Chicago Association of Realtors appoints new CEO

Michelle Mills Clement comes from commercial background to succeed long-standing respected leader Ginger Downs

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Michelle Mills Clement, currently president and CEO of the Commercial Brokers Association in Seattle and association executive for the Washington State Commercial Association of Realtors, has been named the new CEO of the Chicago Association of Realtors to succeed long-standing leader Ginger Downs.

Mills Clement (pictured above), a Chicago native, will join the trade group in April after a handover from Downs, who has been at the helm of the 14,500 member-strong association for the past 12 years.

Rebecca Thomson, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors’ board of directors, and VP of agent development at @properties, said in a press release from the association that Mills Clement was chosen after a nationwide search.

Ginger Downs

“From the very first interview, Michelle captivated us with her energy and her vision,” Thomson said. “She is thoughtful, strategic, and her attention to detail, leadership skills and connections with her association’s staff, leadership, and membership affirmed that she is the best and the brightest. We expect great things from her and have every confidence she will deliver.”

Of Downs, Thomson said: “There’s a reason Ginger is one of the most respected association executives in the nation. Since her arrival, the Chicago Association of Realtors has raised the bar on what our members can expect from their association.”

Mills Clement told Inman that she had spoken with Downs today. “Ginger is a legend — it’s very exciting to work with her to transition into the association,” she said to Inman in an interview. “This organization is so solid, it’s very appealing to me and I want to make sure that its reputation stays in place.”

The trade association has a strong record in education and training, and the incoming CEO said she would continue to prioritize this to help Realtors “stand out from the crowd.” The Chicago Association of Realtors includes commercial brokers in its members, so Mills Clement’s background in commercial real estate will be relevant.

“Coming from commercial, we watch residential closely,” Mills Clement said, adding that residential real estate tech is “light years” ahead of commercial. Mills Clement, who has attended residential real estate industry events such as Inman Connect with her commercial real estate hat on, said the move back to her hometown of Chicago was a good opportunity.

“There is a lot of change going on in Chicago real estate on the residential side — if Amazon bring their headquarters here, that’s going to be exciting to jump into,” she added.

Mills Clement has a history in the Chicago association industry, including positions with the Association Forum of Chicagoland, association management company, SmithBucklin Corporation, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Boy Scouts of America.

In the announcement, the executive said that she saw some good opportunities in developing the trade group’s advocacy role and to work with some of Chicago’s underserved communities.

Email Gill South.