Tonya Clark, CPM, Regional Manager, Housing Management, Housing Opportunities Commission

MHN interviews Tonya Clark, CPM, regional manager, Housing Management, Housing Opportunities Commission.

MHN interviews Tonya Clark, CPM, regional manager, Housing Management, Housing Opportunities Commission.

MHN: How did you get into the multifamily industry?

Clark: Accidentally. I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1991 with a degree in Business Administration. Most of my friends had jobs by the time we graduated, but I spent the summer working at a local pool and looking for a job. In November, I interviewed for a job as a resident manager. I had no idea what I was interviewing for, but it sounded like a resident assistant of a college dorm. After two interviews, I was offered the job at senior community of affordable housing in Lynchburg, Va. The most appealing thing to me in addition to a paycheck was the rent and utility free apartment. The rest is history!

MHN: If you weren’t in multifamily, what would you be doing?

Clark: It’s a great possibility that I would be a mortician. My rationale was that there would always be customers and they did not talk back. When I discovered how much science was needed to do this I changed my mind, and I am so happy to be in the world of real estate.

MHN: Who has been your biggest inspiration during your career?

Clark: Inspirations change from time to time. Early in my career, my first supervisor, Kristie Claytor, was my inspiration and role model. She taught me very important foundations of this business, which include the ability to multi-task and the importance of documentation. Kristie was a regional manager at that time and made her job of overseeing at least 10 properties throughout Virginia look so easy.

Later in life, I was inspired by another supervisor and by fellow IREM chapter members. Through these professionals, I see that it is within me to take my career further. It is my decisions that make me responsible for my career and professional development.

MHN: In terms of work, what keeps you up at night?

Clark: It’s rare that work keeps me up at night, as my staff is very responsible and capable of handling emergencies and issues that may arise. Specific property or staff challenges have kept me up at night. Some need fresh ideas and approaches while all of them can use prayer.

MHN: What is the best part of your workday?

Clark: Contact with residents is a great part of my day. Phone calls and letters of compliments and complaints, postcards from travels and even voicemail messages are well received. I get joy out of helping people. When a resident calls and needs my assistance, it is a pleasure to ask, “How can I help you resolve this?” Sometimes they have a request and other times they say that there is nothing I can do, they just wanted to talk. In affordable housing, an integral part of our job is helping people.

MHN: What one story in your career stands out in your mind?

Clark: It is difficult to note one story. On my last day at a job, there was a kitchen fire at 2:30 p.m. Dinner was to be served at 4 p.m. The resolution was to have the local grocery store fry enough chicken for 140 residents and purchase potato salad and bread for the side dishes. I didn’t end my workday until 11:30 p.m. That was the longest farewell party ever!

Hurricane Irene also presented challenges. The senior building lost power for five days and the very old generator no longer worked. An employee stripped his personal Volkswagen bus of parts and temporarily fixed it. Another weather related emergency was when a winter storm causes a power outage that lasts for days.

MHN: Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

Clark: I have not paid enough dues to say that I can retire in five or 10 years, but it sure sounds good. Realistically, I see myself stepping into commercial property management. You do not have as much interaction with tenants, but it would be a nice change. Down the road, I would like to explore owning my own business in consulting or training.

MHN: What advice would you give another that you wish someone would have said to you?

Clark: I would have loved for someone to push me to learn more languages. Speaking additional languages such as Spanish, French, Russian, Korean and others can open the door to so many possibilities.