President's Pen 2020 Issue 1
I am completely humbled and honored to serve as your 2020 Triangle Apartment Association President. This association is like no other in the state, and often recognized and imitated nationwide. My hope is to continue strengthening our association—together.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about me, my past and my present, and how I ended up here.
I grew up in Matthews, right outside of Charlotte, NC. I lived in the same house my entire life and later attended NC State University (GO PACK!) where I majored in Communication with a concentration in Mass Media.
In my sophomore year, I moved off campus into a beautiful, brand new, amazing, community... you might have heard of it, Wolf Creek. Right after I signed my lease, I became friends with the office staff and very quickly wanted to hang with them all the time. Natural-ly, I talked my way into a job and shortly landed a gig where 15 hours a week equaled free rent. It was pretty great! I worked there for just over two years, and loved every minute of it - even student turn! While working at Wolf Creek, I started interning at a local radio station, G105. I, under the name “Lucky”, had my own radio show where I did weekends and fill-ins.
After graduation, I began searching for my first “grown-up” apartment out of student housing and landed at a cute, quaint community, Lexington Farms. I immediately connected with the community manager who stated she was understaffed and asked me if I knew anybody looking for a job. It was at that moment that I realized I had never really thought of apartment life as a “career” as it just came so natural - it didn’t feel like work, and was actually a lot of fun. I applied within 24 hours, got the call from Karen Green, and began my career with Riverstone Residential Group, which later became Greystar.
I kept my radio gig for about 5 years, working weekends and recording my voice for times I wasn’t able to go live. While I loved the perks, I realized I’d rather not spend my time talking into a microphone and instead I wanted to further the relationships with people in-person and work towards becoming a community manager.
I wanted to make an impact, I wanted to grow myself professionally, and I wanted to network. Thus, I made my way to the TAA. After trying a few other committee meetings, I decided to make my way to the Education Committee and have honestly never looked back. I have never felt more welcome and empowered. My input was wanted, heard, and well-received. After about two years on the Education Committee, I served as co-chair for two years.
It was sometime shortly after that when I was encouraged to apply for a seat on the Board. Me? I mean I knew I loved being a co-chair, but I could never be on the Board! I felt so inadequate from a professional resume and overall industry experience point-of-view. I was pleasantly surprised and honored to receive the call that I made it! Since then, it’s honestly been a whirlwind. This association has literally built my resume and career. I’ve received my CAM credential via an Education Foundation Scholarship, served on the TAA Education Foundation Board, and became NAAEI AFT Certified. (That means I’m actually a nationally accredited instructor!) None of this would have happened without the Triangle Apartment Association.
I share all of this with you to show you that although it can start small, it can turn into something so big. I did ALL of these things as “just” a property manager. It was only about 15 months ago that I became a Regional Manager. I was an Assistant Manager that didn’t really know anyone when I came to my first Education Committee meeting, and I never would have thought one day I would your President.
I really want to spark something in you that makes you want to get involved, to crave that “something else”. You don’t have to LOVE every committee, you don’t have to attend every meeting. Just give what you can! We have 1,169 member companies, and it’s roughly the same 275 people that are involved volunteers. Remember, involved doesn’t have to mean multiple times a week, but it does mean more than just the golf tournament. Did you know, in 2020 we will offer over 40 educational opportunities, 4 FREE networking events, multiple days of service for your volunteer hours, and 8 committees to serve on? Whatever your passion is or you want to learn more about, there are numerous opportunities and plenty of ways YOU can make a difference. My personal goal for this association this year is to increase committee attendance by 20% and ultimately our repeat, involved volunteer pool by 20%. That’s 20 and 20 in 2020. If you have questions, please reach out to me for anything. I’d love to have you as my guest at a committee meeting or event.
Kelli Lea, CAM, NAAEI Faculty
This article was originally published in 2020 Issue 1 of the ApartMentor magazine.