1. How did you get to become involved with ACTHA?
I always like to do the best job at whatever I do. When I joined my association in the 1970s, I began to seek knowledge by attending workshops, seminars and conferences in the field. I attended most of the educational offerings at CAI and later attended educational programs through ACTHA. I found that ACTHA provided quality education sessions locally. Members at both organizations continually asked me to participate in its leadership. I have served on ACTHA’s Education, Membership, Bylaws and Executive Committees. I was elected to the ACTHA Board of Directors in 2013, served as V.P. and was just elected President.2. Tell us about your association. What issues is your association currently addressing?
My association, Westgate Terrace C.A., is a 48-unit community located in a park like setting with over 160 trees located in the University Village neighborhood on the Near West Side of Chicago. We have engaged owners and have never had a problem getting owners to serve on our nine-member board!
The main issue facing my association is the lack of operational knowledge amongst the board members. Board members need a foundation of knowledge to make good decisions, and many lack knowledge in construction technology, accounting, budgeting, planning, landscaping, aesthetics, meeting rules, laws and much more in order to make wise decisions. Other factors such as personality/ego issues, personal agendas, lack of understanding of fiduciary responsibility and, most importantly, the unwillingness to seek knowledge through consultants or education, can result in contentious board meetings and impede progress. Boards need training, and ACTHA offers such training! The problem is getting board members to recognize the need for training in order to serve well in their respective roles.
Additionally, my association is working through a transition of a newly-hired manager. Outlining expectations and responsibilities for management can help provide for a successful transition. Like many other newly-formed boards, we acted without utilizing the wealth of available operational information.3. What’s in store for ACTHA in the coming year?
ACTHA faces many challenges for the immediate future. Our major initiative is getting the message out to all the owners who live in association environments that we exist and serve as a valuable resource. Like most non-profits, we have a tight budget as well as membership growth challenges. We are experimenting with different venues and offering new and different, meaningful experiences at our conferences to help owners, leaders and board members make better decisions. We also need to continually add to our assortment of vendors to best serve community associations and to help support ACTHA. We need a proper mix of vendors that will attract homeowners as well as board members. We are located in the Chicago metropolitan area and have access to a wealth of quality vendors and opportunities. We must think positively and big!4. What trends to you see in our industry?
Due to economic feasibility, I see continued growth for people living in community association environments. I see many boards abdicate their board responsibility role to lawyers or community managers. Sometimes there is mismanagement and money wasted, and the board isn’t always aware of it. All owners need to realize that they live in an environment where they have a mini-government and that their active participation is needed to help maintain their properties properly and keep property values up. Owners need to be the drivers of boards.
Owners must expect boards to learn to lead instead of letting others (e.g. attorneys or managers) do their jobs for them. We certainly need legal and management guidance; however, Board members should make policy decisions for the owners, managers should execute the Board’s decisions and lawyers guide the Board in meeting their objectives. In order to be effective, owners and board members need to be educated. ACTHA offers such education. In some states, newly elected board members must attend a training session to learn of their responsibilities in an association environment. Remember, association boards run a business, many with multi-million dollar budgets! I look forward to ACTHA serving as the source for such education and becoming more recognized and even accredited.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received through ACTHA that helped your association?
ACTHA opens you up to a vast world of leadership knowledge in a community association environment. I learn something worthwhile at every event offered by ACTHA. Learning and growth never ends!