The search is on: Chicago Association of Realtors interviews for a new CEO

by Rincey Abraham

Jim Kinney, the 2016 Immediate Past President of Illinois Realtors and vice president of luxury home sales for Baird & Warner, is chairing the candidate search for a new Chicago Association of Realtors CEO.

As the Chicago Association of Realtors gets ready to say goodbye to retiring CEO Ginger Downs, the search for the next CEO is already well underway. This exciting opportunity will require a proven leader with business savvy, excellent communication skills, and the ability to anticipate and address the challenges and opportunities of the association and its members.

Jim Kinney, the 2016 Immediate Past President of Illinois Realtors and vice president of luxury home sales for Baird & Warner, has been brought on to chair the candidate search. More than 100 candidates have applied for the position.

“We are currently interviewing between six and nine people for the final selection,” Kinney says.

Downs has been the CEO of CAR since October 2005 and recently announced her decision to retire in early 2018. Along with Kinney, those who will choose her replacement include past presidents Matt Farrell and Zeke Morris, incoming president Rebecca Thomson, current president Matt Silver, president-elect Tommy Choi, director Maurice Hampton and public policy coordinating director Hugh Rider.

A thorough process

As the search committee comes together in the final review, certain attributes and qualities will be essential in making a selection.

CAR currently has a staff of more than 30 people and a rotating volunteer leadership structure that the new CEO will have to work with. The new CEO should also know how to handle people from a variety of backgrounds to help execute new programs and initiatives to help educate its members and ensure their continued success.

“In Chicago, we need someone who is able to work with diverse communities,” Kinney says. “In this day and age, we’re looking for someone who is technologically savvy with communication, products and programs.”

As the real estate industry continues to grow and evolve, the new CEO will serve as a liaison between Realtors and leaders in homebuilding, mortgage banking and local business. The candidate will also need to navigate the cyclical nature of the industry, including regular changes in membership and staff levels.

On the state level, CAR must undergo a license law rewrite in the next few years, and potential property tax increases will have to be addressed, particularly in terms of preparing agents to understand those changes in order to properly present them to buyers. Plus, the new CEO will be working in close proximity to the National Association of Realtors, as CAR moved into NAR’s Realtor Building located at 430 N. Michigan Ave. at the end of last year.

“In this environment, working right under the nose of the National Association of Realtors, we need a very strong leader who won’t wilt,” Kinney says. “We don’t have a lot of distance. We get in the elevator every day with the people who run the NAR, so you have to be strong enough to deal with that kind of scrutiny.”

Kinney estimates that it could take six months for the successful candidate to build a team. In the interim, the association’s current leadership can administer its programs and core functions to ensure that the CAR remains self-sustaining during the adjustment period.

Kinney and the rest of the search committee will meet with candidates for a final round of interviews throughout November. He expects to have a final candidate negotiated and under contract by the end of the year so that they can be ready to take over sometime in the first quarter of next year.

“I think they’ll be able to come in and build their team, and hop on those issues through their strengths and weaknesses and valuation of our current organization,” Kinney says. “Leadership will certainly give them a list of priorities. I think that we’re looking for insights and a particular vision from this person so they’ll be able to do their own assessment of our organization and advise us as to where they think we need to go.”

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