Safe, affordable housing, investment in commercial real estate, ensuring small businesses can thrive—these are issues that resonate across party lines." —Terrie Suit
In November, Virginia REALTORS® CEO Terrie Suit completed three years’ work as vice chair of the National Association of REALTORS® Governance Game Changer Presidential Advisory Group. The group ushered in a realignment that promises to make NAR a more focused, nimble organization.
Suit is uniquely qualified to lead on governance issues. In addition to spending more than 35 years in the real estate business—as a REALTOR®, mortgage loan officer, and association executive—she served four terms as a representative in the Virginia House of Delegates. While in office, she helped create the Virginia Fair Housing Office and Fair Housing Board, and she chaired the Virginia Housing Commission.
A tireless proponent of veteran homeownership, she went on to serve as the state’s first Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. And in 2020, she was named to Virginia Business’ inaugural Virginia 500 Power List of influential business leaders. REALTOR® AE asked Suit about the impact of NAR’s realignment and the issues most important to her.
Q: Why did NAR overhaul its governance structure when it did?
Suit: The existing structure had been in place for nearly 100 years. [NAR 2018] President [Elizabeth] Mendenhall believed it was time to review the structure, and the leadership team supported her initiative. The team wanted a thorough, well-researched review with input from all constituents of the REALTOR® family.
Q: What advantages does the realignment offer to state and local association executives?
Suit: It separates the state and large local director formula so that one is not taking directors from the other. It also adds seats for small and medium-sized associations. This ensures that all perspectives are represented and reduces a source of friction. I was over-the-top ecstatic about the outcome.
Q: What attracted you to government service?
Suit: As a mortgage lender, I was an affiliate member of my local REALTOR® association, and I enjoyed advocacy. In the state legislature, I had the opportunity to [sponsor] many bills that were part of the REALTOR® association legislative agenda. It became a passion for me.
Q: How did your role in veterans’ issues translate to real estate?
Suit: I was a huge supporter of military family issues, being a family member myself. So many military families don’t have the opportunity to buy a home and grow roots in a community because they transfer duty stations frequently. I became a VA loan specialist as a mortgage lender and worked with military installations to educate service members and veterans on the personal and investment benefits of owning a home.
Q: What’s one thing every association executive can do to advance fair housing?
Suit: Make fair housing training relatable. Bring in great storytellers who have real life examples to share, so that members can better understand what discriminatory practices are and why they are still a problem today. Talk about it frequently—not just at CE time.
Q: What have you learned about advocacy in more than 20 years on the front lines?
Suit: The most successful government affairs professionals have well-cultivated, long-term relationships with policymakers [that are] built through an investment of time.
Relationships with policymakers on all sides of the aisle are critical. REALTOR® issues are not partisan. Safe, affordable housing, investment in commercial real estate, ensuring small businesses can thrive—these are issues that resonate across party lines.