2021 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. 

  • WMFH logo

    Affiliate of the Year

    Washington Multi-Family Housing Association
    Renton, Wash.

    Through a combination of education, advocacy, community service and member engagement, the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association (WMFHA) has been named NAA’s Affiliate of the Year.

    Stay-at-home orders meant a new look for education in 2020. Addressing an immediate need for information related to the pandemic, WMFHA created “6 Feet Apart,” a series of 20 free webinars, with more than 2,500 accessing the content live and on demand.  The WMFHA advocacy team and its members used their voices in a highly challenging environment, with 980 members sending 1,978 messages to lawmakers throughout the year, defeating many statewide policies including rent control, just cause eviction, capital gains taxes and more.  At the onset of the pandemic, its community service program, WMFHA Gives Back, acted quickly to bolster its food bank partner, Northwest Harvest. Donating non-perishable food was no longer allowed, so its members donated $15,930. In the fall, to support the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) and Childhaven, and with a pledge to match up to $25,000 for each organization, it raised $63,478 and $51,978, respectively. Finally, in an unfamiliar, virtual era, WMFHA took to meeting members where they are: On screens. Its “WMFHA Wednesdays” videos served many purposes including awareness, engagement and inspiration. More than 60 members and association staff participated, with the videos receiving over 2,500 views. Weekly videos continue to awe, inspire and inform membership, with members now anticipating the release of new videos to help their careers and stay connected.

  • marlynn orlando headshot

    Chris Christenson Association Executive of the Year Award

    Marlynn Orlando, Chief Executive Officer, Pennsylvania Apartment Association

    Pennsylvania Apartment Association (PAA) Chief Executive Officer Marlynn Orlando continuously proves to be an essential component to the Pennsylvania apartment industry, and because of her hard work in 2020, the Pennsylvania Apartment Association’s value proposition to its members has never been greater.

    For more than 15 years, the PAA East, Central and West affiliates discussed the benefits of a merger, and through Orlando’s leadership, that vision became a reality in 2020. Orlando worked with the Executive Directors of PAA Central and PAA West in 2019 to draft a strategic plan and worked with the board of directors of each association, as well as members at large, to successfully merge the three organizations and ensure a consistent value proposition for all members across the state and a financially stable business model. When the pandemic hit, everything had to be modified. Orlando quickly changed the 2021 operations plan to ensure the value proposition would still be delivered to all members, which included converting all education, lobbying, tradeshow and awards ceremonies to strictly online, virtual events. Despite the pandemic in-person event cancellation, Orlando led PAA to grow its membership units by more than 6% during the year. In addition, PAA raised approximately $150,000 for its state PAC and for its separate Rental Control fund, and Orlando and the PAA staff remain a go-to source for policymakers and media on issues related to rental housing.

  • essex logo

    Anthony V. Pusateri Apartment Career Promotion Award—Comprehensive Program

    Essex Property Trust - Steps to Success
    San Mateo, Calif.

    Fully integrated REIT Essex Property Trust’s Steps to Success is a unique learning program that supports associates with their career growth and prepares them for the high demands of a constantly changing industry. The company engages, enables and empowers its associates by allowing them to own their personal development and manage their career paths. With this foundation, Essex has been able to reduce associate turnover, create a talent pipeline, enhance the company image and brand (internally and externally), attract and retain new talent and improve employee engagement. Nearly 2,100 corporate and operations associates (new and tenured) have participated in the program.

    The rollout of the Steps to Success Program is comprised of the four pillars: Branding and presence; revamping of current learning programs; talent management strategy and process; and the emerging leaders program. Highlights the Steps to Success Program include a complete redesign of the company’s intranet, changing messaging from “training” to “Steps to Success.” One hundred and four associates participated in the onboarding advisor program, yielding a 20% reduction in turnover rate. Associates now earn points and badges for all trainings, with badges now visible on employees individual learning pages. Its Emerging Leader Program, a 12-month effort, consists of six modules of three, two-hour sessions, with the first cohort including 15 associates from both the corporate and onsite units. The program includes pre-workshop interviews, a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment and quarterly “fireside chats” facilitated by senior leaders diving deeper into how learned leadership principles apply to company strategy.

  • berkshire chapel hill community

    Large Community of the Year (more than 150 units)

    Berkshire Chapel Hill, Berkshire Residential Investments

    Blending ultra-modern architectural details with hints of contemporary and nostalgic flair, Berkshire Chapel Hill melds historic charm with convenience and class and delivers its residents smart, sustainable features, thoughtfully crafted interiors and extraordinary amenities. Residents enjoy easy access to culture and entertainment, the University of North Carolina and legendary Franklin Street. Berkshire Chapel Hill has a strong commitment to the environment and its community. The community, developed for green and well living, is NGBS Green Certified and is enhanced by eco-friendly features and a smoke-free environment. In 2020, it went completely digital, discontinuing the use of paper in its offices and initiated a new platform to reduce paper and toner use by residents in the business center. Berkshire Chapel Hill offers the highest level of customer service to its residents and prospects. During COVID-19, Berkshire Chapel Hill created videos to assist residents with performing minor in-home maintenance while the company was only allowing emergency work orders to be completed for employees’ and residents’ safety. Additionally, the team executed several capital projects including installing a new conference room, pet play area and permanent cornhole boards based off resident feedback. This team continued to find safe ways to offer socially distanced resident events such as weekly food trucks and crepes on Saturdays for their residents to enjoy. Berkshire Chapel Hill participated in several BerkshireGives charity events in 2020, including a food and toy drive and partnered with the local PTA Thrift Store to collect donations year-round.

  • spring haven apartments

    Small Community of the Year (up to 150 units)

    Spring Haven Apartments, Lombardo Property Management
    Shelby Township, Mich.

    Spring Haven Apartments’ two- and three-bedroom townhomestyle apartments are nestled in a tranquil neighborhood setting in Southfield, Mich., and designed with families and pet lovers in mind. The management team exemplifies professionalism and efficiency, and its overarching goal is to provide stellar customer service. It’s clear the residents agree, as the community enjoys a 77% lease renewal rate. Spring Haven has maintained an average occupancy rate of 97.9% along with an active waiting list.

    Listening to residents is critical, according to Spring Haven. The community has added new machines to its gym based on resident feedback, as well as community-wide events that help residents form new friendships with their neighbors. Spring Haven has also created a “Resident Message Center,” which enables management to easily keep residents in the loop, from announcements of community events to emergency notifications. Resident engagement is a top priority at Spring Haven. In addition to several annual resident events, it employs a resident referral program, with referrals good to use toward a $250 credit on a month’s rent. Resident engagement and customer service also extends to maintenance. In addition to 24/7 emergency service, its philosophy for maintenance is to complete all service requests the same day whenever possible and schedule quarterly preventative maintenance for all its apartment homes. The management team at Spring Haven Apartments has not only increased revenue, but it has also lowered costs, kept turnover at a record low and through continued capital improvements, increased the value of the community.

  • highland glen

    Affordable Community of the Year

    Highland Glen, Beacon Residential Management

    As an affordable senior/disabled property in Westwood, Mass., Highland Glen is a first choice for local seniors looking to sell homes or downsize while remaining active members of their community. The average resident at Highland Glen has lived at the community for over eight years, with 35% having called it home for over 10 years. Removing move-outs for health-related issues, average annual resident retention during the past four years has been 97%.

    When Beacon bought the property in 2016, it underwent a rehabilitation to preserve it as affordable housing for all 180 households through 2040. Notably, 5% of the apartments were converted to fully accessible units. The renovated spaces have allowed Beacon to adapt to the changing needs of the resident population, most recently as it focuses on technology and technology education. With the addition of a Resident Services Coordinator and the implementation of Beacon’s “Living Well By Design” brand, the Highland Glen team has created an environment in which residents can access an abundance of services free of cost and from the comfort of their homes.   The Wellness Program provides residents access to a plethora of services and amenities that tie directly to resident retention and are a necessary component of ensuring the property’s financial success. While stabilized operating expenses at Highland Glen have increased, the addition of the Wellness Program and the proper staffing to support that program has resulted in a revenue increase of 23.6% and NOI growth of 21.5% from 2017 to 2020.

  • fort hood military community

    Military Community of the Year

    Fort Hood Family Housing, WinnMilitary

    Fort Hood Family Housing (FHFH), a Lendlease privatized military housing community in Fort Hood, Texas, aims to provide an environment where residents are happy to live and feel supported despite the demands of military life.

    FHFH was awarded the first Residential Communities Initiative (RCI) in 2001. Made up of 11 neighborhoods, FHFH is not only one of the largest RCI projects, but also one of the most sustainable: FHFH has earned the distinction of being one the largest LEED-certified residential communities in the state of Texas, and in the Army.

    Through all the challenges of 2020, the FHFH team remained steadfast in its mission to ensure its current and future residents continued to receive the ultimate living experience. Its teams integrated new safety measures in accordance with CDC guidelines, altered operations to provide virtual and contactless options and continued to give back to its residents and local community. To overcome challenges, including the military-wide stop movement orders and travel restrictions, FHFH offered digital leasing options including virtual lease signing and virtual touring, which not only have provided more convenience and ease for its residents, but has been a positive enhancement for its leasing team.

    FHFH is dedicated to giving back to the local community through a variety of initiatives, including raising over $13,000 to benefit Lemonade Day, which is education programming for children to build their own businesses and develop strong life skills. It was able to successfully host more than 80 virtual and low-contact events, bringing much-needed joy and support to residents.

  • union chapel hill

    Student Community of the Year

    Union Chapel Hill, Greystar
    Charleston, S.C.

    Union Chapel Hill, located in the center of Chapel Hill, N.C., and steps from the University of North Carolina’s campus, is a fully furnished, purpose-built four-story mid-rise student living community consisting of 339 apartments and 850 bedrooms. The community offers a variety of one-, two- and three-bedroom townhomes and four-bedroom floorplans. Customer service is the forefront of Union Chapel Hill’s values, and its team members strive for resident satisfaction and retention every step of the way.

    Through its “Live here. Live well” program, focused on proper nutrition, an active lifestyle and overall wellness, plus opportunities to give back to the community, it provides and promotes healthy choices and nutrition information during resident events; fosters healthy activity through its fitness facilities, fitness-related events and information sourced from local businesses; and offers periodic programming on mental-health issues, such as dealing with the pressures of college life or stress-relief during exams. Its residents are encouraged to give back by volunteering with respected organizations, such as participating in blood drives, mask donation drives for local shelters, toy collection drives for Toys for Tots and food donations to local animal shelters.

    Union Chapel Hill achieved 99.88% occupancy through the end of 2020, matching occupancy with the market while maintaining a higher overall and per-square-foot rental rate. Through the end of 2020, it also accomplished a 31% renewal rate for the 2021-22 lease term and is on track to achieve 4% rent growth with a 100% reduction in leasing concessions.

  • mirabella apartments

    Community Crisis Response of the Year

    Mirabella Apartments, Verve Assets, LLC

    Mirabella Apartments is a classic, pitched-roof, garden-style community of 98 units built in 1958. Clean and well-maintained, it offers small-town living in the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

    Mirabella’s crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic included helping residents who lost their jobs and combating hunger. Mirabella sourced personal protective equipment (PPE) as best it could and adopted procedures to stop the spread of COVID. When they couldn’t get masks, they learned how to make them. The community followed CDC guidelines and communicated best practices to residents. It stocked masks in the office for residents who couldn’t afford them. Mirabella, through compassion and sensible precautions, offered hope through resident events, holiday celebrations and taking the opportunity to get residents out of their apartments so they could feel a sense of normalcy. In addition to waiving late fees and setting up payment plans, management helped people apply for unemployment, locate their stimulus checks, apply for relief and called churches for donations. The community also set up a resident computer for job hunting. Many kids lost their best meal of the day when schools closed. Realizing this, the Community of Faith (COF) Church brought lunches to the community. However, management was quick to realize that adults were hungry, too, and the church brought more lunches. Soon, 25 lunches a day turned into 150, and Mirabella took over the effort so COF could assist more communities.

  • madison landing at research park

    Major Rehab Community of the Year

    Madison Landing at Research Park and the Cottages, Freeman Webb Company
    Nashville, Tenn.

    Madison Landing at Research Park and the Cottages are centrally located in Madison, Ala., near key employers, minutes from shopping, dining and entertainment options and within the districts of some of the best schools in the state. Madison Landing consists of two properties, with the original, a late-80s community with 514 units on 44.5 acres, acquired in 2017. In 2020, the community added 48 additional one- and two-bedroom units from an acquisition of an adjacent property. By investing approximately $15 million, Freeman Webb drastically enhanced the community, offering upgraded living at much more affordable rents.

    All apartment interiors were rehabbed with new granite, flooring, LED lighting, plumbing and bath accessories, low-flow toilets, door hardware and stainless, energy-efficient appliances. All windows and doors were replaced with low E efficiency-rated products, the siding was replaced with Hardie siding and masonry accents, new six-inch gutters were installed, roofs were replaced with architectural shingles and new landscaping was added. The property’s perimeter was fenced and the four vehicular entries were gated, as well as secured by a property-wide camera system and keyless access system to all amenities. All fire extinguishers were upgraded, significant improvements were made to the private fire hydrants and utility vaults and smoke walls were added to all buildings. Walking trails were added throughout the property to access the three new dog parks, three renovated pools, new exercise facility, five new grilling stations and covered pavilions. The rehabilitated property has been well-received, with occupancy for the property at 97% in 2020.

  • main street hercules living

    New Construction Community of the Year

    Main Street, Hercules Living
    Virginia Beach, Va.

    Main Street is a first-of-a-kind, one-of-a-kind project located in downtown Rockville, Md., developed with the overarching goal of providing a mixed-income, mixed-use building that fosters organic and inclusive opportunities for individuals with varying special needs to live, learn, work, play and most important – to thrive. Main Street comprises 70 apartments, 10,000 square feet of community space and a coffee shop, Soulfull Café, which employs individuals with disabilities. Twenty-five percent of the apartments are designated for individuals with varying special needs and 75% are income restricted. Delivered in August 2020 and despite the pandemic, Main Street is fully occupied. The building is smoke-free, pet friendly and built to the NGBS Silver Standard.

    The Main Street model benefits individuals with disabilities, their often overburdened families, and their communities. A partnership with Main Street Connect provides a lifestyle of connection and enrichment opportunities, bridging abilities and socioeconomic factors and giving residents and members the opportunity to enjoy casual, organic social encounters as well as structured activities and programs provided by trained staff and community partners. There are 18 weekly programs including cooking, philanthropy, fitness, wellness, mindfulness, art, lectures, personal safety, financial education and much more. Main Street provides countless community connections – and because Main Street Connect’s membership program (which also provides opportunities to participate to nonresidents) has been incredibly successful, the reach toward community extends well beyond the physical building. The robust calendar of social, educational and wellness events attracts community members of all abilities and interests.

  • essex logo

    Diversity & Inclusion

    Essex Property Trust
    San Mateo, Calif.

    Essex Property Trust, Inc., an S&P 500 company, is a fully integrated REIT that acquires, develops, redevelops and manages multifamily residential properties in selected West Coast markets. Essex says the diversity of its employees, their backgrounds, experiences, talents, knowledge, creativity and the appreciation of all their individual differences are the foundation for its competitive advantage. Its mission is to encourage diversity throughout the organization by promoting a broad range of perspectives, ideas and experiences that diversity provides, fostering an inclusive environment where all employees feel a sense of belonging and trust. Diversity, equity and inclusion is engrained in Essex culture and incorporated within its core values of “Seek Fairness” and “Act With Integrity.”

    To further advance its commitment to diversity and inclusion, Essex implemented three education and training programs: Workplace Harassment, Fair Housing Fundamentals and Unconscious Bias Training. The company also established the Women at Essex, an employee-led affinity group with the purpose of fostering a sense of community and inclusion for a diverse mix of associates through discussions and activities intended to engage, educate, enable and empower. Essex takes pride in having a diverse workforce and consider it a strength and key contributor to its business success. To sustain its DE&I efforts and performance, Essex has implemented a Diversity and Inclusion Policy Framework, established a Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Strategy Program and committed to public reporting on its key D&I metrics.

  • amy wilson headshot

    Certified Apartment Portfolio Supervisor (CAPS) of the Year

    Amy Wilson, Regional Property Manager, Sundance Property Management, LLC

    Fresh from high school graduation, with a full college scholarship and five-year contract with St. Elizabeth Healthcare waiting after graduation, Amy Wilson said she realized this career path was not for her. Instead, in 2006, she saw an ad for a leasing consultant, applied and got the job, saying she’s been in love with the industry ever since. She has climbed the ladder and was promoted to Regional Property Manager in fall 2019. In that time, her portfolio has grown from 12 communities with 828 units to 24 communities with 1,565 units. She leads a team of 11 property managers, two leasing professionals, 15 maintenance technicians and one district manager. Wilson is passionate about her career, craves continuing education and shares the knowledge gained with her team. She firmly believes in mentorship and strives to ensure her team knows that she supports them and empowers them to achieve their goals. Despite the major challenges of 2020, Wilson and her team met these obstacles and excelled, maintaining an average occupancy rate of 95%, processed 1,422 applications and welcomed 680 new residents. The company itself grew by over 1,500 units during this pandemic. Wilson says she understands the important role that maintenance technicians play, earning her CAMT credential so she can better understand the issues they face. She also started a Maintenance Focus Group at Sundance to provide a forum for better understanding technicians’ wants, needs, concerns and solutions, saying, “Maintenance and management cannot do their jobs without each other.”

  • amanda allison headshot

    Certified Apartment Leasing Professional (CALP) of the Year

    Amanda Allison, Leasing Professional, The Place at Fifth + Broadway, Brookfield Properties Multifamily

    Amanda Allison began her career as a leasing professional in 2017, immediately falling in love with the job. Within the first six months, she increased occupancy at Panther Creek Parc in Murfreesboro, Tenn., from between 70%-75% to the 90th percentile. Within nine months, renewal rates increased by 20% and the community was able to maintain at least a 50% renewal rate each month. In 2018, she moved to Nashville and accepted a position at a lease-up, Solis North Gulch (now Guthrie North Gulch), managed by Greystar. Pre-leasing began while the community was still under construction, and Allison received the first quarter Rising Above Success Award. By the end of the year, she was awarded Leasing Professional of the Year through Greystar for her commitment, passion and innovation. In 2020, Allison accepted a new position with Broadstone Stockyards, right after a tornado destroyed two neighboring apartment communities. Stockyards received an influx of traffic and leased approximately 40 homes in a single weekend—without electricity. Allison and her team worked for almost two weeks completing lease files and getting homes ready for those in need, further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her team reached 50% occupancy within a seven-month period during the pandemic. In December 2020, Allison transferred to Brookfield’s The Place at Fifth + Broadway, and has maintained a 45% closing ratio. She most recently won the Leasing Professional of the Year award through the Greater Nashville Apartment Association (GNAA) in 2020 and she serves on the GNAA Education Committee.

  • pamela lovell headshot

    Apartment Career & Education (ACE) Industry Practitioner of the Year

    Pamela Lovell, President, AMP Residential

    As President of AMP Residential, Pamela Lovell has experience in overseeing multi-million-dollar renovations and repositioning projects, as well as managing portfolios of properties. Despite an extremely busy schedule, she allows for time to volunteer and actively participate in her local associations. A servant leader, Lovell is a shining example of professionalism and poise. She is a Past President of the Apartment Association of Southern Indiana, President of the Hotel Association of Greater Evansville, member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Birmingham Apartment Association and Alabama Apartment Association. Lovell has guided AMP Residential through an impressive first five years of growth while at the same time being an industry leader in local markets. She most recently served as the Board President of the Property Management Association of Michigan, and will serve on its board as Past President for 2021 and 2022. Lovell has been a PMAM board member and legislative committee member since 2017, and her dedication to industry service extends to all her team members who she encourages to serve at local apartment associations. At AMP, Lovell has provided ongoing support for team members to further their education and careers by attending certification courses, events and conferences. Under her guidance, both the Training and Marketing Directors for AMP have taught CALP courses in Michigan and Indiana. She continually finds ways to further educate herself and advance in the industry and encourages her team to do the same.

  • christie upp headshot

    Apartment Career & Education (ACE) Industry Educator of the Year

    Christie Upp, Director of Education, AMP Residential

    According to AMP Residential, the Training Leadership Team could not have chosen a better leader than Christie Upp. Upp has worked tirelessly developing the cutting-edge training, which includes a new-hire orientation with additional training during the first week, at 30 days, 60 days and monthly training sessions and webinars. AMP says Upp is “a genius when it comes to making learning fun and loves to wow our team. From onboarding new hires to providing continuing education for seasoned employees, her commitment to training and developing our teams is second to none.” Upp, recently recognized by both the Detroit Metropolitan Apartment Association and the Property Management Association of Mid-Michigan as Educator of the Year as well as being awarded the Exceptional Corporate Support Team Member at the Multi-Family Midwest Conference in 2020, has managed to swiftly adapt to AMP’s rapid growth to ensure all its staff receive the best training and education. She has also customized the classes to fit the company’s needs and even created customized learning paths to allow its employees to gain the expertise needed to move ahead in their careers. Upp shares her talents whenever she can by offering her time and knowledge to the Indiana Apartment Association; she often can be found teaching a virtual class or attending one of the various committee meetings in which she participates. At AMP, she has developed an AMP Academy of Learning Ambassador Program that allows employees passionate about training to be involved in training new hires.

  • taryn merrill headshot

    Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) of the Year

    Taryn Merrill, Community Manager, Residences at the Triangle, Greystar

    Taryn Merrill stumbled onto the industry in 2010, and spent the first four years in property management as a leasing professional, trying to find her place. She found that place when she joined Greystar in May 2018 as a Community Manager, and on her journey to success, she said that she identified the leaders who she respected and admired, and “learned from them and leaned into them.” Merrill was promoted to Residences at The Triangle, the second promotion she earned in her first three years with the company. In her first five months at the community, the community’s reputation and satisfaction scores all improved. Her career journey continued in 2020, completing Greystar’s nine-month-long leadership and development course and joining the company’s 2021 Rising Stars program. Merrill also is a finalist for Greystar’s Community Manager of the Year for 2020 and earned the Austin Apartment Association’s (AAA) Community Manager of the Year in 2020. Merrill’s volunteer involvement includes Co-Chairing AAA’s Community Outreach Committee, which in 2020 shifted gears and came up with socially distant and virtual ways to still remain active in the community. It also supports Brady’s Bridge, with committee members packaging 250 Christmas Trees for a children’s hospital in central Texas, and raised more than $2,000 for the organization. Merrill also Co-Chairs AAA’s Food Drive Committee, and in 2020, through three different fundraising events, they were able to raise over $32,000. Merrill is also a AAA NextGen Committee Member and a 2020/2021 AAA Lyceum Candidate.

  • courtland audain headshot

    Apartment Maintenance Technician (CAMT) of the Year

    Courtland Audain, Maintenance Supervisor, Berkshire Lakeway, Berkshire Residential

    Courtland Audain displays an unparalleled commitment to excellence in the rental housing industry, and desires to serve as an inspiration for new maintenance professionals, proving anything is possible through persistence, perseverance and passion. At Berkshire Residential, he was promoted from Assistant Lead Maintenance to Maintenance Supervisor in just four months. At the 350-unit Berkshire Lakeway, his team has decreased vacancy loss by having rent-ready units and maintaining a high caliber of customer service. He has also helped save the property thousands of dollars by performing HVAC installations and repairs in-house. In 2020, he and his maintenance team performed 1,062 service requests. Because the community was a new acquisition, he and his team inherited a backlog of service requests. Through hard work and persistence, they were able to execute over 250 work orders that had been delayed because of the pandemic. Audain supervises a staff of three, and through their preventive maintenance efforts, have circumvented costly repairs, extended the life of equipment, decreased callouts and increased resident satisfaction. Further, because of his spearheading of an initiative to replace all exterior lighting with LEDs, he expects the property to save several thousands of dollars during the next decade. Among his many accolades, Audain is 2019 Texas Apartment Association Mary Williams Maintenance Professional of The Year and 2020 Contractors Incorporated Regional Maintenance Hero Award for the state of Texas. He is an Advanced Facilitator Trainer for NAAEI and serves on the Board of Directors of the Austin Apartment Association Education Foundation.

  • dawn ford headshot

    Independent Rental Owner of the Year

    Dawn Ford, Owner, Smart Moves

    Dawn Ford’s Smart Moves LLC currently manages 12 residential properties and 25 commercial spaces, encompassing approximately 40,000 square feet. The properties include two apartment homes, three duplexes and seven single-family homes. Ford’s company has a social mission in mind when positioning its residences. In each case, renovations have been completed on older homes in distressed areas, providing a housing choice that would otherwise be unavailable. Ford and her team serve as ambassadors of association membership and demonstrate this by recruiting new members and speaking nationally on the value of membership. The list of personal involvement with associations is lengthy, and select efforts include Chair of the Communications Committee for the Detroit Metropolitan Apartment Association; member of the Legislative, Communications and Education Committees of the Property Management Association of Michigan (PMAM); and Board Member of the Property Management Association of Mid-Michigan. She is also involved in the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association (WAAA) and Property Management Association of West Michigan. Ford and Smart Moves have supported NAA and PMAM legislative efforts through in-person advocacy at the federal and state levels. She and her team also stay active with local charitable initiatives including VOA’s Operation Backpack, CAN Council donations for abused children and WAAA’s Grace Outreach program, and most recently the PMAM #SummerOfLove campaign. In addition, the team of Smart Moves participated in Friends of Foster Children, where they wrap gifts for a 6-year-old child within the foster care system.

  • khara house headshot

    Emerging Leader of the Year

    Khara House, Director of Community Engagement, Bella Investment Group

    Colleagues at Bella Investment Group call Khara House’s leadership “extraordinary,” and it is also an apt description for her work in her local community and through apartment association involvement. Among her accomplishments at Bella Investment Group, House chaired the board of the BiG Fund in 2019, and annual giving during her term more than doubled. Her leadership extends to the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program, as well as the COVID response team. She is an active member of the Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA) Government Affairs Committee. She represented AMA on the Flagstaff Housing Commission, and through this work, she earned the Mayor's Key to the City Award in 2020. She currently serve as the Vice Chair of the Commission. The Key to the City recognition also included her community advocacy, including writing and adopting the strategic plan for the historic Black community and co-hosting the Lived Black Experience CommUnity dialog series. House currently serves as President of NAMI Flagstaff, Chairs the Coconino County African Diaspora Advisory Council and is a board member of the Flagstaff Shelter Services. House also served on the 2019-2020 board of Flagstaff Young Professionals and has been A Center for the Future of Arizona Young Talent Advisor since 2019. She is a 2020 graduate of NAA’s Leadership Lyceum and serves as a Diversity Leadership Program mentor. She has also served on the NAA Diversity and Inclusion, NEXT GEN and NAA GIVES Committees.

  • betsy kirkpatrick headshot

    National Suppliers Council Achievement

    Betsy Kirkpatrick, Strategic Accounts Executive, BG Multifamily

    Colleagues of Betsy Kirkpatrick say she embodies great heart, intellect, passion and a spirit of service, and uses her knowledge and wisdom to lead as a forward-thinking representative of the rental housing industry. Kirkpatrick is the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association’s (GCAA) 2021 Products and Services President and chaired the Trade Show Committee, helping create the Morning Perks Coffee Series and the Reverse Trade Show, two major networking events that benefit all GCAA members.  Her contributions to GCAA also include serving on the Board of Directors, Programs and Multifamily Careers Awareness Committees. As a member of the Government Affairs Committee, she is an active legislative advocate and a founding member of the Affordable Housing Subcommittee. In 2020, Kirkpatrick worked with GCAA Executive Director Kim Graham to form the GCAA Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Task Force, whose members worked together to create the purpose and vision for the DEI Committee for 2021. For the Apartment Association of North Carolina, Kirkpatrick is a graduate of the 2020 Leadership Lyceum, Chair of the Nextgen Committee, Vice Chair of the State Supplier’s Council and member of the PR and Government Affairs Committee. For NAA, Kirkpatrick is a member of the Legislative and NextGen Committees and served as a 20 in Their Twenties mentor. As one colleague succinctly sums up, “Service and support of our industry of this depth and breadth should be lauded and applauded and elevated for others.”

  • justin frost headshot

    Supplier Sales Professional of the Year Award

    Justin Frost, Affinity Waste Solutions

    Founded by Justin Frost and his uncle, Gary, six years ago, Affinity Waste Solutions is a family operated, faith-based, veteran-run valet trash and bulk removal company currently servicing more than 90,000 doors every night across the Southeastern United States. Affinity has experienced tremendous growth since its founding, increasing sales at least 50% each year. In 2020, Affinity expanded from two states to eight, and grew its employee base from 270 employees to 460 employees. Those who know Frost the best say he never sells a service or product; he sells an experience. He sells what everyone wants: A positive, reliable and long-term partnership. Frost appreciates the experience and knowledge gained from both the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando (AAGO) and Space Coast Apartment Association, saying the two associations truly helped him develop into the professional he is today. He now teaches classes and sponsors several classes every year in every market in which Affinity operates. Frost also served as a 2020 board member for AAGO, 2020 Florida Apartment Association (FAA) Executive Board Chair and 2020 FAA FSC CHAIR. Frost also was unanimously voted to 2020 Chair of the Board of the National Valet Trash Association, comprised of 200 companies.