It’s Monday and I am back in the office. It was an interesting and eventful weekend. It was the Wisconsin Apartment Association’s annual conference, which this year was held in Neenah. I was hoping to do what Pete Wasson did on his recent trip to Salt Lake City and do periodic updates – alas there was no time. So, I will do my best to recap the weekend’s activities.
Things were going to start off at 9 AM on Friday, so I actually left for Neenah right after work on Thursday. I had gotten the truck loaded during lunch that day and headed down early enough to be checked into the room by the time Grey’s came on (gotta have your priorities).
Normally, things kick off on Friday right after lunch, but we were holding the conference at the Bridgewood Resort in Neenah which also has a 9-Hole golf course. So, there was also a golf outing planned. It was going to be just a fun little outing where foursomes would play a best-ball scramble format. However, it was also very cold. Because I would be helping to set things up in the various rooms, I was in the first group to go out at 9:00. However, only one of my group other than me was willing to brave the cold, Dick Adams from Beloit. While waiting for the rest of our group (that never came), we let two other groups play in front of us, so we ended up being the third of 5 groups out.
Lucky for me, they partnered me (a golf hack at best) with a real golfer. The scramble format worked great for us. Even a hack gets lucky from time to time, and since there were only two of us when all the other groups had four, we each played two balls. I would normally play my two first. If I got one decent hit in, Dick could get very aggressive with his shots. I think we ended up using 6 of my shots in the entire 9 holes, 3 approaches and 3 putts, that is how good Dick is. We shot a par on every hole (on three holes, both Dick and I “lipped out” birdie putts). At the end we tied for first with another group that shot par, but they did it by hitting birdies on some holes and bogies on others. The “tie breaker” was the head-to-head scores on the hardest holes, and on the third hardest hole, we shot par and they shot bogey. So, the conference started out with a Dick Adams/Dr. Rent win – go figure.
This year, I was really not able to attend many of the educational sessions. I was not part of the conference committee and did no part of the planning, but those that did, did a GREAT job!!! However, I was the technology dude. I ran around to the various break out rooms making sure that the projectors where in there and working, and making sure that each speaker’s computer was working properly with the projector. Also, the person who normally mans the WAA table at the trade show and sells our forms discs and answers other questions wasn’t available this year. So between my technology duties, I was also getting that set up and ready to go. Near the end of the class sessions, when time was up, I would run around and open the doors to the rooms, kind of as a hint that time was up. Often lights would be turned down to help with the projectors, so at 5 minutes over, I would turn on the lights, again as a hint. Twice, I had to politely ask them to move the discussion into the hall because another class with a different instructor needed to start.. like .. now. The WAA’s administrative assistant, Kristie, was also a room time limit enforcer.
Friday evening was the trade show. One of the best we had in years I think with nearly 30 suppliers. As a matter of fact, we sold so many trade show spaces that we even sold the space the WAA would use to sell forms. My “trade show booth” was actually a table set up in the hallway outside of the trade show area. For over 3 hours I was set up, and demonstrated the disks to a couple of people, but not a single sale.
Saturday’s activities started off at 8:30 am. We had four rooms running classes, and in one of those rooms, I was teaching my three classes, at 8:30, at 9:30 and at 10:30. Again, I needed to make sure that all the rooms’ projectors were working, so in the 5-10 minute break between each class, I could be seen sprinting down the halls to make sure all the instructors were doing okay as far as technology goes. Two of the classes were held down in the conference center of the hotel, one class was up on the second floor in a conference room above the pool, and my classes were in a large reception room by the main lobby of the hotel. My classes (Top Ten Mistakes Landlords Make, Collection Strategies, and Rent-to-Own Strategies) were all well attended. As a matter of fact, three different speakers throughout the weekend did classes on collections. And, as a testament to the economic situations, all three of those classes were quite literally standing room only.
After those classes were done, the trade show again started for all except the board of directors. We had a relatively short annual board meeting where there were four main things on the agenda… We had to approve the minutes of the last meeting (which we did); we had to review and approve the treasurer’s report (which we did), we had to decide what we would do with the proceeds of the silent auction (they would go toward our legislative activities); and we had to elect the officers for 2010. The positions of Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer were pretty easy as they were uncontested. There were two people who accepted nominations for President. Besides me, was Dale Hicks. He is a Janesville landlord who has made great progress in establishing a great working relationship between that local apartment association and the City of Janesville. He is also the current chair of our Education Committee and has been spending a great deal of his own personal time making sure our classes have been updated with many of the changes we have seen recently.
Starting in 2010, Dr. Rent becomes President Rent.
After that meeting, the table I had set up Friday night had been “commandeered” and was used by a bunch of people as a table for eating lunch, as there was a buffet style lunch served in the trade show area. So, I set up my laptop on the main registration desk and grabbed something to eat myself. It took me almost 2 hours to finish my two sandwiches as between Kristie and I, we sold 5 Forms CD’s, and I wanted to make sure that every person who bought one was familiar with how to use it, so each buyer got a hands-on demonstration. (2-3 more disks sold Sunday morning).
After lunch, we had a briefing from our legislative arm talking about many of the issues facing our industry. We talked about a proposal about requiring landlords to change locks in the event of a domestic violence situation. Through the help of the Realtors’ Association, we offered a minor amendment to that bill and then gave it our support. Many landlords already do this so making it law doesn’t bother us. However, often changing the locks puts us in jeopardy of having performed an illegal eviction. The proposed law will clarify that is not the case when we do it to protect a tenant.
We also talked about the CCAP legislation, legislation to make victims of violence a protected class, and the pay-day lending legislation. A few other important topics was Wisconsin’s modifications to the federal government’s new EPA Lead Based Paint Renovation Rules that go into effect in April and the loan program that we have been pushing for to assist in lead-based paint hazard mitigation.
We had a great keynote speech, but I will be honest, I missed it. I needed a little time for me, and I was able to catch the last three quarters of the Badger game up in the hotel room. Don’t even get me started on that!!!
Saturday evening was the annual banquet where the new officers for 2010 were swore in. As usual, I had forgotten the newly elected president was expected to make a speech, so I pretty much talked off the cuff. I talked about how far I had personally come, as this was not my chosen profession. I did not choose the rental housing industry as a profession, it chose me. I discussed how far the WAA had come. It was in shambles after about a decade ago, four of its biggest locals pulled out because of mis-management, I was, at the time, the president of one of those locals. I pointed out how far WAA had come, it recovered from that, it learned from that, it became better because of that… and even though I led the charge all those years ago, here I was the newly elected leader. I pointed out that I knew that I could do a great deal for this industry that chose me… for this association that chose me… but that I couldn’t do it alone… and we all need to do our part.
Sunday morning, we had some of our formal “Rental Housing Resource” classes that ran from 9 AM to Noon. In one of the break-out rooms, we had a “best practices” meeting where we had many of the leaders of the various local associations just get together and have a discussion about what each local does in various areas so that we all have some new ideas for what works and what doesn’t. Just a few of the topics discussed included the best ways to provide education, recruit new members, mentor those new members, recruit those members to become more active and be leaders in their locals, advertising, city cooperation, newsletters, etc.
In all, it was a very valuable weekend. And the biggest question that I was asked is how I felt about being the president in 2010. My answer: ask me again next year. The status quo is not acceptable… I have ideas to move the association forward. And I believe that I was elected because of these ideas. However, these ideas are things that I cannot do without help from others. The expectations on me are very high, and I take those quite seriously. I do not want to let the members of the Wisconsin Apartment Association down, I do not want to let the rental housing industry down. So, based on what we, as an Association have been able to accomplish… ask me again this time next year.