Why should I get involved?

By Michele West, CAM, COS, LIHTC, Wood Creek Apartments

In 1998, I was working for a temp agency in Akron, Ohio and I was assigned to an apartment community’s accounting department.  I spent the next 2 years, working in the accounting department of a medium sized management company and enjoyed it until I was approached by one of the property managers to interview for an assistant manager position for the local property that had 551 units.  The more I learned about the position, the more it intrigued me.  I had never worked in a position that dealt with the public.  I spent the next 2 years learning all there was about Section 8 and Section 42 regulations.  I went all over the Midwest taking class after class.  Akron, Ohio is 1 hour south of Cleveland, Ohio, 2 hours north of Columbus, Ohio, 1 ½ hours west of Pittsburg, PA and 3 ½ hours southwest from Buffalo, NY.  I know this because I drove to all those cities multiple times for classes to learn my new position.

Fort Wayne is very fortunate to have an Apartment Association that is willing to listen to the needs of the community and provide the classes that I had to travel for all over the Midwest.  I spent the next 9 years struggling to find ways to learn what I could as I moved up in the organization.  There was no Apartment Association in Akron for me to reach out to for assistance.  I had no monthly breakfast to network with other apartment professionals, to seek information and knowledge from my peers or ask for references for vendors.  For a fair housing class, it was a trip to Cleveland or Columbus.  It wasn’t just a drive downtown for the few hours.  I was aware of the NAA and we were members as an organization, however, that does not compare to having someone in a local office that you get to see monthly, form a relationship with and to ask questions. 

When I first started working in the Fort Wayne area, the local Apartment Association reached out to the property I was working at and explained the benefits of becoming a member.  I had no idea such a thing existed and I really didn’t know much more than what was in the packet information that had been emailed over for me to send to the owners, which to be honest, I really didn’t even look at.  I didn’t understand what I was missing, so I just sent the packet to the owners without caring if they joined or not.  Then in 2015 I took the CAM through the Apartment Association and learned how much more I could be gaining by participating in all that was being offered.  I was able to listen to other professionals and talk about the same problems or issues that I have had to figure out on my own.  I have taken several more classes and I take away more than just the words spoken. 

In 2016, I joined the Summit Celebration committee.  WOW!  I have a new respect for anyone that has ever served on a committee, but also a new understanding of how special the celebration of our accomplishments is. There is a lot of effort that goes into the Summit Celebration each year and I have never seen such a commitment from an organization or industry in making sure that the people who work hard every day be rewarded with such a wonderful celebration.  I enjoy being a part of the celebration and find the preparation for making the evening special rewarding and look forward too many more celebrations with my colleagues.

The membership just voted me onto the Board of Directors for 2018-2019. It is going to be an exciting experience and one I know that I will never forget. After being in this industry for almost 20 years now, I could not image going back to no Apartment Association.  The Association is such a valuable resource.  There are many large management companies today that do most of their training internally, but sometimes it is nice to get a fresh perspective.  We all know there is more than one way to do things, and you might find a better way of doing something.  Our Apartment Association has been here for 40 years because people do get involved.  Learn a fresh perspective, give a fresh perspective, become involved.  You might come away with more than you can image, I know I have. 

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