2020 NAA Excellence Award Winners
The NAA Excellence Awards, ‘the Excels,’ recognize excellence and leadership in the apartment housing industry.
These national awards celebrate builders, industry professionals and NAA-affiliated state and local apartment associations that make unique contributions to the rental housing industry.
The Apartment Association of Greater Orlando and the Florida Apartment Association, Maitland, Fla.
Florida’s housing market has had difficulty keeping up with high demand due to unprecedented levels of population growth. Weekly, 1,500 people move to central Florida alone. This has exacerbated the state’s housing shortage and the issue of the surrounding housing affordability. But the Florida Apartment Association (FAA), in partnership with the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando (AAGO), are tackling the challenge, producing a Housing Affordability Toolkit, the only one of its kind in Florida. The Toolkit’s target audience includes Florida lawmakers in 283 cities, 67 counties, 40 state Senators, and 120 local Representatives. It lays out state-specific multifamily housing market trends and cost barriers associated with developing affordable housing and couples this information with survey data collected from 37 developers throughout the state. The data and feedback challenge assumptions about which policies might effectively “move the needle” to increase Florida housing. Moreover, the Toolkit’s innovativeness offers credible, data-driven, solutions backed by those who are among those deciding how to add to Florida’s housing stock. It’s also expected to help the Florida apartment industry assist lawmakers to make smart policy decisions.
Apartment Association of Metro Denver (AAMD), Greenwood Village, Colo.
People are more likely to give dollars and donate time when the process is made easier and shared. And that’s just what the Apartment Association of Metro Denver (AAMD) did by establishing its “Apartments Giving Back” initiative, which has three main goals: Shine a positive spotlight on the multifamily industry and its members and association; promote the philanthropic efforts of AAMD members who support local charitable organizations such as Food Bank of the Rockies and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital; and raise money for charitable organizations that showcase the industry’s goodwill to the Denver community. Association members are invited to submit their charity involvement, and a new website, www.apartmentsgivingback.org, helps promote efforts of members who give back and cites the large number of charitable organizations that are supported. Last year, AAMD hosted a bowling tournament and auction. It raised and distributed nearly $80,000, with $69,000 donated to Family Homestead, an organization that houses families in transition, and raised over $10,000 for 23 other charities.
Josh Gold, Executive Vice President, Florida Apartment Association, Orlando, Fla.
For more than 20 years, Josh Gold, Executive Vice President of the Florida Apartment Association (FAA) and a resident of downtown Orlando, has grown and supported vibrant not-for-profit organizations. Prior to joining FAA, Gold was Vice President of Business Development and Conferences for The Institute of Financial Operations, a professional association serving the accounts payable and accounts receivable disciplines. Before that, he held management positions with the National Association of Metal Finishers, Healthcare Distribution Management Association and the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus. Gold holds the Certified Association Executive designation from the American Society of Association Executives and the Certified Meeting Professional credential from the Convention Industry Council. He was named a “Young and Aspiring Association Executive” by Association TRENDS magazine and has won multiple Excel Awards (Association Media & Publishing), Gold Circle Awards (American Society of Association Executives) and Charlie Awards (Florida Magazine Association). He graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree and is a member of both the American Society of Association Executives and the Professional Convention Management Association.
Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, Renton, Wash.
To encourage Washington Multi-Family Housing Association (WMFHA) members to engage with their association, WMFHA, which employs just six people, used a host of innovative tactics that proved effective in reaching its audience: a membership of 1,499 communities, 259 industry supplier companies, 170 management companies and 3,789 email addresses. Among its strategies were easy ways for members to use their voice for advocacy efforts, roadshows to take information directly to associates, member orientation programs and a new Leadership Lyceum program to build future leadership. With weekly videos highlighting members and their work, an increased presence on social media, monthly free networking events, volunteer committee options and opportunities to give back to charity partners, the association has aspired to provide something for everyone. One of its ways to reach onsite members was connecting with them at their destinations rather than making them travel, which was dubbed “Engagement Roadshow.” Another, WMFHA Wednesdays, featured a weekly video highlighting its members. To increase a sense of belonging, volunteer committees planned 79 events and educational offerings, with many sold out and others at 90% capacity.
Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, Renton, Wash.
For the past six years, Sheri Druckman has served on Washington Multi-Family Housing Association’s Board of Directors, holding the positions of Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, President and Immediate Past President. She previously served as Director of Real Estate at Greystar. In addition to her exemplary attendance and participation, she set a positive example for other members in what can be done to promote the association’s mission and programs, mentor others in the industry and strengthen the organization’s engagement by revving up interest from other professionals and companies. She also has exhibited ethical integrity that exemplifies the association’s vision, mission and values. She serves on the Government Affairs Committee, regularly attends the Association’s Day on the Hill lobby day, has served on numerous NAA committees and promotes WMFHA in her interactions with peers. Druckman regularly speaks at association events and educational seminars. Those around her say her ability to recognize something special in each person makes everyone feel valued. People are said to be the building blocks of a strong industry. Druckman is considered the mortar that holds the association’s bricks firmly together.
Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, Charlotte, N.C.
The Apartment Career Credentials that Empower Students to Succeed Program (A.C.C.E.S.S.) was created in 2019 to address the living wage and housing affordability disparities in the Greater Charlotte region. With a focus on providing career opportunities to economically disadvantaged high school students who did not consider college an option, the program takes a multilayered approach to achieving its goals of building a skilled labor pipeline for the region's multifamily industry while also breaking cycles of poverty. The program includes two major components: first, embedding the CAMT and NALP credential programs in local public high schools; and second, creating a hub for high school students to experience multifamily careers and learn about the industry in an interactive way. Among its strategies are to enlist veteran members to teach high school graduates through a summer fast-track CAMT pilot program and solicit owner members to hire program graduates as maintenance tech interns and allow them to complete their provisional CAMT employment requirement. The A.C.C.E.S.S. Program also is designed to spread the word to everyone.
Kingsley Apartments, Charter Properties, Charlotte, N.C.
The best communities reflect a belief that the people involved—residents and staff—matter more than any amenities and bells and whistles. In the case of Kingsley Apartments in Fort Mill, S.C., the story begins with the Springs-Close family and its foundation, which has long focused its resources and efforts to provide food, shelter and medical assistance to those living in the communities in which it has invested. Kingsley, owned and managed by Charter Properties out of Charlotte, N.C., has 238 units and sits amid greenery with walking trails, ponds and a dog park, and is situated close to local attractions. Among its amenities are three exercise rooms, salt-water pool, outdoor tv/lounge and clubhouse. The staff has been well trained and taught the importance of catering to residents, with help from earning national designations and attending seminars that boost professionalism, hosting resident appreciation events and guaranteeing fast maintenance fixes. The proof? A 54% retention rate, losing residents mostly to new housing. The company also offers staff and residents opportunities to give back to the community to inspire change beyond their doors.
The Channel Bowen Apartments, Pegasus Residential, Alpharetta, Ga.
The Channel at Bowen is the first part of the company’s "Bowen, a Waterfront Village," in Hanahan, S.C. With 136 apartment homes located on 94 acres and in close proximity to shopping centers in the walkable village of Bowen, the community is also a short drive to downtown Charleston. Among its amenities are a cardio and fitness center and yoga room, indoor golf pub, movie theater, water walkway, swimming pools and club room with business center and game room. Service is a major priority for the company, offering residents the ability to create work orders from their smartphones, send photos and get a quick response. Giving back to the community is another integral feature, and managers sponsor and contribute to initiatives such as a blood drive, hosting voting poll centers, raising funds for ASPCA and caring for less fortunate families at holidays. Not surprising, the retention rate rose above the national standard, which the company also attributes to its quarterly renewal parties, hand-delivered caramel apples to apartment residents and environmental stewardship, from being a paperless community to installing solar panels.
Dauner Haus Apartments, Fenton, Mich.
When Continental Management of Bingham Farms, Mich., started to develop Dauner Haus Apartments in 1977, the goal was to offer 192 units in three different affordable models: A 62-year-old and disabled (Section 8) area with 100 units, 51 family townhouses (Section 8) and a 55-and-older (tax credit) apartment building with 41 units. The community remains the only affordable option in Fenton, a city of 12,000, about 59 miles from Detroit. Because of the importance placed on outdoor living, the community was developed with areas of grass, flowers and a gazebo, which reflects Fenton’s use of gazebos as an important landmark icon. But the main reason why Dauner Haus was recognized is because of dedicated staff and resident involvement—all there for each other through activities such as potluck meals, bingo, healthcare services through SunCare Home Health, Meals on Wheels for seniors, a van that takes residents on outings to stores and restaurants, mentoring among different groups and helping to raise funds for Fenton. The occupancy rate remains at 96% or better; the waiting list is one and a half years.
Seaside Village, Lincoln Military Housing, Oceanside, Calif.
When Lincoln Military Housing, which develops military homes for rent, designed Seaside Village at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif., it had the benefit of a picturesque setting with views of the Pacific Ocean and Oceanside Harbor and a short drive to downtown San Diego. Lincoln Military designed the community, which opened in June 2017, for senior enlisted and officer families who choose among its 250 duplex-style, three- and four-bedroom homes. Each home includes a kitchen equipped with Energy Star-rated appliances, quartz countertops, solid wood cabinets and a breakfast bar, a laundry room with a sink, two-car garage and fenced yard. But there’s much more beyond each door: Free 24-hour emergency maintenance, playgrounds, dog parks, grass fields with gazebos, barbeque grills, picnic tables, a clubhouse with gym, game room, heated pool and a protected environmental setting that the U.S. Green Building Council-awarded Silver LEED certification. The location also is within walking distance of an elementary school, child development center and neighborhood convenience store. The average occupancy hit almost 98% in 2019.
College Town, Tallahassee, Fla., Greystar, Charleston, S.C.
Students today want options—lots of options, and College Town in Tallahassee, FL, offers an abundance of choice. It lies within walking distance of Florida State University (FSU) and the university’s Doak S. Campbell Stadium and offers the additional benefit of being a mixed-use community comprised of 642 residential units and 16 retail spaces. To provide students with varied choices, there are one-, two-, and three-bedroom floor plans, amenities such as an outdoor deck, gym/fitness center, study rooms and extensive retail options, from a 24-hour convenience store to night club, boutiques, breakfast shop and full-service hair and tanning salon. Before COVID-19 put a hold on gatherings, management hosted events such as a Super Bowl Party, block party for residents and those in the community, marathon, an event to benefit underprivileged children and others. All the efforts translated into strong occupancy at 99% in 2019 and a high renewal retention at 31.7%. When the pandemic ends, the hope is for a return to all College Town’s gatherings, which bring students together. In the meantime, students returned to campus, learning virtually and in classes.
Berkshire Residential Investments, Boston
Berkshire Residential Investments is a vertically integrated residential real estate investment and property management company with more than 50 years of experience and a reputation for identifying opportunities and managing through different economic environments. As of September 30, 2019, Berkshire had approximately $8.8 billion in real estate assets under management. Dollars tell just part of its story, however. The company has been proud of shaping and leveraging a work environment where diversity of expression is valued and celebrated to advance employee leadership capabilities, maximize talent management and drive superior business results. More than five years ago, the company established its Diversity and Inclusion Committee to reflect corporate goals and initiatives and foster an inclusive workplace where different viewpoints could be shared, employee education on topics around diversity and inclusion would be supported with training and all employees would be embraced. The Committee meets six times a year to discuss initiatives; subcommittees focus on topics such as recruitment, outreach to the LGBTQ community, involvement in PRIDE events in different cities and use of gender-neutral language.
Christopher Tinsley, Service Manager, Colonial Village at West End, Glen Allen, Va.
For 23 years, Christopher Tinsley, 49, has been the service manager at Colonial Village at West End, a luxury rental community of 224 units in the Richmond, Va., area. He has always taken all aspects of his job seriously, from overseeing its budget—and coming in under budget for the last 18 years—to following through on work orders, getting units ready when new residents move in, handling details himself whether repainting or replacing bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs, training staff and planning events such as pool cookouts and bingo nights. He also has taken an active role in the local apartment association and participated in its volunteer events such as morning coffees, trade show classes and membership on its board of directors. Residents give him high marks—an average 4.75 out of 5 in surveys, which Tinsley attributes in part to completing their work orders the same day they are called in and making it clear he wants residents to love their homes.
Staci Hasman, Community Manager, AMLI West Plano, Plano, Texas
When joining AMLI Residential in West Plano, Texas, Staci Hasman accepted a steep challenge: Turning around an underperforming property in an oversaturated market. On her watch, she accomplished the goal. The community became number one in its performance for 2019, based on multiple factors—the manager’s and leasing consultant’s performances, net operating income (NOI), revenue, renewal and others. Hasman has shown her commitment through hard work, and success has followed. She manages a multimillion-dollar asset and participates in all AMLI events. She signed the Dallas Mavericks as a discount partner for all Dallas-area AMLI residents, added U-Haul’s "Take a Box, Leave a Box" program for residents to cut waste, volunteers with Plano for compost pick-up and textile recycling, had solar panels installed, increased NOI by 7% above the allotted budget, granted children wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and maintained occupancy of 94.3% last year. She also prides herself on signing up her team for classes such as leasing, budgeting and management training. Her ultimate goal? “I want to become a vice president of a property management firm.”
Doris Granger, Regional Property Manager, Orlando, Fla., Management Company, CARROLL, Atlanta
Twenty-two years ago, Doris Granger left Honduras for the U.S. and found that property management provided an opportunity to succeed professionally. “My husband and I rented an apartment and found the leasing agent so helpful. My husband said, ‘I see a lot of her in you. You should try this.’” Granger did, starting as a leasing consultant, moving up to assistant and then to property manager at a 447-unit building for CARROLL. Through her mentorship, her team was recognized for assisting other properties and developing a marketing and leasing training program. The successful results led to her promotion to regional property manager of 2,624 units in 2019. She also took time to become involved in the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando (AAGO) and support local charitable efforts such as Ronald McDonald House and Coalition for the Homeless. She remains committed to mentoring. “I want to be sure people move to the next level,” she says. Because of the pandemic of 2019, Granger changed jobs and returned to her roots as Property Manager at J.M.G. Realty in Celebration, Fla.
Blaise Spitaleri, Business Development Manager, Gemstar Construction, Houston
Growing up in the New York area, Blaise Spitaleri often accompanied his father on his flooring jobs—a business he would later pursue, but he also picked up life lessons about working with people. “My father taught me the importance of being transparent and honest. I watched how he interacted, and I promised myself I would try to do the same,” he says. In 2009, at age 25, when Spitaleri and his wife moved to Dallas for his job as corporate billing manager at Rasa Floors, a replacement flooring company for the multifamily industry, he had the chance. In 10 years with the company, he proved he heeded the lessons well as he moved up to branch manager and then into marketing. His interest in government led to his learning about political action committees (PACs). He volunteers with The Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, which supports refugees’ acclimation into the U.S. In 2019, he was named Rising Star Supplier of the Year by the Houston Apartment Association (HAA). A year ago, he was recruited to become Business Development Manager for Gemstar, a Houston construction company.
Megan Orser, COO, Smart Moves LLC/Smart Apartment Solutions, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Megan Orser has been involved in the apartment industry for almost 25 years—since she was in high school working on a tax credit lease-up in Colorado Springs, Colo. She now allocates her time between Smart Apartment Solutions, educating her staffers in leasing, customer service, marketing and fair housing to name a few, and Smart Moves LLC, where she is Director of Property Management. The latter company manages nine single-family homes, some within existing multifamily properties across Michigan; the former company, founded in 2014, was expanded to add commercial space. Orser has conducted market studies in prospective markets, and utilized technology to market units with videos, social media and QR codes to make it easier for applicants to apply. Along with her Smart Moves team, she maintained 100% occupancy and helped expand the portfolio by 120% last year. In August 2019, Smart Moves LLC, won Independent Rental Owner of the Year, another kudo for Orser.
Jesse Miller, Director of Real Estate, Greystar Real Estate Partners, Portland, Ore.
Jesse Miller has been a national, award-winning director of real estate, providing leadership and direction for operations, business development, strategic planning, investment and large-scale project management in the industry. Besides his Operational Director role at Greystar, Miller inspires others to expand their skill sets and strengthen their career potential. Some of his recent contributions include leadership instruction at eight industry educational conferences (some as far away as Beijing and Tokyo) and helping launch Portland State University’s Property Management Program. He received the 2019 National IREM REME ARM and 2018 NAA Credential Holder of the Year awards and also facilitated more than 100 trainings/workshops with topics on commercial tenant insurance, financial management, accounting best practices, risk management, curb appeal management and neuroscience of leadership. At every chance, Miller is said to pay it forward by leaning in, rolling up his sleeves and sharing his knowledge and experience. Colleagues refer to him as “a difference maker and champion of personal and professional development.” And that’s what he’s done in just 15 years. Watch out for the next 15 and longer!
Michael Markus, Director of Maintenance, BRG Apartments, Cincinnati
After serving eight years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, Michael Markus joined the Residential Property Management industry in 2009, starting as a maintenance technician apprentice for Access Properties, a 135-unit community owned and operated by his father-in-law. Access Properties focused on value-add opportunities in a historical but struggling workforce housing market. Markus handled repairing and maintaining a variety of equipment, from steam and hydronic boilers to completing building rehabs. He was also encouraged to be active in the Apartment Association and its educational outlets and earned his CAMT in 2012 and his CAM in 2016. As his partners moved toward retirement, he left Access Properties in 2015 to become Director of Maintenance for BRG Realty Group in Cincinnati, an owner/operator with 45 communities and approximately 8,000 rental homes. A year later, he was asked to develop and manage an internal team to provide support for contracted services focused on HVAC, plumbing, carpentry and rehab.
Kevin Chalmers, Landen Apartment Homes, Irving, Texas
There is an adage that applies to Kevin Chalmers’ work: If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. Five years ago, Chalmers, who owns and operates the Landen Apartment Homes in Irving, Texas, joined the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas (AAGD) and the Independent Rental Owners Group (IRO). In 2016, he became a Director-at-Large of the Board of Directors for the IRO Group. The following year, he served as the Secretary on the Board. He’s currently on the AAGD Education Committee, encourages team members to earn NAA credentials and volunteers with two area medical facilities. In his professional work, Chalmers invests in Class C properties to transform them into Class B, which improves housing and helps revitalize Irving. In the case of Landen, constructed in 1970, Chalmers spent $1.5 million to improve it after he acquired it in 2017. Chalmers also works with other Irving apartment owners and operators, so their joint efforts have a ripple effect. Update on the adage: A lot of busy people can do even more good.
Callaghan Wise, Chief Financial Officer, Smart Apartment Solutions, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Callaghan Wise’s accomplishments started soon after earning his undergraduate degree in economics from Michigan State University in 2015. He earned a CAMT Designation in 2016, was on NAA Technology & Global Outreach committees in 2016, WAAA’s programs committee in 2018, won a Rising Star Award at the Detroit Metropolitan Apartment Association's Prism Awards in 2019 and Rising Star Award at the Property Management Association of Michigan's GLAStar Awards also in 2019. He next became Smart Apartment Solutions’ Chief Financial Officer. He knew to enlist the assistance of a senior colleague, recently retired from a CFO position, to mentor him to identify trends, challenges and other essentials so he could become a successful CFO, too. He also possesses a can-do attitude of taking every opportunity to promote NAA, his CAMT credential and affiliation with Michigan affiliates. And he regularly attends legislative updates at the local associations across the state. In the last two years, Callaghan developed a training solution to conduct an on-demand exam for maintenance professionals to receive HVAC certification.
Plaza Verde, American Campus Communities, Irvine, Calif.
Many student communities now offer cutting-edge amenities, study lounges and well-equipped apartments. The 1,441-bed, five-story residential tower, Plaza Verde at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI), features an academic center, lounges, fitness centers, multi-purpose rooms, outdoor pavilions and 30,000-square-foot community center. But it goes beyond with its affordable green living, all-electric plan. It was designed and constructed to become UCI’s first net-zero energy operation and achieve LEED platinum certification. It lives up to its green stewardship by pursuing a multifaceted approach: consuming 72% less energy than a standard building with its LED lighting, Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient water heater, efficient fan coil unit for heating and cooling, white reflective roofing to limit sun absorption, tropical wood that’s certified through FSC, re-used, or reclaimed, wall insulation with recycled content, low-flow plumbing fixtures, native and drought-tolerant plants, an irrigation system that uses reclaimed water and low-emitting interior materials. And 75% of construction materials were recycled. These extensive sustainable and conservation efforts translate into greater resident affordability. Moreover, when students want to get out, there’s onsite bicycle storage and nearby public transit.
View 34, New York City, UDR Inc., Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Technological improvements can make life easier and less costly for apartment residents and their property managers. How this works is now evident at View 34, a 740-unit luxury, high-rise apartment building located in New York City’s midtown Murray Hill neighborhood at 401 E. 34th Street. Developed by UDR Inc., View 34’s apartments were designed to take advantage of sightings of the East River a block away, the Empire State and Chrysler buildings and new Freedom Tower, as well as amenities outside and inside the building, including a rooftop deck and fitness center. With new legislation requiring lower energy consumption and emissions, UDR developed a sustainable plan, thanks to technology that permits management to execute and monitor real-time building energy consumption via a simplified mobile application and dashboard. The company partnered with Logical Buildings and its mobile SmartKit AI application to install smart meters, smart thermostats and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Building engineers were trained to find ways to reduce energy use and costs and energy supplier Con Edison awards the property revenue based on performance.
Kenneth J. Bohan, President and CEO, The Liberty Group, Houston
Founded in 1977 as a national executive search firm serving the Houston multifamily and commercial real estate markets, The Liberty Group expanded to become a national leader placing real estate executives and personnel in many states. Kenneth J. Bohan joined a year after its founding and was determined to be an important industry contributor by joining more apartment associations. He currently belongs to 29 apartment associations nationwide. In the last five years, he has sponsored or co-sponsored through Liberty more than 378 association events and instills in staff the importance of that work. When asked how he finds time, he says, “Without question, the apartment associations are the best opportunity to network both from a potential client and candidate perspective for The Liberty Group. In addition, we find it to be an enriching experience for our employees by giving them an outlet to give back to a worthwhile cause while building relationships to enhance their career.” Jerry Winograd of Judwin Realty Group, headquartered in Houston, echoed many colleagues’ thoughts when he said, “Ken Bohan represents all that is good about our multifamily industry.”
Abbie Huffman, Rent Manager, London Computer Systems (LCS), Cincinnati
Incorporated in 1987 and based in Cincinnati, London Computer Systems (LCS) develops business-critical software now used by more than 30,000 users in all 50 states and international markets. Almost six years ago, Abbie Huffman joined the company and is now Senior Business Engagement Manager focused on building recognition for its Rent Manager® property management software, a national leader in multifamily and commercial real estate software markets. Huffman built relationships with industry decision-makers and supplier peers, took a hands-on customer approach, rolled out upgrades, helped provide ongoing training and education, spoke at trade shows and raised funds. Her overarching goal has been to make the lives of property management professionals easier. “Through powerful resources like intuitive electronic application functionality, task- and report-automation capabilities, and multifaceted resident and owner portals, Rent Manager makes it easier to convert prospects, communicate with residents, and grow your portfolio. Our user-friendly, yet powerful platform delivers unrivaled flexibility that enables customers to make the most of their time and energy,” Huffman says her contributions have helped the company see annual growth of 16% to 20%.