Year-round water jobs are hard to find in land-locked Kansas. Megan Hiebert struck lucky. She’s owned Clinton Lake Marina for 12 years.
“I have the best job in the world,” she says.
“Our customers always come to the marina with smiles on their faces. They’re going to the lake to have fun. Most of my days are filled with laughter and smiles.”
Hiebert’s love affair with the water began during long, happy summer days spent with her mom, Jan, and stepfather, Dale Willey, on the family’s boat on Lake Perry. After graduating from Lawrence High School in 1985, she studied psychology and personnel administration at Kansas University and started mowing lawns with a friend to earn extra cash to buy her first boat — a jet-ski.
“We had the perfect schedule,” she says.
“We mowed lawns all day and were on the water every evening and most weekends.”
And, yes, between lake fun and mowing, Hiebert did study. She graduated in 1991 and developed the part-time mowing job into a full-time business called Lawnscape.
“One day Dale called me from the Lawrence Country Club’s third tee and said his golf buddy just told him Clinton Marina was for sale,” she recalls. “I didn’t know a thing about running a marina, but it seemed like something I could do and enjoy forever. I immediately called the owners, Matt and Peg Retonde, and told them I was interested.
“They thought I wanted to rent a slip and kept telling me there was a four-year waiting list. Finally I made them understand I wanted to buy the marina.”
Her father, Dave Hiebert, co-signed for a loan, and she sold her lawn-mowing business.
“One year, one month and 17 days after my first approach, the deal was done,” says Hiebert with a laugh.
She says it took time to get used to handling all the work involved, but she was determined to have a “hands on” approach to running the marina from the start. She began by cleaning everything scrupulously and interviewed prospective staff herself.
“If high school or college kids had low grades, I wouldn’t hire them,” Hiebert says. “I rarely advertise for employees now. I see people that impress me and offer them a job. Many of my crew are ‘hand me downs,’ younger siblings or family members of people who’ve already worked here.”
She says she couldn’t wish for a better team.
“I’m surrounded by people that make my job easy. We’re closer than most families and share everything,” Hiebert says.
Under her ownership the marina has expanded, now boasts nearly 400 slips, and it has continued to thrive despite several encounters with severe storms that whipped across the lake. She says challenges keep the work exciting, and it’s still fun for her.
“Don’t get me wrong. It’s actually hard work helping all our visitors have fun,” says Hiebert with a twinkle in her eye.
“It’s like having a giant party for 3 or 4 months, and we all know how difficult that can be.”