After working for several months without a chief executive and having to conduct two national searches, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors has finally selected a new leader for its organization, with hopes of finally closing the books on what has been a tumultuous time for the group.

Banker & Tradesman has learned that MAR’s seven-member search committee has selected John Fridlington, a high-ranking official from the California Association of Realtors, to serve as its next executive vice president, which is the group’s top full-time position.

Fridlington’s selection is all but official. However, the state board of directors must still formally ratify Fridlington’s selection. That vote was expected to take place Monday morning, Dec. 11, at 10 a.m. at a special meeting, where Fridlington would be the only candidate presented for approval.

MAR has been without a chief executive since August when the former head of the organization, Robert L. Nash, left office. Nash was removed from office by a board of directors vote taken in June where his fate was decided by a close 61-57 vote, one vote more than the margin needed to oust the longtime MAR administrator. Nash continued working until August, when MAR announced the two had parted ways after reaching an agreement on Nash’s settlement package.

Edmund “Gill” Woods Jr. of Edmund G. Woods Co. in Holyoke, chairman of the EVP search committee, said he was looking forward to officially bringing Fridlington on board.

“The search committee has been working diligently for the past five months, and we’ve interviewed a number of people and looked at somewhere between 75 and 80 applicants for the job,” Woods said.

Other members of the search committee included Fred Meyer, 2000 MAR president; 2001 President David M. Walsh; James Dougherty, a past MAR president and current president of the Massachusetts Mortgage Association; Peter Casey, MAR’s treasurer and secretary; Paula Savard, a past MAR president and director of the National Association of Realtors; and David Bradley, a former MAR president and NAR distinguished service award winner.

“We had interviewed about a dozen applicants, and we were really close to making a decision about six weeks ago,” said Woods, a past president of both NAR and MAR. “But the candidate we selected chose to pursue another opportunity, so essentially we had to go back to square one.”

According to sources familiar with the selection process, the search committee had narrowed the field to a few finalists and eventually selected David Peretti, a Realtor from Chestnut Hill, for the EVP post.

However, the sources, who requested anonymity, said Peretti reportedly was not satisfied with the $150,000 base salary plus benefits package that MAR was set to offer, and ultimately withdrew his name from consideration. When a consensus could not be reached on naming one of the remaining two finalists to fill the vacant slot, the committee decided to again open the search.

At that point, instead of advertising nationally for prospective candidates as had been the case the first time around, the search committee opted to use a networking approach in its second attempt.

“We were faced with a decision as to whether we should hire headhunters,” Woods said. “Then I made a bunch of phone calls, and we came up with five or six really good people. Ultimately, we interviewed three very capable people for the job.” Fridlington was chosen from among those three.

Meyer declined to comment on MAR’s selection until after it has been made official this week. Phone calls to Fridlington seeking comment were not returned.

Fridlington was most recently staff vice president for CAR, which maintains its main headquarters in Los Angeles.

“He’s a senior vice president at the California association, and he comes from a background in law,” Woods said, adding that Fridlington’s career at CAR spans about 20 years. “He has wonderful credentials and has done a lot of good things for that organization.”

Fridlington was second-in-command at CAR behind Executive Vice President and State Secretary Joel Singer. However, because Singer devotes much of his effort toward serving as president of CAR’s business services and technology subsidiaries, Fridlington had much of the responsibility for running the association.

“He wasn’t technically a [chief operating officer], but he was like a COO,” Woods said. “He was in charge of the day-to-day operation of the association.”

Sources familiar with Fridlington said he has, at one time or another, served on almost every committee both at the California and national association level. He also has been described by several sources as “a real people person,” and “really easy to get along with.”

“That’s one of his great strengths,” Woods concurred.

No Ties
Woods said he was excited to be able to tap Fridlington for the position, adding that Fridlington was not specifically looking to leave the California association before he was approached to consider the job at MAR’s Waltham headquarters.

“About four or five months ago, John had sold his house and he was looking around,” Woods said. “He just happened to be in a position where he didn’t own any property, so he wasn’t tied down to anything.”

Pending Monday morning’s ratification of the selection, Woods said both MAR and Fridlington are ready to sign an employment contract, which he was reviewing late last week. If all goes according to plan, Fridlington would begin his tenure at MAR at the beginning of next year. “He’ll be coming on line very quickly,” Woods said. “He’s very enthusiastic about the job and he has a lot of friends in Massachusetts, so his adjustment should be relatively easy.”

“It was a lot of work,” Woods said of the search process. “By doing it without the help of a professional search company, I figured we saved the association about $75,000 plus expenses.

“The committee really did a fantastic job. The members of the committee really saved MAR a good deal of money,” he added.

Although Fridlington now will be assuming higher executive position in a state Realtor organization with his move to Massachusetts, the size of the organization he manages will shrink considerably.

The California association, one of the largest in the United States, has a membership totaling approximately 95,000, according to information posted on CAR’s Web site. The Massachusetts association, in contrast, has only about 15,000 members, according to MAR figures posted on its Web site.

“He really impressed me, and he really impressed the search committee,” Woods said. “We’ve always had a history of solid leadership, and I’m sure that will continue with John.”

MAR Finds Replacement For Ousted Top Executive

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 4 min