An Amazing Journey

 Mike Theo, WRA President & CEO  |    November 01, 2023

I remember my first day at the WRA. It was January 8, 1985. I didn’t know much about my new boss. I first met Bill Malkasian some weeks earlier when he showed up at my office in the state Capitol and asked if I would apply for the WRA’s open lobbyist position. In my interview, I told him I knew next to nothing about the real estate industry or its key issues. (Not the best way to start out, right?) He responded that the WRA had thousands of members who were experts in the industry and what he needed was someone who knew how to pass good laws and stop bad ones.

In those first weeks and months at the WRA, I very much enjoyed getting to know the staff, the industry, the association and the members. Especially the members. And it’s you, the members, who I’ll remember most when I retire from the WRA at the end of this year.

After 26 years as your chief lobbyist and the past 12 years as your President & CEO, I have witnessed the evolution of the WRA into a powerhouse association that represents, promotes and protects the interests of not only REALTORS® and the real estate industry, but the interests of millions of property owners in every corner of this state. 

Reminiscing these past few months has been fun. We certainly had our share of accomplishments, big and small, along with our share of mistakes (or “teachable moments” as I call them). But what binds all our successes — past, present and future — is you, the members. It is your commitment to improving yourself, your business, your profession, your communities and your association, year in and year out, that makes our work together very special and very successful.

I’ll certainly miss our staff — a lot. They are talented, tenured and witty. Their dedication is truly remarkable. Every day they pursue the staff values we have memorialized on the wall outside my office: integrity, trust, respect, teamwork, service and accountability. Over the years, they have certainly taught me more than I taught them. I couldn’t be prouder of the work they do and how they do it.

I’ll also very much miss the volunteer leaders of the WRA who over the years have always demonstrated the right balance between leading and managing the association. To our current leaders and all our past chairs and directors, you have my enduring thanks and admiration! You delegate to the staff the task of doing things right and reserve for yourselves the task of doing the right things. As an association manager, you can’t ask for a better balance — a better partnership. 

I also couldn’t ask for a better successor. Tom Larson, the WRA’s current executive vice president, longtime chief lobbyist and the head of our legal and public policy department, will take over as President & CEO on January 1, 2024. I’ve had the pleasure of working side by side with Tom for 25 years, during which time he has demonstrated his skills as both a strategic thinker and master tactician. His intelligence is matched by his humility and no one, I mean no one, outworks Tom. He knows the WRA inside and out, and I have every confidence he is ready, willing and able to lead the WRA into an even brighter future. I’m delighted he’s my successor and my friend.

As I prepare to leave, I ask that you remember this: REALTORS® are very special people. You do very special work. From my first days at the WRA, I marveled at how our members, as fierce competitors in the marketplace, would unite, at all levels of our organization, to advocate, educate and elevate the real estate profession. Personal and professional disagreements or disputes were left at the WRA doorstep and inside, attention focused on how to best protect private property rights, how to improve professionalism, and how to better serve customers and clients. I still marvel at this today. It is this level of engagement, this level of commitment, that makes our organization so special and so effective. My parting advice: Keep it up!

I could not have done what I have so happily done over these 38 years without the love, encouragement and support of my wife of 42 years, Sheryl, as well as my children, Andrea and Alex. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of all of you. It’s been an amazing journey. Thanks for letting me come along for the ride!  

Mike Theo
WRA President & CEO

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