Gary Clayton, RCE, CAE, CEO of the Illinois Association of REALTORS®, is this year’s recipient of the William R. Magel Award of Excellence, which honors an individual who has truly excelled in his or her role as an association executive.
Considering the launch of the REALTOR® Party and the heightened focus on political action leading up to the 2012 elections, it’s no surprise that an AE who embodies the REALTOR® association’s dedication to legislative advocacy is honored this year.
Clayton is a firm believer in political action as a primary association goal and serves as the chief -lobbyist. In fact, the association accomplishment of which Clayton says he is most proud is the IAR advocacy program, developed in 2006. This program ensures that the 11 local government affairs directors IAR employs across the state have the support they need to provide all members with a proactive voice in city and county government, says Clayton.
The intent of the IAR Advocacy Program is to go beyond working with legislators and local elected officials, bringing pertinent political issues to the front doors of homeowners. The program produces hard-hitting direct mail pieces, brochures, ad campaigns, and other tools to make sure elected officials get the message, while giving constituents a way to fight for their property rights. Recently, it was IAR research materials that state legislators had in their hands as a reference during the floor debate to defeat a statewide gross receipt tax.
Clayton’s political action in Illinois predates his 24 years as a REALTOR® CEO. After earning his master’s degree in social justice administration from the University of Illinois, Clayton dedicated his career to public service—first for the U.S. Postal Service, then for the State of Illinois in the Department of Law Enforcement, and later as director of the Illinois Department of Registration and Education. He also served four terms as a cabinet director for Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson.
Clayton will be officially recognized during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 11–14.
Q. Considering the current economic and political climate, what’s your take on where REALTOR® associations will be in five years? What will be the critical strategic focus necessary to remain relevant?
I think NAR provided two excellent examples for state and local associations to adopt: 1. Advocacy is a key to the future and 2. We must constantly demonstrate our unique value proposition. As it turns out, a lot of what we do, we do in silent service. So, now and forevermore, we need to remember to never assume that our members know of the fights and victories and what those mean in tangible costs or benefits. We will also continually reach out to the homeowner to engage them in some of our advocacy campaigns. By providing their customers and clients with our advocacy research and briefings, I see our REALTORS® as continuous advocates for private property rights. This is just another example of what being a REALTOR® means to the homebuyer/homeowner and their community.
Q. How would you describe your association management philosophy?
I have a type A work ethic, but I believe it is safe to say that I have a type B personality. So, I try to lead by example: hard work and aggressive pressure on myself. Yet I fully allow staff to develop and achieve results with minimal intervention.
Q. What have been the keys to your success?
Forming and maintaining a staff and elected leader partnership of mutual trust has been pivotal. I also always try to learn something each day and keep in the forefront of my mind the fact that success is only as relevant as your last decision.
Q. What advice or tips do you have for younger (less experienced) AEs?
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. My fellow AEs have been my single best source of information. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks, gain knowledge from the decisions or projects that have been less than successful, and, correspondingly, realize that your successes are a result of a combination of effort—no one does it alone.
Q. What books have had a profound effect on your professional life?
Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips.