NEW BOSTON — In their 45 years of marriage, Bill and Catherine Campbell have lived in 11 states, and they will soon leave the snowy winters of New Hampshire for Tallahassee, Fla., where they will live in a rent-free home for a year.
The Campbells were among the 200 Baby Boomers who entered the “Home Free: Why I Want to Live in Tallahassee” contest, sponsored by Choose Tallahassee, a group that promotes Florida’s capital – the 128th largest city in the United States, where the average temperature in March is about 70 degrees.
The entry pool was trimmed to 25 semifinalists, who were then asked to submit videos on why they wanted to live in Tallahassee. The Campbells were selected from five finalists as the grand prize winners.
On the 90-second video, Catherine convinced the judges that she and Bill would be a perfect fit for Tallahassee. She showed pictures of the couple from their blind date, his service as a Marine during the Vietnam War, his homecoming and their marriage, to their careers and family life. They were also interviewed by about 15 people via Skype.
“I knew they were trying to target Baby Boomers of our age because they know when people retire they’re looking for water and warmth. Before, because of employment and kids, we couldn’t choose a place to live, now we can,” she said.
Looking toward retirement, Bill and Catherine had looked for homes in Alabama, but Florida seemed the perfect choice.
“We were looking around the South and a lot of our family live in Alabama,” said Catherine. “We actually drove into Florida. My sister lives in Oklahoma and she said Choose Tallahassee is having a contest where you can live there free and get lots of prizes. At first we had to answer about four or five questions, and the judges and the public voted.”
The Campbells will also receive several other prizes, including a one-year family membership to a local golf club, tickets to college football and basketball games, meals at Tallahassee’s fine restaurants, season tickets to the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and membership to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, all courtesy of Choose Tallahassee and its sponsors, the city of Tallahassee, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, Visit Tallahassee, Capital Health Plan and Capital City Bank.
“There’s a bunch of things. We’ll go to Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio, get memberships to museums and a gym, and cooking classes,” she said.
The couple has to attend several free events and activities, and report back to Choose Tallahassee.
“The idea is to get our experiences out to Baby Boomers,” said Bill. “The Washington Economics Group says that 10,000 people a day retire and if they can get one-tenth of the Baby Boomers it’ll bring a big economic boom to the area.”
According to the Washington Economics Group, the Baby Boomers’ retirement rate will continue for another 16 years, and various national surveys report that one-in-three to one-in-five Boomers want to relocate in retirement.
The WEG study ranked 20 communities nationwide and 1,100 boomers identified affordable cost of living, quality health care, a warm and welcoming climate, affordable recreational opportunities, great area cultural offerings, lifelong learning opportunities and strong local elder care services as key factors in choosing a retirement relocation destination. For the Campbells, that destination is Tallahassee.
“It’s a great location, 20 miles from Georgia and 20 miles to the beach. It really has four seasons,” said Catherine. “I have nothing against New Hampshire. It’s just cold.”
The couple is excited about their new venture but need to do one important thing before heading to their new home — sell their New Hampshire house.
After 18 years as a meteorologist with The Weather Channel, Bill started his job in 2005 at Weather Services International in Andover, Mass., which is part of The Weather Channel companies. Bill has given his notice, effective the end of July, and the couple hopes to move by Aug. 1.
“Our daughter, Holly, and our grandson, Joshua, are going with us. Our son Evan lives in Milford and will stay. Our daughter, Elizabeth, Evan’s twin, lives in Georgia,” said Catherine.
The four runners-up, Bill and Mary Sue Wagner of Birmingham, Ala., Tom and Barbara Meyer of Grand Rapids, Mich., Robert C. and Carla Hudson of Oak Park, Ill., and Coleen Hetherington of Laceyville, Pa., have been invited to visit Tallahassee on April 24-27.
The Campbells will be met by a red carpet host when they visit Tallahassee on May 15-18 for a tour and a winners’ reception.