Horton S. Hickerson is a longtime member of Rotary and recently took over as president of the Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset Rotary Club.
Tell us a little about your professional career.
After graduating from Furman University in 1965, I spent two years on active duty as an artillery officer in Ft. Lewis, Washington, and Vietnam. As an undergraduate, I had enjoyed the few accounting courses I had taken and did very well in them. After the service, I enrolled in a graduate program in professional accounting at Northeastern University and received my master’s degree. I then went to work at one of the then-Big 8 accounting firms and passed the CPA exam. I then worked for a small accounting firm in New York City for about five years before going out on my own. That was in 1975, and since then I have practiced as a sole proprietor.
I’ve always enjoyed my work in accounting and working with clients. It seems that there is something new or different all the time. It has been a wonderful career and I have made some lifelong friends from those clients that have trusted me with their tax and accounting needs over the years.
About four years ago, I merged my firm into a larger local firm in New Jersey, that has been taking over more and more of my work. It is almost time to really retire.
What do you like best about involvement in Rotary?
I joined the Rotary Club of Red Bank, New Jersey, in May of 1989 and it was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. As a good friend and past district governor once said, “I know Rotary is a wonderful organization. It’s made me a better person.” It has made me a better person also.
I became president of the Red Bank Rotary Club in 1994-1995. The history of that club and its members made it one of the best clubs in the district. After being president, I worked as assistant governor and deputy governor for a few years, and then I was selected to be district governor for the 2010-2011 Rotary year, which was a tremendous experience. My Rotary District 7500 included 42 clubs in three counties in central New Jersey. As a district governor, I got to meet and work with Rotary International directors as well as other district governors from around the world. As a result, I became the zone treasurer for zones 24 and 32 for a number of years and attended many zone functions. In addition, I was selected to represent the Rotary International president at a district conference in Ohio.
I have been active as a facilitator in the Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI-NEA) for almost 10 years and was recognized as the outstanding faculty member for the 2013-2014 year. RLI teaches Rotarians the meaning of Rotary and what the opportunities are that await them. I normally do this a couple of times a year, and while I get a lot of satisfaction in doing it, I also learn much from how other Rotarians do things. I also have been an instructor in the Mid Atlantic President Elects Training, or PETs as it is known for over 10 years, and been a zone trainer instructing the incoming district governors for two years.
What I enjoy most about Rotary are the people you meet. The motto of “Service Above Self” challenges you to do good in your area, country and the world and to give back to those less fortunate. In addition, I get a tremendous amount of enjoyment from the work, the fellowship and the fun.
The president-elect of the Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset Rotary Club was transferred just before he was to start his second year as president of the club. I stepped up to fill that position because I felt my experience in Rotary would be helpful. As one of my “friends” from Red Bank said when I told him I was going to be president of my club down here, “Hope you do a better job than when you were president in Red Bank.” I still get no respect.
Looking at the year ahead, what activities are being planned by the club? Is there anything you are especially looking forward to?
This will be a challenging year with the COVID-19 virus and the distancing that will be required. Right now, and through the end of the calendar year, we are planning to have all of our meetings via Zoom. Hopefully, starting in January, we can meet mask to mask for a few meetings through the end of the Rotary year. The club has been doing Zoom meetings for a few months now, and while it has been a good learning experience, it also keeps all of us together for a weekly chat. I have been able to call upon some of my Rotary friends from my old zones to talk to us on those Zoom meetings so the club is getting to hear some really great new speakers.
We have planned for our bridge clean-up on the Rt. 210 bridge four times this year and we will be ringing the bell for the Salvation Army around the holidays. We have also planned a shredding fund raiser for later this month and hope to be able to duplicate that again later in the Rotary year.
What brought you to Ponte Vedra? How long have you lived here?
My wife, Susan Goldring, and I first bought a condominium here in 2000. In 2005, we sold the condo and purchased the house we live in now, which we completely renovated in about 2012. While we have owned property here for over 20 years, both of us were working in our careers — Susan is an attorney — and we couldn’t spend the amount of time we might have wanted down here in Florida. It has only been the last two or three years that we have been full-time residents.
We came here originally because two of our friends had homes here in Sawgrass. We visited them and vacationed in their houses for a few trips and decided that we liked the area. It has been wonderful living here and I don’t regret making the move.
What do you like best about residing in this community?
I might say, what’s not to like about living in Ponte Vedra? We have enjoyed vacationing here and we are now enjoying living here. It might be nice to have the temperature a bit cooler now and for the next couple of months, but other than that, no complaints.
How do you like to spend your free time? Do you have hobbies or activities that you enjoy or do you volunteer?
As you can imagine, Rotary takes up a good amount of time for both Susan and me. I love to be out playing mediocre golf and will get back to playing three times a week. Right now, it is only once a week. Susan enjoys water aerobics three or four times a week and is active in the League of Women Voters. I love reading history, and we both love to travel. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 virus, we have had to cancel three vacations this year. Hopefully we will get to them next year.