Choose Tallahassee winners are ‘home free’

New Hampshire enjoys about 25 inches of snow on the ground this week, and Bill and I are enjoying sunny skies and bare ground in Tallahassee, Florida!

Just last January, we were at home in New Hampshire snow throwing, shoveling and slipping on ice! Personally I had gotten used to wearing two-four layers of clothes in fall and winter…it was “wicked” cold as they say up there. But I had dreams! Dreams of the South, the beach…warm weather and especially activities we could get out and do (that didn’t involve snow shoveling!). And at this same time, we were waiting to hear the results of a contest I had entered. If I won, we would be moving to Tallahassee, “Home Free,” to start our retirement.

Bill was going to retire after many years as a meteorologist (also having retired from the Marines) and I retired as a graphic designer and small business owner. We were about a year away from retirement by our account. During the past several years, we visited Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. And that year, 2013, we were in the coastal areas of Alabama and Florida searching for possible places to retire.

And so it was probably fate when my sister Alice called me after we returned from Florida, to tell me about a contest. An organization, Choose Tallahassee, was trying to bring a Baby Boomer couple to Tallahassee to retire to increase awareness of the many attributes that Tallahassee has for retirees. “You’d be perfect for this contest,” Alice said. She knew we had been looking in Florida for retirement opportunities and well, this “Home Free” contest would be fun! Plus she knew I had been in some cooking contests and the like. “You guys will love all the activities they have down there,” she said.

So I began researching the contest via their site, ChooseTallahassee.com and their Facebook page. There is lots of information about Tallahassee; lifestyle, outdoors, housing and cost of living. You will find information about the universities, parks, beaches (just an hour away) art and culture, health, fitness, restaurants, recreation and more. Go to the Facebook page and give them a “like” to receive information they post on Tallahassee. There is an article on their Facebook page on us that was published in the 850 Magazine this month. Or check it directly here: http://www.850businessmagazine.com/December-January-2014/Baby-Boomers-Bring-Entrepreneurial-Spirit-Economic-gold/

One of the interesting things I learned is that the WEG (Washington Economic Group) did a study and good ‘ole Tallahassee landed up there as #1 out of 10 best places to retire. With more than 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, the economic benefits for Tallahassee could be immense.

The contest rules explained they planned to bring the winner to Tallahassee and provide rent, memberships and tickets to many of the cultural events. Voila! There it was — I was going to enter!

The first phase was answering some questions. So with all the information on Tallahassee and with the OK from my husband who would retire early (and promised to come with me) — I entered.

And after I entered, I re-read the rules. It was a voting contest. Since I didn’t have that many friends I thought, it was over for me. So I forgot it and moved on. I didn’t vote for me or ask anyone to vote for me.

Surprise! Surprise! I got an email saying out of hundreds of submissions across the country; I was one of 25 finalists chosen to move on. Now I thought, “Wow, I am loved!” (Ha, ha). In this next phase, you had to submit a 90 second video of why you wanted to retire to Tallahassee. Made in the shade! I knew how to do this. I had done some wedding, funeral and other memorial type videos for my clients. So I decided that I would mix it up and do something creative. I did a funny video about our marriage and, what Tallahassee had to offer for us! And then came the call that I was a finalist — one of five!

The last phase was Skype interviews for the finalist and spouses before a panel of about 15 Choose Tallahassee committee members. I remember how we prepared for that one. We had a marker board out of sight, beyond us, with information about Tallahassee — our cheat sheet! But we really didn’t need that because they just asked us casual questions. My biggest memory of that interview is when I misspoke twice. Twice I mentioned I thought Jacksonville would be an interesting place to live. Yikes, their mouths dropped open! My husband reminded me it was Tallahassee where we would be going. I jokingly asked them to only take 2 points off our score for those bloopers. They laughed. Now the waiting game began.

Then on one fateful day in January, 2014, I got a call while in a pharmacy from Choose Tallahassee. I hurried out to my car which was parked facing a 15 foot snow bank. I said a little prayer and redialed their number and said, “I hope you have good news for me!” And he did.

In the future, Bill and I plan to share with you some of the events we have attended. Maybe it will help you or someone you know, Choose Tallahassee!

Bill and Cathy Campbell, would like to thank all the volunteers, sponsors and organizers of Choose Tallahassee, who brought us here via their contest. Some of the sponsors are: Leon County Board of County Commissioners, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, Capital Health Plan, Capital City Bank and Tallahassee Senior Center and Foundation.

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