New CEO of Wichita Realtors group ‘a normal Joe’

10/24/2013 5:03 PM

10/24/2013 5:05 PM

The new top administrator of the Wichita Area Association of Realtors played basketball at a small California college, has never lived in Kansas – but has a mother who was born in El Dorado – and describes himself as “a normal Joe.”

Richard “RJ” Marshall started about two weeks ago as CEO of the 1,400-member association, replacing Tessa Hultz, who took a job as CEO of Raleigh (N.C.) Regional Association of Realtors in August.

Marshall, 50, came from the Realtor Association of Prince William in Woodbridge, Va., which he said Thursday was a market similar to Wichita in terms of population but with much higher home prices.

“This area seems to have insulated itself very well from the past (home price) bubble,” he said.

Marshall has forged a career as a trade association executive since 1992, including stops at the National Association of Mortgage Brokers and the Scaffold Industry Association, where he and association president John Miller formed the trade group’s first formal alliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

But, he said, most of his career has been as a Realtors association executive, including a stint at the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Area Association of Realtors.

He said when he learned of the CEO vacancy at WAAR, he jumped at the chance to relocate here.

“I like being with a community that’s kind of salt of the earth,” Marshall said. “So I saw the opening and said, ‘Yeah, I gotta go for this.’”

Not to mention the fact that he and his wife, Lynne, have family and friends in Abilene, Salina and Oklahoma.

Marshall was born in Portland, Ore., but grew up in Arizona. His father was vice president of finance for U-Haul International in Phoenix.

Marshall earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from West Coast Christian College in Fresno, Calif., where at 6-foot-4, he played shooting guard on the basketball team.

As WAAR chief executive, he said his responsibility is to carry out the vision and mission of the association’s board of directors and to be their “supportive partner.”

But Marshall also wants to raise the value of a Realtor in the public’s mind. He said they are not just people who assist in the sale or purchase of property, but are a valuable resource in terms of understanding a local economy, what’s driving it and other factors that affect it. He also said that they as a group generally give of their time to the community in various volunteer capacities but aren’t always recognized for that work. “Realtors are very engaged,” he said.

Chonci Lekawa served on WAAR’s CEO search committee and was among the members who interviewed Marshall for the job.

Lekawa, a real estate consultant with Re-Max Premier, said the committee had interviewed several candidates, but Marshall came across as “real.”

“He was genuine, and he was honest,” she said of the interview. “He’s also the type of person who is going to pull out the very best” of WAAR members serving on various committees.

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