A white GMC Canyon has just rumbled away from the Reynolds corporate offices on Linger Longer Drive. It's only 7 a.m. and Cheri Hampton has left the building. Hittin' the road. Outta here.

"I try and stay under the radar," says Cheri, cruising along at 34 mph — well under the speed limit. She's a rule follower, just as you'd expect from the Covenant Compliance Manager at Reynolds Lake Oconee. She's the first person in the office, but being there more than 30 minutes us a self-imposed no-no.

"I'd much rather be outdoors in my Carhartts and Dickies."

This is supposed to be a training day with Cheri. My first mistake was ignoring her dress code — the golf shirt and casual shorts are an overkill. My first question is another rookie move.

"What and who are we out to catch today?" I ask, as if this is a ride-along for an episode of COPS.

"I'm never out to catch anyone," Cheri says, stopping just short of adding, "bless your little heart." About the only time she makes the dreaded house call is if she becomes aware of something visibly non-compliant. "The worst part of my job is advising a Member they have something in the driveway or in the yard that should not be there. But they're quick to address whatever the issue may be because they're vested in maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the community."

This is why she hates election years. A political sign has to go, even if she agrees with whatever might be on it. Before I can ask the same question that a few Members asked in 2020, she politely tells me, "My personal political views are irrelevant. No signs."

She doesn't ask about my views either. "All that matters is whether you're interested in keeping the property beautiful."

Cheri stops at a homesite with a view of Lake Oconee through a group of hardwood trees. We're here to make sure the worksite is clean and erosion control measures are in place. I have nothing to offer in terms of erosion expertise, so Cheri lobs me a softball.

"You like to fish?" she asks.

"Yes," I say. "Do you?"

It's another ridiculous question. Cheri grew up fishing on the Oconee River, before Reynolds existed and long before she became an assistant landscape tech in 1997. "I was a daddy's girl. I remember my dad took me out of school once to fish for brim and catfish."

"Just one time?"

"My mom found out and that was the end of that."

Cheri and her friends would build their own dream homes in the woods: Treehouses. "They were not compliant," she admits.

The biggest change she has seen at Reynolds over the years is the continual transformation of the entire property. It's more colorful, more elegant. "But always so natural," she says. "Sometimes I think, 'How much better can it possibly get?'"

This evening, she'll drive home to her two horses and a cabin on 20-acres, where she feels like a little girl with her animals, open spaces, and list of chores.

"Being busy keeps me outside and out of trouble," she says. It also keeps her out of the office.

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