Chairman's Corner with Rob Keefe

 October 05, 2011

Hello Wisconsin REALTORS®! It will be my privilege to serve as your Chairman for the 2011-2012 year. By way of background, I grew up in Lake Geneva and spent nine years as a Naval Officer. In 2000, I left the Navy to join the family business where I spent time in mortgage and real estate development in addition to our core brokerage business. I’ve been blessed to be associated with and trained by some of the best real estate agents anywhere. I’m particularly excited about working alongside Chairman-Elect Renny Diedrich from Fox Valley and Treasurer Steve Lane from Steven’s Point. You have an outstanding slate of directors and committee members from every corner of the state representing your interests and guiding the Association into the future.

And what a future it will be. Among the many changes facing the WRA this year is the retirement of 33-year WRA President Bill Malkasian. Bill has guided the Association and its staff as long as most of us can remember - and longer than a significant portion of the membership has been alive! He has established Wisconsin as the premiere state association in the county, one often emulated by larger states. We wish him well as he goes to work for the NAR to help other states professionalize their political operations. I could devote this entire letter to listing Bill’s accomplishments but suffice to say that our business in Wisconsin is as healthy and consumer- and practitioner-friendly as it is because of Bill Malkasian. Succeeding him will be Mike Theo, current legislative director and long-time senior WRA staffer. While Mike has spent years learning from and working alongside Bill, he has his own ideas and perspective on the WRA’s direction. Change is good, and I’m looking forward to his new ideas and enthusiasm. I have no doubt that Mike will create his own legacy in service of REALTORS® in our state.

I believe every leader of an organization should have a vision and organizational priorities. I have three for the upcoming year that I’d like to share with you.

1. First, our business has become more demanding, more complex and more difficult. Dodd-Frank rules, short sales, foreclosures, inflated inventory, social media, forms and electronic signatures represent just a partial list of the complexities today’s REALTOR® must deal with. Our clients expect us not just to be familiar with these, but to be experts worthy of their trust in the largest investment most will make. To keep that trust, we need to continually up our game. As a first priority, I will work to ensure that our Association is focused on improving the knowledge and professionalism of its members and keeping the bar high for those who practice real estate in Wisconsin.

2. Staying active politically is a key element in helping create a positive environment for REALTORS® and their clients in Wisconsin, particularly as the role of government in our professional lives continues to grow. The recent U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United has changed the rules and landscape for political fundraising and advocacy throughout the country. We will work to ensure that the WRA adapts to and succeeds in this new environment.

3. Due in part to the effectiveness of our lobbying efforts, we are blessed with one of the most pro-REALTOR® and pro-private property legislative environments in many years. Now is the time to examine the laws and regulations governing the practice of real estate in Wisconsin. Many are outmoded or no longer serve their original purpose. Still others have been superseded by technological innovation or changes in practice. We will work to conduct a thorough review of our laws and regulations to identify those outmoded rules and regulations and work expeditiously to address them with the legislature and executive branch departments.

Finally, I’d like to extend my congratulations and gratitude to John Horning for the outstanding job he did leading the WRA last year. In turbulent times, we hope for a leader who is cool, calm, unflappable and able to keep the larger goals in perspective. This describes John to a tee. We were lucky to have him work for us, and his work has improved the lives of REALTORS® and their clients.

It’s going to be an exciting year. I look forward to working hard on your behalf. If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Stay in touch, stay involved.

Robert Keefe

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