Chicagoland REALTOR® associations celebrate new officer inductions

by Emily Mack

It’s that time of year again! As 2021 slowly winds to a close, REALTOR® associations across Illinois are making annual changes. This includes, foremost, inducting new leadership officers. Although some members will retain their current positions, many new association presidents are being inaugurated around the Chicagoland area.

Recently, on Sept. 23, the Heartland REALTOR Organization had its Annual Installation of Officers and Directors at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. There, Tim Sebastian was welcomed as the new president, succeeding Erin Dierks. Karen Conley, who formerly served on the board as secretary-treasurer, is now the official president- elect while Melissa Kostelnik takes over Conley’s previous role. Those new officers begin on Oct. 1.

The Heartland installation ceremony
Back row: Erin Dierks, Maureen Forgette, Michael Simpson, John Broda, John Reinert, Jim Haisler
Front row: Erin Bjornson, Karen Conley, Melissa Kostelnik, Nicole LaMorte, Tim Sebastian

On Sept. 24, the Chicago Association of REALTORS® held its 138th Inaugural Gala at the historic Hilton Chicago downtown. During that extravagant event, Antje Gehrken was instated as the association president. The festivities also included a special musical performance: a trio singing one of Gehrken’s own original songs, “Hope in Prayer.” Prior to becoming a real estate agent, Gehrken was a professional musician. Reflecting on her unique professional path, Gehrken said in her speech, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Helping people with the American dream of home and property ownership — that’s a hell of a lot like being rock star.”

Antje Gehrken’s speech at CAR gala

With Gehrken’s inauguration, Nykea Pippion McGriff becomes the immediate past president. Additionally, Sarah Ware was named president-elect, Drussy Hernandez was named treasurer and Jim D. Letchinger, of JDL Development, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Oak Park Area Association of REALTORS® inducted its own new officers on Sept. 20, in a ceremony officiated by Steve Baird, the president and CEO of Baird & Warner. During those proceedings, Catherine Simon Vobornik was officially re-named as the president of OPAAR. This marks her second one-year term as the 105th president of, what she calls, “a small but mighty” association. With that, Elissa Palermo is acting as OPAAR vice president alongside Stephanie Eiger as secretary and Julie Downey as treasurer.

Swearing in the OPAAR officers and directors

As a board, their goals moving forward include increasing training and education options for brokers and appraisers, as well as increasing engagement efforts with broker and affiliate members, according to CEO Sharon Halperin. The OPAAR board also hopes to partner with local charities to facilitate volunteerism among the membership.

On Sept. 9, the REALTOR® Association of the Fox Valley celebrated its 100th anniversary — in addition to its annual officer induction. Combining these two milestones, the event represented an important moment for the association. “It was a blast!” said the new president Miguel Ángel Fernández, who took over for past president Lucas Albright. “We combined the commemoration of RAFV’s Centennial Anniversary with the Installation of the new 2021-2022 officers and directors into one spectacular event,” Fernández explained.

The RAFV centennial celebration

Along with Fernández, Natalee Dismuke was also named as the RAFV president-elect, while Patricia Romke and Justin Letheby are now serving as treasurer and secretary, respectively. “The entire executive team is energized and excited to commence RAFV’s next century, welcoming all the voices of our diverse and growing membership, including their varied perspectives and valuing their unique contributions to the Association’s future. Together we will better serve and more effectively represent our industry, our Realtor members and the communities in which they live and work,” Fernández said of the new board.

The North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® also held its induction on Sept. 9, in which Steve Hudson was named as the NSBAR president, succeeding Brad W. Andersen. The installation, which included appointing Katie Spaniak as the new president-elect and Jude Offerle as the secretary treasurer, took place at the Renaissance North Shore Hotel and was broadcast virtually to the expansive NSBAR membership.

The NSBAR induction
Left to right: Connie Conway, Joel Raynes, Jude Offerle, Brad W. Andersen, Luigui Corral, Tom Downing; Kati Spaniak, Travis Wallace, Joe Gerber, Steve Hudson

That NSBAR inaugural ceremony was officiated by the incoming Illinois REALTORS® president Zeke Morris. Morris himself will become the official president the state association on Oct. 12. Previously, he’s served at the national level for the National Association of REALTORS®. And soon, he’ll head the association for his home state as current president Sue Miller concludes her time in office. The rest of the board will include Michael Gobber as president-elect and Matt Silver as treasurer.

On Sept. 8, the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® commemorated its own induction, welcoming John LeTourneau to the board as president. Debbie Pawlowicz and Tim Ryan were also instated as president-elect and treasurer, respectively. Commenting on the presidential transition, immediate past president Linda Dressler remarked, “We have complete confidence that John and his amazing leadership team will lead Mainstreet to places it has not been and will continue to make Mainstreet the pinnacle of excellence where everyone has a place to call home.”

John LeTourneau and Linda Dressler at the Mainstreet induction

During his acceptance speech, LeTourneau focused on his objective to strengthen international relations among Realtors. “In the past few years, and especially during COVID, our world has rapidly gone from hyper local to hyper global… Realtors working from hyper local to hyper global are at the heart of Mainstreet’s mission, vision, and values and represent a model for the future of real estate,” he told the association.

As leadership changes hands throughout the Chicagoland area, we are excited to see what changes ripple in the real industry.

The new officers across associations

Chicago Association of REALTORS®

Inducted Sept. 24

President: Antje Gehrken
President-Elect: Sarah Ware
Treasurer: Drussy Hernandez
Immediate Past President: Nykea Pippion McGriff

CEO: Michelle Mills Clement

Heartland REALTOR® Organization

Inducted Oct. 1

President: Tim Sebastian
President-Elect: Karen Conley
Secretary/Treasurer: Melissa Kostelnik
Past President: Erin Dierks

CEO: Jim Haisler

Illinois REALTORS®

Induction Oct. 12

President: Ezekiel “Zeke” Morris
President-elect: Michael Gobber
Treasurer: Matt Silver
Immediate Past President: Sue Miller

CEO: Jeff Baker

Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®

Inducted Sept. 8

President: John LeTourneau
President-Elect: Debbie Pawlowicz
Treasurer: Tim Ryan
Immediate Past President: Linda Dressler

CEO: John Gormley

North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS®

Inducted Sept. 9

President: Steve Hudson
President-Elect: Katie Spaniak
Secretary Treasurer: Jude Offerle
Immediate Past President: Brad W. Andersen

CEO: Jeff Lasky

Oak Park Area Association of REALTORS®

Inducted Sept. 20

President: Catherine Simon Vobornik
Vice President: Elissa Palermo
Secretary: Stephanie Eiger
Treasurer: Julie Downey
Past President: Jonathan Zivojnovic

CEO: Sharon Halperin

REALTOR® Association of the Fox Valley

Inducted Sept. 9

President: Miguel Ángel Fernández
President-Elect: Natalee Dismuke
Treasurer: Patricia Romke
Secretary: Justin Letheby
Immediate Past President: Lucas Albright

CEO: Chris Studebaker

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