When work is your home away from home

Johnny L. Young, Assistant Chief of Security, Long Cove, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Feature | Hilton Head Island, South Carolina | 09 May 2023
Johnny L. Young has been working at Long Cove Club Owners Association in Hilton Head, South Carolina for 38 years. He believes that his job is more than just badged security officers: they are ambassadors for the exclusive 630 acre property. ILO Photo/ Johnny Young
“I could write a book about Long Cove!” states Johnny L. Young, the Assistant Chief of Security at the Long Cove Club Owners Association, located on beautiful Hilton Head Island in South Carolina

Over the last 38 years Johnny Young has witnessed significant changes and growth in this exclusive residential community. Many of the residents include top executives in the business, technology, music, and sports from all over the world. The homes here have beautifully manicured golf courses, a high-end marina and many other amenities.

“I started working here back in 1984,” he says with a sense of nostalgia and pride in his voice. “And back then there were only about 33 homes on this 630-acre private community. Now we have over 500 residents of which about half are part time and the other half are full time residents.”

Prior to joining Long Cove, Young who is a native of Port Royal, South Carolina, had worked in construction and then for a local security company. During his time working in contract security, he befriended his colleague Randy who would later help him land his job at the club despite the long waiting list for new hires.

“Before he went over to Long Cove, I asked Randy to look out for a spot for me. One day he called me and told me that the Chief of Security at the time, Roy Neeley, who was also a retired sergeant major, wanted to talk to me. So, I went over to meet with him and sure enough he hired me! And I’ve been here ever since,” Young says.

“You know back then there was a waiting list to get hired, which is completely different from now. Now we have meetings to try to come up with ideas on how we can get people to join us. We even advertise online on job sites and try to come up with competitive perks and compensation to bring people on,” he stresses on how times have changed from when he was first hired.

Presently, there are 13 people on the security team including Young and the current Chief of Security Willie Rice, and they are hoping to hire two new recruits to the team. Given that it’s a 24-hour work period, members of the security team take on one of the three 8-hour work shifts.
Johhny is proud to be the right-hand man for the Chief of Security Willie Rice. He says that they have grown to become family throughout the years that have worked together. ILO Photo/ Johnny Young
Young’s day typically starts at 3:30 am when he wakes up to get ready for his commute from Port Royal to Hilton Head in time for his 6am-2pm shift. His daily commute he says is about 84 miles round trip which he has been doing tirelessly for the last 38 years. Even with this long commute he loves and takes great pride in his job.

“I personally prefer the first shift because you get to see and interact with a lot of different people. You encounter the residents, have conversations with them, and you get to see the real estate agents coming in with clients, so you are pretty much the first point of contact clients have with Long Cove. We basically are the ambassadors at the gate” says Johnny with a chuckle.

“We present them with brochures and information packages and interact respectfully which is very important to the residents. This courteous and professional engagement sells the community to them and makes them feel safe and secure. I think our security department has a lot to do with the development of this community,” Young confidently states.

He also shares that many past residents often call the security team to let them know how much they appreciated them even referring to the team as a refreshing “cup of coffee they had every morning when they went through the gate.” Training staff to maintain this personal approach Johnny believes is integral to Long Cove and its standards.

“This job is not just about security and stuffing and cuffing people, but it’s also public relations,” he insists.

Of the skills and characteristics that are needed in his job, Johnny emphasizes that problem solving, communication, particularly being well-spoken with precise reports on security incidents, are pivotal to the community's attraction and sense of family. He mentions that lifesaving skills which they are trained in, in case of an emergency.

“We work in conjunction with the Hilton Head Fire Department and a big priority for us is to make sure that we are properly trained in life saving skills,” he underscores with a serious tone. “I am actually a Red Cross certified instructor, and we have classes to make sure our staff are all trained in CPR and on how to use defibrillators which we have throughout the property.”

A native of Port Royal South Carolina, Young grew up in a family of eight children. In addition to his siblings, he has four daughters and six grandkids. He says he is where he is today because of the upbringing and the values his mother instilled in him. ILO Photo/ Johnny Young

In speaking to Young his commitment, motivation and love for his work and team are hard to miss. He is particularly grateful to be working with Chief Willie with whom he shares a close working relationship and friendship. He describes him as his brother, his family and “just a really good person.” He credits Chief Willie for being instrumental in helping him get a diagnosis for a benign tumour he suffered from recently.

“Chief Willie is the one who noticed that my behaviour was a little off during the Darius Rucker golf tournament,” he shares. “He said to me ‘Johnny you’re acting a little different and your reaction is a little off,’ because I was mixing things up and not calling people by their correct names.”

On the Chief’s suggestion, Johnny went to see his doctor and after a few tests he was diagnosed with a “mass tumour.” Pointing to the scar on the left side of his head he says, “That’s where this scar came from. I had the surgery to remove it. Thankfully, it was benign, so I didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation, but I did have a couple of seizures in the ICU after surgery.”

In addition to being grateful to Chief Rice, Young also expresses how grateful he is to be employed and have a job that provides a great work environment, health insurance. After taking three months off to recover he returned to work on a part time basis and is now back to being full time.

Complementing his dedication to his work at Long Cove, Young is also a dedicated family man and believes that “the two places you should be happy at, are at home and at work.”

He is the proud father of four adult daughters and a grandfather of six including two who are football players, one in high school and the other in college. He also has a tight-knit relationship with his 91-year-old mother and seven siblings.

“Five of my siblings, myself, and my mother all live within 10 minutes of each other, the other two live out of South Carolina. So, if my mother need anything from me or my siblings we are all there for her and we are also all there for each other,” he underscores. He praises his mother for teaching him to cook, sew, to be self-sufficient and a hard worker. These are key qualities and skills he puts to use every day.

“My mama went on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr I Have a Dream march, and she is a warrior. She always told me ‘Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. I don’t care if you are working behind a garbage truck, you do the best you can. And you know good manners will take you where money won’t,’ and I remember those words always.”

On the topic of what work means to him, Young says, “Work means that at the end of the day you have accomplished and contributed something. It gives you peace of mind and is fulfilling and truly a blessing.”

Given everything he has gained in his almost four decades of working at Long Cove he does not take his work and the great opportunities there for granted, especially after just overcoming a serious health challenge.

When asked if he has any plans to retire or slowdown from working, he shakes his head and soberly replies, “I don’t know, I can’t even answer that. And when the time comes, I think it’s going to hurt me.”

He pauses for a minute, takes a deep breath, and asserts, “Long Cove is my home away from home, and I really care about this place. I really do.” From his words, commitment, and obvious passion for his job, it sounds like Assistant Chief Johnny Young, will continue adding experiences and won’t be writing his book on Long Cove just yet.