Support Group

Association second-in-commands join forces.

Speech Bubbles Connected With Common Grounds

© MirageC / Moment / Getty Images

Kathy Harbaugh, RCE, AHWD, wears a lot of different hats: “Right now, I’m looking into new elevators for our eight-story building.”

As chief operating officer at Indiana Association of REALTORS®, Harbaugh might review the operations of her state association’s real estate school one day or work with her controller to fund a new program the next.

COOs are a growing role at state and larger local associations, supporting association executives with tactical strategies to fulfill their visions. Several years ago, Harbaugh says, she knew only a handful. But when she and two other “seconds” decided to pull together a meeting at 2022’s AE Institute, more than 30 others joined to share information on how to do their jobs better for their members. “Not one of us wants to reinvent the wheel,” says Harbaugh. “We all want to be efficient. Having others to gain insight from is invaluable.”

The informal group is going through a relaunch after two founding members left their association roles. If you’re interested in attending a meeting of the group at the 2024 Joint AE Institute, March 12–15 in San Diego, email You can also join the Local and State REALTOR® Associations Second-in-Command Facebook group.



Q: Help! A member brought, of all things, a tiny live monkey in a pink tutu to a recent meeting. I’m all about animals, but it was extremely distracting—and what if it bit someone? What type of animal policy should an association have?

A: Believe it or not, this was a real scenario faced by Amanda Fowler, CEO of Northwest Mississippi REALTORS® in Nesbit. After reaching out to fellow AEs on the AEI Year-Round Facebook group for ideas, Fowler says, “I reached out to our association attorney for further assistance. Using a resource provided by another AE and ChatGPT, we created a short statement to be published on all events moving forward: ‘NO PET POLICY—No animals shall be permitted on NWMR property and/or NWMR associated events without specific prior approval.

“A longer explanation (much from ChatGPT) is available as needed. The board of directors met and approved the policy, then staff were made aware of all the information and how to handle any situation.

“We reached out to the broker and member letting them know the new policy, and the monkey has not been back! Members who were at the meeting with the animal are thankful the policy is in place; the member who brought the monkey didn’t reply. “We love animals, we support local shelters and whatnot, but to have an animal at events or meetings creates a huge liability and distraction from business. We hope the policy will help give us legs in the future if another issue comes up.”

image of monkey in pink tutu

© Images from BarbAnna / Moment / Getty Images


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