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Politicking the machine: advocating change for the profession.

Along with money and religion, politics are the cliche taboo topic. The no-no at the dinner table. But the following members, along with others who hold office, such as Bob McGivern, SRA, who was profiled last year, have decided the opposite: not getting involved is the taboo. Thus, they have dived head-first into their activism ranging from advocacy to candidate support to continually scanning the political landscape to see where you fit in. All of them realize that helping shape the current legislation is the best way to ensure the future of the profession.

Matt Smith MAI, SRA, Long Island Chapter

Having a lifelong politician for a father gave Matt Smith, MAI, SRA, of New York, N.Y., a head start in advocacy issues. Smith grew up in Mineola, N.Y., where his father was the mayor for 10 years and deputy mayor for another 10, in addition to his "day job" in real estate sales. Having been exposed to politics at such a young age, Smith, 39, has been an active leader in the Republican Party ever since. However, he prefers a behind-the-scenes approach, as opposed to being in the public eye.

Smith became involved in his state when state appraiser licensing laws came into being. An unrelenting hardliner, he has been attempting to change the New York licensing laws from voluntary to mandatory for the last 10 years. His reason for doing so is "out of respect for appraisers. In a nonmandatory state, it's like anything goes," Smith said. "But when you get a state to become mandatory, they realize it's an important issue and the state takes it that much more seriously."

Smith feels he can effect the necessary changes as he serves in various nonelective positions. In 2000 he was a governor-appointed member of the New York State Licensing Services Advising Task Force, and he is now serving the second of two terms as an appointee to the New York State Board of Real Estate Appraisal. "But it is a matter of walking the tightrope between Republicans and Democrats and picking the right time to challenge the banks," he said. "They consider us an obstacle."

Smith has also been heavily involved in the political advocacy efforts of the Appraisal Institute. He currently sits on the national Board of Directors, through 2004. He is also the current chair of the Government Relations Committee and of APPAC (Appraisers Political Action Committee) and vice chair of the Public Affairs Committee. He is a past-president of the Long Island Chapter, as well as former regional chair and vice chair between 2000-2002.

He has used this internal experience as a training ground to participate in other public arenas better. "It helps with public speaking and presentation skills; it teaches you a lot of communication skills," he said. For example, he recently had to address a group regarding a high-profile criminal case, and he was able to "lay it on the line, professionally."

In addition to speaking and people skills, Smith says a successful politician/advocate must put in the time, have the right contacts, and be able to raise significant funds. Smith warns that it takes years of effort before you get a return, which he feels does not bode well for his generation.

"If you look back a generation, the guys that came out of World War II, they had different bonding skills, different ideas of commitment of time. They weren't necessarily looking for a return. Today, we need an instant return," he laments. "I can't get people to understand that by paying $100 or so for a fundraiser, you'll effect change. But it's a five- to 10-year process to build up trust with your public servants."

He also says he can't explain enough that by getting involved in committees and groups, you do get a return--the contacts that you make. "Be patient, the results will outweigh all of the time and effort spent in the beginning," he says.

Jyl Maratea, MAI, SRA, Southern Arizona Chapter

It's not necessarily political beliefs that make for a good political activist, just belief in something. "Having passion for life and seeing change is reinforcing," says Jyl Maratea, MAI, SRA, who used to feel powerless to "change the world" and make it a better place to live. Then, she discovered volunteer work, particularly working on candidates' campaigns and serving on boards of nonprofit community agencies, and found that she could make a difference. Her humble beginnings now yield numerous affiliations as she currently belongs to two nonpartisan political groups, serves as a union steward in CWA #7026 and was recently appointed by the governor to the state Board of Equalization.

Starting was rather simple, she says. She simply showed up to work for candidates, joined nonpartisan organizations with goals to elect women to political office and started voicing political issues publicly. "I let people know they could count on me to follow through when I pledge time and support to a candidate or a cause," Maratea said.

Since she works for the City of Tucson, which is a municipality, Maratea is prohibited under the Hatch Act from being active in a specific political party or to work on the campaigns of city candidates. However, that has not stopped her from working on fund-raising, petition gathering, strategizing and promoting other candidates whose views she espouses. In turn, the candidates

know who she is and appear to value her opinions, particularly on real estate appraisal and valuation issues, she says. Which, in turn, yields work-related and advocacy-related benefits. "If politicians know they can rely on you, they are apt to remember you when they need advice or someone to represent them."

And she has used her Appraisal Institute affiliation to get more designated members involved in the process. For example, she recently enlisted an MAI to serve as a fellow board member on the state Board of Equalization.

"I am delighted that my political work is bringing more real estate appraisal professionals to this board. I believe people in our profession will enhance the board's decision making. Unfortunately, few commercial designated appraisers are interested in this form of public service," Maratea said.

While some are not interested because of time or energy constraints and some from not necessarily having strong opinions, Maratea believes that appraisers as a group are fearful of loss of business if they openly support candidates whose politics they identify as similar to their own. "I also think that some appraisers join political parties that favor their clients even if their own views are in conflict with what the candidates are saying in their campaigns. If more appraisers were actively involved in decisions that directly affect the quality of their lives and not the thickness of their wallets, I think they would realize that they can have an impact on issues that affect their profession," she says.

The other way to have an impact, Maratea says, is to volunteer to serve on planning commissions, on task forces formed to address local issues that could affect the community, or on nonprofit agencies that serve the underprivileged and/or disenfranchised, or to contact politicians who are doing a respectable job in representing you and volunteer to work for them.

Carl Schneider, SRA, Green Country Oklahoma Chapter

While he didn't have an agenda in mind, Carl Schneider, SRA, has found himself politically active in Oklahoma, mainly in response to that state's provisional licenses.

"It was not by intent or design, I just wanted to make a difference," Schneider said. "I was disgusted with the appraiser law allowing provision of license certificates without an experience requirement." To that end, he has been in contact with the state appraiser board and state legislative members to change the Oklahoma appraiser law.

Schneider feels appraisers are generally politically inactive and "have a limited willingness to get involved as great time and resources are required." However, he feels it is imperative that they get involved if they have the inkling to do so. "Ask yourself first how important making a difference is, then remain committed."

Schneider says it is important to counteract changes before they take hold. "Our industry is at the discretion/mercy of legislation. Once anything becomes law, it is quite difficult to change."

Jesse B. Vance, MAI, SRA, South Florida Chapter

With an eye on the future and both feet planted firmly in legislative issues, Jesse B. Vance, Jr., MAI, SRA, does not see the future of the Appraisal Institute as being in jeopardy, but he does wonder if the members will be ready and willing to provide future valuation needs by preparing and becoming involved today.

As economic and political events continue to change the way we live and work, Vance feels there will be a growing need for appraisers skilled in modem valuation technology and methodology to estimate "real" market value for rapidly changing real property assets. "The Enron and Arthur Anderson event is only the tip of the iceberg. Appraisers must first and foremost continue to upgrade their training, knowledge and skills as valuation experts. Then, we must be involved with the election and oversight of those we elect, so that the public will be protected and well served in their real property valuation needs," he said.

Leading by example, Vance has immersed himself in political issues over the last decade in order to monitor and influence state and national legislation and regulation of real estate appraisers. His first step was accepting state and regional government relations responsibilities for the Appraisal Institute, followed by becoming nationally active by working with the Region X state lobbyist, the national Government Relations Committee and the Washington, D.C., office.

Through these posts, Vance learned how legislation comes about and how to attempt to influence legislation. He also learned the power that individual citizens actually have, and the responsibility that comes with that.

"Like nuclear power, an individual can achieve political success to the benefit or to the detriment of those that choose him/her," Vance said. "If we, the people, do not become involved in investigating, knowing, and supporting the best qualified persons to write laws and regulate our professions and our lives," persons less qualified are often elected over persons better qualified, he cautioned.

Vance suggests a variety of ways of educating yourself, mainly through reading industry-specific sources available. One such source is the Appraisal Institute's weekly political action newsletter, The PLAN, which members can sign up for at the members only section of Government updates are also available on the public side of the Web site through Appraiser News Online.

In addition to educating yourself, Vance encourages supporting industry advocacy groups such as the Appraisal Institute Political Action Committee (APPAC) by donating time or money.

Donating time to a state or regional lobbyist through one's Appraisal Institute chapter or region or by serving in one or more of the following capacities is also a great way to get involved and educated, according to Vance: chapter government relations representative; state/regional government relations representative; regional representative on national government relations committee; campaign worker for state and national office-seekers. Information on these opportunities can be obtained by contacting Bill Garber, Appraisal Institute Director of Government Affairs, at 202-298-5586, or

ADAM WEBSTER, the Managing Editor for the Appraisal Institute's Valuation Insights & Perspectives and Appraiser News Online, is always interested in ideas for future stories of interest. He can be reached at 312-335-4459 or
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Title Annotation:interviews with appraisers
Author:Webster, Adam
Publication:Valuation Insights & Perspectives
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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