Joe Sharp hats off: 2006 NAA presidential profile.
Dressed in business clothes, he's not decorated with the stripes and medals that are held in such high regard by the service members for whom he provides housing. But Sharp, who was born and raised on a base as part of a military family, is truly proud of his life-long tie to the military.
His expression is calm, but firm and confident--just like his management style. He is poised and patient, yet ready for action and is about to take on one of his greatest challenges yet--serving as 2006 NAA President.
Given America's ongoing war on terror and the Bush Administration's response to the unprecedented destruction caused by natural disasters this year and in the recent past, never has the country relied more on the apartment industry.
The National Apartment Association, in perfect step, is excited and prepared to enter 2006 with Sharp at its helm. He brings the range of skills necessary to provide quality rental housing to all residents--including Hurricane Katrina evacuees and every emerging demographic--in an industry that has witnessed an economic upswing following the decline and stall of the previous years.
"What's great about my position now is that I'll be able to use all of what I know about all aspects of the rental housing industry," Sharp said. "With all the progress NAA has made--our financial success and the outstanding programs and other member services we continue to offer and are working toward offering--it really is a great time to be with NAA," Sharp said.
A 'Stick' to Carry
NAA Past President Tony Pusateri, CAPS, CPM, Senior Vice President, Property Services, Equity Residential, said Sharp is "a barnyard dog who won't drop the stick. He accomplishes more than you would believe."
Pusateri, based in Dallas, has known and worked with Sharp for the past 18 years. Sharp served as President of Texas Apartment Association (TAA) in 1998-99 and the Austin Apartment Association (AAA) in 1990.
Sharp, 52, currently is Vice President of Asset Management for Actus Lend Lease, a firm that specializes in providing housing to military families.
"I've been extremely impressed with his tenacity and his faith in the people of NAA to do the right thing," Pusateri said. "He works tirelessly, and often anonymously, on many committees. He's one of the key people who have helped lead NAA out of [tough times] to its current high level of success today."
That success is evident in several of Sharp's greatest roles as a volunteer leader within NAA. He was instrumental in helping to create the NAA Lease Program and was a National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI) board member in its inaugural year, 2005.
"The Education Institute is positioned to deliver exactly what our industry needs in terms of promoting the apartment industry as a career path, for hiring and training and for promoting our industry as a whole," said Sharp, pointing to the more than $3 million in investments made by industry members. "It is rewarding to see the major companies that are investing in the Institute."
One of the originators of content for NAA's Certified Apartment Property Supervisor (CAPS) designation program, Sharp is one of the industry's leading advocates for education.
He also served as a Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) instructor for one of the first CAM courses offered in Texas, when that NAA designation program was presented in Austin in 1976. His peers in Austin recognized him as Professional Designate of the Year in 1991 and 1995. Accelerating the development of the Education Institute is at the forefront of Sharp's 2006 list of goals.
He will also help welcome nearly 20,000 members from the California Apartment Association who will join NAA officially on Jan. 1, 2006, easily pushing NAA membership to an all-time high.
"We are very excited about having the California Apartment Association come onboard and help us continue to fill in the map of a national association," Sharp said. "With about 1.2 million units coming in, the challenge will be integrating them into our system, under one leadership, and making it work. And, with such a great influx of new members, I am excited about working with them because they bring in a new large pool of talent."
Sharp will also aim to continue to expand membership throughout the country.
"As for growth in other parts of the country, it is important that we don't just grow for growth's sake, but that we bring in quality growth with affiliates who can provide a high level of quality services," he said. "One way to reach that will be to create an NAA task force that loom at setting some minimum operating standards for affiliates to abide by."
NAA Past President Jim Hepfner, CAPS, President, Hepfner, Smith, Airhart and Day, said, "[Sharp] is always the first person you think of in our industry whenever you think of Austin."
Hepfner said Sharp will effectively manage the big events scheduled for 2006. "He is so good at keeping his priorities in order," Hepfner said. "The development of the NAA Education Institute and NAA bringing in California are big changes that he can handle."
The Perfect Opportunity to Lead
Sharp said he is looking forward to giving people the opportunity to show what they are capable of and how they perform. In terms of association management style, Sharp said, "When you are working with volunteers, you take whatever they give you gratefully. When I look at what we have done at NAA in terms of volunteer efforts--legislative advocacy, for example--it gives me a warm feeling."
Sharp said in regard to putting volunteers to work, "I ask, 'What is it that you want to do? How can you help?' and then we can talk about their ideas. I want to hear them. Together, we can create goals, and I'll work with them any way I can to help achieve them."
Pusateri said Sharp is a great motivator and leader when it comes to completing projects.
"He will get a lot done in 2006 as NAA President," Pusateri said. "I have to give a friendly warning to those serving as volunteers on 2006 committees: Be ready for a very productive year."
Bob Benson, CEO, Benson Investments Inc., Austin, said Sharp is a clear thinker and is analytical, especially when it comes to political issues and legislation. "He thinks it through and follows through," said Benson, a Past President of TAA and AAA who has known Sharp for 25 years. "He has a strong hands-on style, is a great recruiter and a good negotiator."
TAA Executive Vice President George Allen, CAE, said Sharp's strength is his ability to listen and understand the membership.
"Joe is an outstanding volunteer," Allen said. "He always took the calls when serving as President for Austin and Texas. He always does his homework and is always well prepared. He runs meetings well and always makes sure to get input from all sides."
Allen said that Sharp, while serving as TAA President, visited 18 of the 26 affiliates. "That is the most I can recall any one president visiting during a term," Mien said. "It is a testament to his desire to mix and mingle with the members. Because he has owned his own company, he definitely understands what apartment managers and owners deal with on a day-to-day basis."
Allen said Sharp doesn't speak just to be heard. "He speaks when there is something relevant to say," Allen said. "He leads by example and you can see that when he conducts a meeting."
AAA Executive Vice President Kristan Arrona said Sharp's healthy attitude about education is contagious.
"Joe was always very committed to the industry's professional image through his support of the educational opportunities," Arrona said. "He was the leading faculty member for our CAM and CAPS financial modules, as he not only knows numbers and can speak to the numbers, but he is a natural in front of a classroom."
Nationwide and Worldwide
Sharp grew up in a military family. His father, Joseph Sr., who died January 2004, served in the Navy and Army for a total of 30 years, including World War II, Korea and two tours in Vietnam.
Sharp said he has been a student of engineering, math and computers since age 14. "For those old enough to remember them, the first computer I worked on was an IBM 1440, using Autocoder," he said.
Sharp has worked since he was 14, including selling Fuller brushes and Cutco knives. He attended high school in San Antonio and graduated in 1971. At that time, Sharp received an appointment to West Point, but, after long consultation with his father, turned it down. He was also accepted to Rice University and University of Texas, choosing the latter to pursue an engineering degree.
Sharp first entered the apartment industry during his sophomore year at University of Texas at Austin when he was hired as an Assistant Property Manager for a 134-unit community. This marked the first of 14 major Southwest markets in which he has managed, a scope that broadened when he joined Actus. He now has a hand in units that stretch from coast to coast, from Hawaii to the South Carolina shoreline.
Before his junior year of college, Sharp chose to tour Europe with friends.
Working as a bartender, it was easy for him to find work in one city or the next. The experience allowed him the rare luxury of seeing the world--or at least, Europe--relatively cheaply. "It was a wonderful time in my life," Sharp said. "I was able to spend a lot of time with U.S. military families stationed in Greece, Turkey, Paris, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Austria and Italy."
When Sharp returned to the United States, he earned his real estate license and worked part time with an apartment locator firm. He was then hired as property manager for a 300-unit community owned by Jamail Properties in Austin. He also worked for an Austin community managed by Life Investors Inc. and in 1975 took a job with NPC (Nash Phillips and Clyde Copus), which at the time was the largest private homebuilder in the country.
Later, he worked with Tom Martine as Vice President of Property Management for Martine Properties. "Tom taught me everything about the people side of the business," Sharp said.
Martine said Sharp definitely knows numbers. "Back in the day, he had a knack for knowing the cost per square foot of a building project without even using a calculator," Martine said. "I would question him, then go and check it, and he was always right on."
Martine said Sharp also always enjoyed the politics of the apartment industry. "I'm glad he's putting in the time to serve as NAA President," Martine said.
Sharp also worked for Ed Hamel, a Texas Apartment Association Past President, who Sharp said taught him "everything else about managing apartments."
In 1982, Sharp rejoined NPC as Vice President of Property Management. In 1987, he left to become a partner with Sharp and O'Connor Properties. Three years later, he established his own fee-management apartment firm--The Sharp Network, based in Georgetown, Texas, where he lives today.
The Leap to Actus Lend Lease
In July 2004, Joe Sharp began doing consulting work for Actus Lend Lease, helping to implement a maintenance module computer software program. Earlier this year, he was hired full time as the Asset Manager and Project Director for Fort Hood Family Housing LP (FHFH), an Actus project company that was formed in partnership with the Department of the Army. Among the key military bases, he directly manages the assets of Fort Hood near Austin, which comprises 6,130 rental homes on more than 500,000 acres. Sharp is directly responsible for a staff of 175 maintenance technicians, 34 management employees and seven asset management personnel.
"Fort Hood was one of the first bases that Actus took over management of when it entered into a 50-year partnership with the Department of the Army in 2001. It is one of the largest and most successful in its portfolio," said Sharp, who was born in Fort Belvoir, Va., about 20 miles south of Washington, D.C. He lived in Germany for five years, moved to Denver at age 6 and lived in Guam and Okinawa before moving to Fort Hood in 1960.
The primary objective of Actus Lend Lease is to improve the lives of service members and their families, Sharp said.
"We want to make it so they want to stay in the service, and a comfortable home is a big part of that," Sharp said. "The Residential Communities Initiatives (RCI) was a recognition by Congress that housing for its military is a major issue, and management of that housing is not a core competency. It is one way that Congress can encourage them to stay."
Some housing at Fort Hood was built in the 1940s and more has been added each decade since. Through RCI, partnerships have been formed to demolish old, substandard housing and replace it with new housing or rehabilitate it. In doing this, the military is incorporating lessons learned from the private housing industry and making them fit the military culture.
With Actus, the military branches forge partnerships, which can borrow money and build on the land leased from the government. Actus collects the BAH, or Basic Allowance for Housing, which is given to service members based on their rank and family situation, and uses it to build and maintain the homes and retire debt. The remainder is cash flow which is re-invested and used to renovate existing housing in later years. With the 50-year agreement, Actus is able to plan for the long term.
"Any time there is deployment, families have the choice of staying or living somewhere else," Sharp said. "One of the challenges to managing military housing is that you can have as many as 1,700 move-outs in 120 days. Often, we do not receive much more than a week or two of notice. That's what we faced this past summer. Turnaround time is tough. We've completed as many as 150 maintenance turns in a week."
Sharp said, through his relationship with military members and their families, all military members "know" they need to be in Iraq. "It's absolutely amazing the attitude they have about the importance of what they are doing," Sharp said. "There is no doubt in their mind that what they are doing is the right thing for this country and for the world. We're defending freedom and fighting for our values. It's very satisfying to be playing a part in that."
Sharp and Actus Lend Lease also played a role in the rescue and housing efforts involved with residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Fort Hood sent 17 helicopters to the hurricane areas to help rescue residents. As far as filling available units, the families of soldiers in and around New Orleans were given first priority.
Bill Wollinger, President, Winn Residential, Boston, a firm that also specializes in military housing, said Sharp is one of the most experienced individuals he has worked with.
"Actus Lend Lease is one of the most prestigious real estate organizations in the world, and Joe is in charge of the family housing at Fort Hood, the largest installation in the U.S. Army," Wollinger said. "He is a true leader and a good guy. NAA is fortunate to have Sharp as its 2006 President."
An Interesting Life
In 1987, Sharp married Vicki Sharp, NALP, CAPS. She is Vice President and Director of Business Development for Actus Lend Lease and has worked for the company the past three years. Her business office is at Actus' national headquarters in Nashville. She is a troubleshooter who travels extensively, having also worked out of Actus Lend Lease offices in Hawaii and South Carolina. As you might expect, Joe regularly travels, too.
"This has certainly made our lives interesting and caused us to value the time that we do have together even more," Joe Sharp said. "It's not unusual for us to pass in the airport. There are times when we meet between flights and exchange car keys. Sometimes, it's convenient for me to pack a suitcase for her, put it in the trunk of her car at the airport, and have her pick it up on her way to her next business meeting."
Their six-bedroom home in Georgetown, Texas, is also home to Vicki's mother, Rose Peyton, and Joe's mother. Margarete Sharp suffered a stroke in 1997 and the house has been remodeled to meet her physical restrictions.
"The thing you most admire about Joe Sharp is his loyalty to his family," Hepfner said. "He understands how to prioritize what goes on with his family and with his job."
Joe's oldest son, Jason, 26, is a University of Texas graduate who recently became engaged to be married and is a teacher in the Mien School District, north of Dallas.
His daughter Valerie, 23, is married with two young children, Caleb and Riley. Valerie, a member of the military police corps, has one year left in the military reserves. She is a property manager for the Water's Edge community in Georgetown, Texas.
Zachary or "Zac" is 22 and a senior at Texas Tech. He will attend medical school in 2006. Ashley, 21, is married to a submariner and lives in Connecticut. Jordan, 16, is a junior at Georgetown High School.
Sharp's free time is spent playing golf--"I'm not a great golfer, so it's therapy more than anything," he said--toying with his HAM radio and "fooling around with computers."
"I'm not a programmer or hacker-type, but I do like to see what I can make a computer do for me."
NAA's Lease for Life
This year, Sharp will add to his NAA legacy, which currently is highlighted by his involvement in the development of the NAA Lease.
The NAA Lease Program is one of the most valuable member benefits and among the greatest revenue generators for NAA and, more importantly, its affiliates.
Sharp in 1996 went to TAA counsel Larry Niemann with an idea that came from then-NAA President Hap Hunnicutt, CAPS, about reworking the Texas Apartment Association lease so that it would reflect laws of other states where NAA members operated apartments.
The NAA Lease is now offered in 37 states, a list that is sure to grow. The lease is available only to NAA members. It is a flexible, balanced document that is enforceable and tailored to each state.
"It is one product that offers a compelling reason to join and remain a member of NAA," Sharp said.
"At first we thought there was no way we could convert the Texas lease into a national lease; it was an impossible task," Sharp said. "We knew we would have to get past all the hurdles and all the politics of every state. There were so many significant changes that would have to be made for each state."
After TAA approved a resolution that granted licensing rights for the TAA lease to NAA, Sharp said Niemann reduced the Texas version to its essentials and began adding clauses and provisions, where necessary, with the help of NAA Legal Counsel John McDermott.
"At this point, in terms of growth potential for the NAA Lease, the sky's the limit," Sharp said. "The lease has always been near and dear to my heart. It is very gratifying to see how the lease has grown--without me." This year, NAA will grow with him.
Paul R. Bergeron Ill is NAA's Director of Communications. He can be reached at 703/797-0606 or email@example.com.