Where WMFHA Began

Posted By: Nick Marin Member Spotlight, WMFHA Updates,

WMFHA’s turning twenty (20) this year, and our staff and leadership couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the best way we know how – with a grandiose #WMFabulous Birthday Bash! The evenings’ events will undoubtedly be memorable, filled with networking, delicious food, party favors, games and WMFHA trivia…But like with any celebratory occasion, it’s important to reflect and embrace the journey had and the journey ahead.  

Believe it or not, WMFHA’s humble beginnings can be traced back to early 2003 and to the Maple Valley garage of Glenn Gonzalez (Equity Residential), where a small handful of industry professionals first met to discuss the importance of creating an entity that would represent the common interests of the multi-family housing industry and its professionals.  From there, the idea was born to create a NAA chapter in Washington that could lean on a national association, and its network of affiliates across the country, to grow, share ideas, and provide benefits to local multi-family industry partners.

The problem was…they had no money, no membership, no office, no staff, and NAA required that prospective affiliates have at least 30,000 units to receive a charter. 

Challenge accepted! 

What followed were months, and years, of sheer grit, determination and penny pinching from leadership to get the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association off the ground and financially stable, becoming the leading association for multi-family housing professionals and companies in Washington State.  

A few interesting facts and milestones of WMFHA’s early days:

  • WMFHA’s NAA charter was officially adopted on June 18th, 2003.
  • WMFHA’s first Board of Directors, established shortly after receiving its NAA charter, consisted of seven (7) multi-family housing professionals. 
    • President: Kari Anderson, Equity Residential
    • Vice President: Bill Austin, EPIC Asset Management
    • Secretary: Bill Cook, Metric Property Management
    • Treasurer: Paul Tollner, HSC Real Estate
    • Vice President of Vendor Services: Larry O’Toole, Century Maintenance Supply
    • Board Member At Large: John Gibson, The Metropolitan
    • Board Member At Large: Sherry Vincent, Fairfield Group
  • The first official leased office space was in 2007 at the West Valley Business Park in Kent.
    • From 2003 through 2007 – WMFHA’s corporate business was done from Glenn Gonzalez’ garage and home office.
  • WMFHA’s first paid employee was Lola Franklin, Executive Director, in 2006.
    • From 2003 through 2006 – the day-to-day operations of WMFHA were handled by a Glenn Gonzalez’ wife, Heidi, as a volunteer.
  • WMFHA’s longest tenured employee, Sloane Cerbana, was first hired in January 2008 as a temp/part-time staff member with the responsibility of starting WMFHA’s education department from scratch.

…And here we are today! Twenty years later, with over 324,000 member units making WMFHA the 5th largest NAA affiliate in the country; 10 full-time staff members; a headquarters in Renton but with an established Eastern Council that provides specific outreach and representation for members located in Eastern Washington; with high ambitions to continue expanding our service area and reach to new regions throughout Washington State, including Tri-Cities, Southwest and Central Washington. 

It’s evident that the road that led WMFHA to where it is today was a steep, uphill climb but understanding our accomplishments and successes over the last twenty years undoubtedly paves the way for our purpose and resolve moving forward.  We’re now fully staffed with an all-star team of professionals, have an engaged and passionate leadership that wants to continue a legacy of fortitude and strength, with a membership that is eager to contribute that always has the industry’s best interests at heart.

We have a lot to celebrate. I’m very much looking forward to our Birthday Bash on Thursday, June 29th…and I hope you are too!