When she first met him, she hated him because his company was taking over hers.
In less than a year, they were cross-country dating, taking turns flying between Arizona and Maine.
And even before he proposed to her, he learned he was facing a serious case of colon cancer but she stuck by his side as he weathered treatments and surgery that ultimately rid him of the disease.
Meet Julie and Matthew Tyler, who as of last Thursday became Club West’s power couple with her election as the new president of the Foothills Club West Association board of directors.
Her husband is president of the Club West Conservancy, meaning they lead the two
organizations that will pretty much decide the future of the community’s beleaguered golf course.
Though homeowners ultimately will determine the course’s fate, the board’s newly elected majority and the Conservancy share the same goal: restore the course or turn it into a park without a single house being built on the 160-acre site.
The chronology of the Tylers’ love story tracks astonishingly close to the course’s rollercoaster history since spring 2016, when then-owner Wilson Gee effectively shut down it down, saying he could not afford the $750,000 annual cost of irrigating it with potable city water.
While that was happening and Club West resident Jim Lindstrom was putting together a detailed but ultimately ill-fated plan in 2016 to have homeowners buy the course, Matt met Julie.
It wasn’t what you’d call a fairytale start to their relationship.
Matt, senior director of strategic marketing and regional marketing for ON Semiconductor’s Advanced Solutions Group, had gone to Maine because his company was in the process of taking over Julie’s tech company, where her position was somewhat similar to his.
“I didn’t like that at all,” Julie said.
Added Matt: “She didn’t like me. She thought I was the devil because I led the integration of her company into my company.”
Matt, a California native whose job took him to Utah for a number of years and Japan for four years before he moved to Phoenix in 2016, couldn’t duck Julie since both were integral players in the two companies’ integration.
So, Julie recalled, “It was full hate for about a year and a half.”
By early 2018, their relationship softened as, in Matt’s words, “I finally convinced her that I wasn’t so bad.”
Throughout the time between the Tylers’ first meeting and their detente, Gee had put Club West up for sale, later reaching a deal in fall 2017 with Richard Breuninger, who signed a promissory note for $1 million.
Even before Julie’s and Matt’s hearts had changed direction, Breuninger had restored the Club West course to a verdant green with big promises of major events and a gala grand opening in 2018.
By early 2018, Matt recalled, “I had just gotten divorced and I decided it was time for me to try to build a life that was a little bit more positive and I convinced her to date me cross-country.”
As their relationship began blossoming, Breuninger’s honeymoon with Club West’s 2,600 homeowners withered as quickly as all that grass he had planted in the fall of 2017.
By February 2018, he had run up a $165,000 tab with the city Water Services Department, which promptly turned off the tap.
As Gee began foreclosing on Breuninger’s note and looking for a new buyer for the Club West course, Julie and Matt had become long-distanced daters.
“Needless to say,” Matt recalled, “we consumed a tremendous amount of airfare between summer of 2018 and fall of 2018.”
But on the first day of a Caribbean cruise just after Thanksgiving 2018, a dark cloud appeared on the horizon of their relatioship. Matt received a call from his doctor telling him to show up at an oncologist’s office the next day because tests showed he had colon cancer that was spreading quickly.
He told the doctor he was going to enjoy his cruise, but it was Julie’s reaction to the news that struck him.
“Julie is just an amazing human being. All she said was, ‘You know what? It’s going to be OK, we’ll get through this,’” Matt said.
“Anybody else who’s dating 2,800 miles apart and suddenly you’re a couple of months into a relationship when your boyfriend says ‘I got a real serious case of the colon cancer,’ usually the thought will be ‘You know what? You’ve got a lot going on. Let me just kind of let you focus on that.’ And instead it was ‘You know what? God’s got a plan and we’ll figure it out.’”
As 2019 unfolded with cancer looming in the background, Matt proposed.
“It was all really fast,” Matt said. “It was all kind of moving forward but it was really like ‘We don’t know what life will bring. We’re just going to jump in and make the very best with that and try to enjoy as much of whatever life has left for me.’”
They bought their home in Club West – and got married in August 2019.
Yes, there were some concerns about working for the same employer.
“We were flirting right on the cusp of HR violations,” Matt laughed. “We had many meetings with the head of HR and our HR advocates and read the employee manual about 10 times and realized we were okay.”
That good news was followed by an even better revelation in late 2019: about 18 hours before he was released from the hospital where he had undergone colon surgery, his doctor told him: “Whatever God you pray to, thank him.”
He was cancer-free.
That diagnosis was confirmed in January 2020, just as the four investors who bought the Club West course in late 2019 as The Edge were ready to unveil their plan to restore the Club West course, financing the multi-million-dollar project by selling three parcels to a homebuilder for construction of 164 houses.
Though The Edge lost the homebuilder because of initial expressions of opposition to houses on the course, Matt had begun organizing some of those opponents as the Club West Conservancy.
Julie, meanwhile, gave him her blessing.
But she wanted no part of her husband’s campaign.
“In Maine I was in an association and was on the board for 10 years and president for six of them,” Julie explained. “When we heard about neighborhood things and things ramping up, I was like, ‘you know, I did my time.’”
But that changed as she recalled how her time on a board for a 30-unit condo association sitting on 10 acres of land involved helping people, including her parents.
So, by the time that some Club West homeowners approached her about running for their HOA board, her reaction was “You know, if I could do it for people like my parents in Maine, I’ll do this for people here – because it really is like a family here.”
The Tylers both have more than a golf course to consume their time. Their company is the midst of a major restructuring.
“A lot of times people go to work and they come home and then they can kind of vent to their spouses or their partner and they can get away from those things,” Matt said. “We come home from work and the laptops go out on the kitchen counter. We’re all on 24/7.”
“I’d say well since the beginning of the year, we both are putting on at least 60- to 70-hour work weeks,” he continued.
And their respective positions in Club West have created a household challenge to navigate because the Conservancy is suing the HOA board over the previous board’s acquisition of the declarant rights to the golf course.
In some ways, though, avoiding discussion on some topics is not something new.
“Professionally, there are things that I get exposed to that Julie can’t know about,” Matt said. “And now there are things that she talks about on the Club West board that I can’t know about. It’s funny because we have these firewall moments. It’s like ‘I got to take this conference call from the bedroom.’”
At the newly reconstituted board’s first monthly meeting last Thursday, meanwhile, Julie and her colleagues conducted the meeting in such a manner that several homeowners listening online wrote chat comments commending them.
Lindstrom gushed, “I’m liking the tone of this meeting.”
After Vision Community Management unveiled plans for a much-upgraded website for Club West homeowners that would include a video archive of all board meetings, former board president and current member Mike Hinz questioned the wisdom of not passcode-protecting the videos so non-residents couldn’t watch.
The board poo-pooed his concerns as new board member Anthony “Beau” Burgess said the board has nothing to hide.
Julie concedes the election has created a seismic turnover on the board – five of seven seats now basically share the Conservancy’s opposition to homes on the course.
“I’m not sure how the incumbents are going to respond to so many new people,” she said. “We want to be sensitive to them because they have a lot of really critical knowledge.”
She said Hinz reached out to her the day after the election and “we talked for an hour…He has a lot of really great points and really great attitude about everything so I think it’s a blessing to have the incumbents on the board for them to contribute as much as they are. But I also want to be sensitive because it’s a big upheaval for everybody.”
The board last week also formed several committees – including one to study the golf course, naturally, as well as one to explore the resumption of social events like a food truck day and movie nights.
Julie said she was gratified that people were stepping up, reflecting how in Maine, “the only way we could get people on the board is to promise them a bottle of good wine.”
“I’m a little surprised” that she didn’t have to get out the bottles of wine last week she said, adding, “but in some respects I’m not surprised. I think people are awake and they want to be engaged.”
Added her husband: “I think the most exciting thing is not only are people engaged but it seems like overall, the whole community is, for the first time since we’ve been here, optimistic. They’re excited.”
As the board begins making its plans, he said, the Conservancy also is pondering its role going forward.
“We’re stepping back and thinking ‘what’s really our bigger responsibility to the community,’” Matt said. “We really have some of the most passionate, the most engaged people and it’s been a privilege working with these people and the Conservancy and to work with this community.”
And Julie noted that for the board, “the goal is to do what’s best for the community. The community voters voted us in and we just need to rally around that goal and make sure that what we’re doing is community-focused.”