An Important Message From Our Chair, Bobby West

Habitat Magazine,
The “Chairman’s Message” in the next issue of Habitat will not address COVID-19 and its impact on our industry.  That is because I wrote and submitted it a few weeks ago, shortly before all of our lives changed.  The message is definitely worth reading when you get the magazine, as it references homelessness and what our industry is doing locally to help with the challenging situation.  I suspect it will continue to be relevant, if not even more relevant, once this Coronavirus crisis subsides.

I am writing this interim Chairman’s Message as an encouragement to you all. 
Coming into my year as Chairman of the Atlanta Apartment Association, I was excited about the AAA events and the fundraising and the public good we could do.  But honestly, the excitement did not last long.  It was way too easy to get stuck in my own head and feel sorry for myself in light of:
  • The toxic political environment and the desire of the housing advocates to fundamentally change our business AND the determination of local officials to help them do it;
  • The retirement from the industry and/or our Board of Directors by legends and trailblazers like Christie Eash, Virginia Love, Debbie Millwood and Denise Koehl; and
  • The departure from AAA of Russ Webb and Penny Moceri.
It was enough to make me ask myself “What else can go wrong?”  It was a rhetorical question asked by someone in the throes of self-pity, and it was practically begging for the universe to show just how much worse it could be. 

And that is exactly what happened.  The universe showed me just how much worse it could be.  The deadly and financially crippling COVID-19 came to our shores and changed everything.  But here is where it gets interesting.  It did not make me feel worse.  Improbably, it made me feel better even as we canceled and postponed AAA events and lost revenue that we could have surely put to great use in support of our industry and our community.  I started to feel better because I started to see the real difference AAA and its members make.  The good we do is not abstract.  It is not just an idea.  It is real.

As our past leaders have left, new leaders have emerged.  Attacks from outside forces have brought us closer together and sharpened our focus and our belief in our industry.  And in the face of an unseen foe and completely unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances, we have done our best work.  Our political leaders have told Americans to go home.  Their homes are where we work.  We have taken that as a call to action.  We have gladly accepted the responsibility that places on us.  Rivals and competitors have come together daily, hourly in group texts and email chains and Zoom calls to compare notes and even to share trade secrets.  We have united to cobble together best practices to address health and safety and delinquency and forbearance.  None of us are in this alone.  We are all working together, and our residents and fellow citizens are the beneficiaries of our collaboration.  I have never been prouder or more honored to be a member of this association.  I have never been more grateful for this industry and its people from the CEOs to the maintenance techs who put themselves on the line to make sure our residents are safe and comfortable in their homes.  Thank you all for what you do, what you are doing.  And take a minute to be proud of AAA and its members.  We will get through this together.

Best regards,
Bobby West