a real team effort by everyone, and made us all feel more connected as a village... plus, it was a lot of fun to make! 

What do you think makes Elliot Gardens a unique village?
One of the most unique and wonderful things about Elliot Gardens is the vast amount of land the village sits on. The grounds expand over 24 hectares. Every house is detached, with varying designs that have two or three bedrooms, a large single or double garage and private rear patio and garden. Also, the village gardens themselves look stunning; thanks to our gardeners who take a huge amount of pride in their work. I also love living in the surrounding community of Port Elliot as it’s a beautiful, unsullied community that is very interconnected and friendly and has fabulous beaches all within a ten minute walk of the village.

What do you focus on to make your retirement village a great place to live?
There are two things that stand out to me. Firstly, the village must be operated by genuinely caring staff as it is there persona and attitude that emulates throughout the village. They must be responsible and trustworthy, and enjoy coming to work. I have a truly wonderful team who are motivated and have proudly taken ownership in making the village a great place for our residents to live. Secondly, I think geography is important. Our village is within walking distance to the local shops and amenities, which not only helps foster that sense of connection to the local community, it’s also practical for our residents who don’t drive. 

To find out more about what makes Elliot Gardens such a great place to live, contact 1800 550 550 or click here to book a personal tour.