Editor’s note: The National Association of Realtors’ backbone consists of industry movers and shakers — some of whom are paid staff and others volunteers — who help keep the organization pointed in the right direction and striving to meet its goals. This special five-part series takes a look at some noteworthy figures within the trade group. (See Part 1: A leading lobbyist for a powerful lobby; Part 2: NAR’s top guns; Part 3: Volunteers who call the shots at NAR; and Part 4: Tech guru shaped home listings site.)
Ron Phipps knows about pressure and emotionally-charged debates. The Rhode Island-based Realtor sat on the National Association of Realtors’ MLS Policy Committee and chaired the Virtual office Web site Workgroup in 2003 when the committee was charged with devising a policy on online real estate listings display. At least 1,000 people showed up during some of the workgroup meetings Phipps oversaw.
Online listings display for virtual office Web sites, or VOWs for short, remains a controversial topic for NAR members. The ultimate policy the group presented to the board of governors is now the subject of a Justice Department antitrust investigation, and implementation of the rules has been put on hold until January 2005.
“It was one of the most challenging leadership experiences I’ve had,” Phipps said. “The process was totally open, constructive and deliberate.”
With nearly 1.1 million dues-paying members, NAR is among the largest and most powerful trade groups in the country. NAR’s backbone includes a roster of industry “movers and shakers,” some of whom are paid staff, and others lifelong volunteers. These people keep the organization moving forward, meeting its goals and keeping strong one of the most critical industries in the U.S. economy.
Thousands of NAR members volunteer their time and services to NAR’s approximately 80 committees each year. The committees handle issues that range from critical federal legislative measures to how the association will spend its money. Some committees are so large they’re divided into subcommittees, which handle individual topics–such as the VOW Workgroup.
The NAR committees are a breeding ground for future association leaders to gain recognition. Current leaders identify and mentor their next-generation replacements within committees, Phipps said, and the forum offers an opportunity to create relationships with colleagues.
“The committee process is where you really cut your teeth,” he said.
Phipps currently serves as the liaison to the Information, Communications and Education Group. Committee liaisons maintain communication between the committee and NAR leadership. They are appointed by the incoming NAR president and take on specific duties and responsibilities, such as communicating priorities, mentoring committee chairs, monitoring progress and identifying future leadership.
Each committee has a chair, vice chair, liaison and staff executive.
Among the most powerful and critical NAR committees are:
Public Policy Coordinating Committee
The Public Policy Coordinating Committee sets the legislative and regulatory agenda for NAR. It decides what issues the association will lobby and how NAR will position itself. One of the most powerful groups, this committee of 105 members includes chairs and vice chairs from committees such as the Federal Housing Policy Committee, Federal Taxation Committee, Legislation and Regulatory Subcommittee, Conventional Finance and Lending Committee, Housing Needs Committee and Business Issues Committee, among others.
To be eligible to serve on this committee, NAR members must have knowledge of national public policy positions and an understanding of federal legislative issues.
Key 2004 leaders of this committee include: Iona Harrison (Chair), Blaine Walker (Vice Chair), Jim Helsel (Liaison) and Gary Weaver and George Griffin (Staff Executives).
The Executive Committee is made up of 48 members charged with recommending new policies, changes to existing policies or striking old policies to the board of directors. Any recommendations from other committees must first go through the Executive Committee before heading to the board.
The current NAR president chairs the committee. Top leadership positions such as the president-elect, treasurer, first vice president, immediate past president and regional vice presidents also sit on the committee, among others.
Key 2004 leaders of this committee include: Walt McDonald (Chair), Al Mansell (Vice Chair) and Alisa Thompson (Staff Executive).
RPAC Trustees Committee
NAR has the largest political action committee in the country, so it’s no surprise that being an RPAC Trustee is a big deal for NAR leaders and members. The group of trustees decides how the PAC money will be spent and which political candidates will be endorsed by the association.
There are 26 members of the RPAC Trustees Committee. Members must have volunteer experience in a political campaign, two years experience on a NAR legislative or political committee, one year experience as a state RPAC Trustee and be a multiyear RPAC contributor.
NAR has contributed a total of $3.2 million to political leaders in this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. NAR also is listed as the second largest all-time donor with a total of $25.5 million in contributions made since 1990.
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RPAC Trustees collect voluntary political contributions and make expenditures to assist candidates for federal office who are Realtor-friendly and who support Realtors’ position on specific legislative issues.
Key leaders of this committee include: Bill Brown (Chair), Bill Watts (Vice Chair), Bob Kulick (Liaison) and Scott Reiter and Nicole Hassett (Staff Executives).
The Finance Committee makes recommendations on financial planning, budgeting and investments. The group of about 15 members oversees all of NAR’s finances. To serve on this elite group, a member must have experience with financial planning and budgeting, have served on a NAR committee, as well as experience on a state or local finance committee.
Key leaders of this committee include: Mike Brodie (Chair), John Foltz (Vice Chair) and Dale Stinton (Staff executive).
MLS Policy Committee
The MLS Policy Committee makes recommendations to the board of directors on multiple listing service issues at Realtor-operated MLSs. The group is made up of 100 members, each having experience serving on an MLS committee at the state or local level, as well on NAR’s MLS Policy Forum, which essentially is a discussion group where members share ideas and concerns regarding MLSs and form recommendations to give to the MLS Policy Committee.
Key leaders of this committee include: Greg Zadel (Chair), Deborah Dwyer (Vice Chair), Jean Crosby (Liaison) and Cliff Niersbach (Staff executive).
Political Communications Committee
The Political Communications Committee is charged with sending NAR’s public policy priorities to Congress via education and appointment of key contacts to members of Congress.
The 59 members are responsible for appointing the Federal Coordinators and Federal Contact Teams, and coordinating political mobilization efforts.
Key leaders include: Robert McMillan (Chair), Bob Snowden (Vice Chair), Bob Kulick (Liaison) and Greg Knopp (Staff Executive).
Legal Action Committee
The Legal Action Committee’s role is to handle requests for financial assistance in litigation that could be significant to NAR or other Realtor associations. This committee also polices NAR’s trademark protection and oversees NAR’s liability insurance program. The 16 or 17 members recommend other legal affairs actions as needed.
Members must first serve on a state or local legal action committee to be considered for the national level committee.
Key leaders of this committee include: Carolyn D’Agosta (Chair), Carol Shields (Vice Chair), Jean Crosby (Liaison) and Ralph Holmen (Staff executive).
Professional Standards Committee
The Professional Standards Committee guards NAR’s code of ethics, and advises on interpretations of the code. The committee acts as the code police, looking into and seeking action on instances where the code of ethics may not have been enforced.
The committee is made of 101 members, who must have experience serving on a Professional Standards Committee at the local or state level. Members also must have experience as a professional standards procedures instructor, professional standards administration and have served on the NAR Professional Standards Forum.
Key leaders of this committee: Sharon Steele (Chair), David Sampson (Vice Chair), Jean Crosby (Liaison) and Rodney Gansho (Staff executive).
Strategic Planning Committee
The Strategic Planning Committee is made of forward-thinking strategists who are able to identify strategic priorities for NAR’s future. The group monitors and researches trends, threats, opportunities and issues that affect the real estate industry.
The 18 members send an annual update to the Executive Committee on recommendations and progress in these areas.
Key leaders of this committee include: Monty Newman (Chair), C. Scott Bradley (Vice Chair), David Lereah and Ellen Roche (Staff executives).
The Research Committee focuses on housing market conditions and the U.S. economy. The group of 33 members also looks for new topics they believe require research. NAR regularly tracks homes sales, home prices, condo sales and prices, and interest rates, as well as broker activity and home buyer and seller trends.
NAR members considering participation in this committee must have knowledge of research and statistics.
Key leaders of this committee include: Mike Teer (Chair), Dennis Johnson (Vice Chair), Ron Phipps (Liaison) and Ellen Roche (Staff executive).
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