Maj. Lance Hill is a 310th Airlift Squadron C-37 pilot.
Hill's job at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa allows him to live his lifelong dream of being a pilot while traveling around the world transporting distinguished visitors.
"I always wanted to be a pilot — since I was about 3 or 4 years old, when I first knew what an airplane was," recalls Hill, now 37.
"My mom used to make my dad take me out to the airport to watch the planes take off and I never missed an air show."
These days he's flying top brass so important he can't say who they are.
At night, he's home with his wife, Holly, and their daughter Ellie, 3, in their house overlooking a wooded wetland preserve in Seven Oaks.
The couple bought the four-bedroom house built by Standard Pacific Homes in July after they received word Lance would be stationed in Tampa. The house wasn't quite completed and the company allowed them to customize some features.
"They were easy to work with and allowed us to make a lot of changes," Holly says.
The Hills moved in less than a month ago, yet the house is already well-lived-in: the dining room holds treasures Lance has brought back from missions all over the world (for years he has also flown Air Force jet cargo and tanker jets).
Over the years he's brought Holly candlesticks from Germany, an elephant from Thailand and a wooden giraffe from South Africa. The airy living room is decorated with durable leather and upholstered furniture that's virtually kidproof. There's room for Ellie's trampoline as well as the box of colorful, soft blocks and miniature pots and pans she ferries from her playroom one morning in late October.
The Hills, who have moved at least five times in their decade-long marriage, like their new neighborhood — a lot.
The couple, who literally fell in love at first sight — they were engaged after 11 days of meeting and married just over a month later — joke that they aren't big city people. Though they're both Dallas natives, they say they prefer a small-town feel and living in a place where they know their neighbors.
"We looked everywhere from St. Petersburg to New Tampa to Riverview," explains Holly Hill, 34, a former flight attendant for Delta who has also worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep. "In the end, nothing compared to Pasco.
"The school system is really good, taxes are reasonable, and as a bonus, we're close to beaches, Disney, the Florida Aquarium and one of the best zoos in the country (Lowry Park). I've taken Ellie several times already."
One of the main reasons they selected Seven Oaks — a Wesley Chapel master-planned community close to Interstate 75 — had to do with Ellie.
Born 3 1/2 months early, she has special medical needs as well as a heart condition.
The Hills were particularly impressed with Seven Oaks Elementary School's program for children with special needs: "It's a huge program with many services and 125 kids enrolled," says Holly, who explained that Ellie will probably enroll in preschool by next year.
Lance's demanding job and long hours meant they wanted a home that was comfortable, safe and private. They also looked for a neighborhood that was kid-friendly: Says Lance: "Each of the little neighborhoods in this community has a playground, some have basketball courts and the clubhouse has a kids' pool."
Says Holly: "We wanted a small-town feel with access to a big city, we wanted good family values and wonderful neighbors. I really feel like we found that here."
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at [email protected]