Make a Run For It

By Paul Rosta

Executive Editor Paul Rosta

Executive Editor Paul Rosta

If I had to pick a favorite among the hundreds of meetings I’ve enjoyed with real estate professionals over the years, the winner might be a visit some years ago with a gentleman who ran the local office for a large national firm. Lenny, as I’ll call him, was the kind of person who puts you at ease right away—friendly, funny and unpretentious. We talked about everything from the regional economy to market conditions and his professional background, which included a tour of duty as a high-profile appointee in state government. He even quoted a passage from Candide, the classic satiric novel by Voltaire that I dimly remembered after being forced to read it in high school.

Given Lenny’s many attractive qualities, including his government service, I couldn’t help thinking, “Now here’s the kind of person we’d all like to see in public office.” That notion has re-surfaced any number of times since then; most recently, it popped up as we’ve been preparing this month’s special report on CPE’s Executives of the Year.

Important note: Bear in mind that this train of thought began a good decade ago, long before the 2016 elections. And, of course, our incoming president won’t be the first real estate executive to take public office. My strictly non-partisan purpose is to point out the intriguing overlap I’ve repeatedly observed between the qualities of many executives I know and the qualities that are often deemed desirable in our elected and appointed officials, regardless of party affiliation—and to suggest that a few more might want to consider this possibility.

How about trying something else for a few years?

Executives that strike me as political timber share a knack for sorting out complex ideas and interests; a willingness to hear the disparate voices of clients and colleagues; a gift for dealmaking and compromise; first-class people skills; and a talent for inspiring good will, even among competitors.

What’s more, executives that, in my view, have the right stuff also grasp multiple topics central to public policy at all levels of government, ranging from economics and demographics to land use and infrastructure. Most take leadership roles in charitable endeavors, as well.

I’d be stunned to find out that my little homily ever prompted anyone to consider forsaking real estate for the pursuit of public office. So let’s put it this way: If you know someone who has the heart, mind, life experience and integrity to make a contribution, drop a hint one of these days. Here’s a sample icebreaker: “Ever think of taking a break from the business and trying something else? For, say, two, four or six years?”

Originally appearing in the December 2016 issue of CPE.