In Orange County, Calif., four local associations serve nearly 30,000 REALTORS® in the municipality’s 34 cities. These same four associations work equally well with their delegation of elected leaders, from local mayors to county supervisors to members of Congress.
Orange County REALTORS® (OCR) was especially enterprising in pivoting online when the pandemic shut things down. Converting the unexpected closures into an opportunity to ramp up education and outreach, they reached far more members with their online offerings than ever before. A centerpiece of the new programming was a series of three virtual REALTOR® town halls, featuring real-time conversations with members of the 116th Congress — Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45), Congressman Harley Rouda (CA-48), and Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49).
Working closely with the Federal Political Coordinators (FPCs), OCR developed these hour-long events as an opportunity for the timely presentation of information, and a chance for members to ask direct questions at a time of great public uncertainty. Following an introduction by his or her FPC, each representative addressed issues of special interest to REALTORS®, including the CARES Act and Fair Housing to the federal eviction moratorium and extension of the National Flood Insurance program among other topics. During these virtual events, OCR staff members monitored the chat function, answering questions, and ensuring that everything ran smoothly.
Dirissy Doan, Government Affairs Director of the 15,000-member association, reports that attendance at the congressional town halls was between 400 and 500 participants, up from the typical 50 to 100 at in-person events. This increase occurred at all the online forums offered recently by the association, including one with the sheriff of Orange County, and others focused on housing development. From March through June, OCR also offered nearly twice the number of classes compared to the same period in 2019, which also experienced record registration.
Necessity being the mother of invention, OCR leadership could not be more enthusiastic about how the association has been able to enhance members’ engagement with their representatives in Washington. Danielle Corliss, 2020 OCR President, says, “The recent congressional forums have been wonderful. They’ve drawn participation from our members in record numbers, allowing them to enjoy an easy conversation with our representatives and get answers!”
OCR Past President and Leadership Academy founder Rita Tayenaka concurs, observing that “Orange County REALTORS® has always been so good at getting our elected officials to meet and interact with us, and these virtual meetings have continued that priority, despite the necessary distance.”
Former FPC and past OCR President Paula Cosenza agrees: “The Congressional Forums have been a great way to connect the REALTORS® with those who represent us in Washington, and provide an important opportunity to ask them questions.”
Joyce Endo, OCR’s key contact with the California Association of REALTORS®, notes, “What’s great is that these events are moderated in an interactive style that provides detailed current content while encouraging the audience to pose questions and share opinions.”
REALTOR® Jeffrey Jackson, FPC for Rep. Porter, sees a future for these virtual town halls beyond the current restrictions on in-person gatherings: “Informative, relaxed, and congenial, this is a really effective way for members to find out what’s happening in DC, how it affects us locally, and have a substantive engagement with our elected officials.”
“It has been an amazing transformation at OC REALTORS® to pivot from normal business practices to a virtual platform; not a beat was missed! I credit an incredible staff and Executive Committee that realized what was required and moved forward so that all programs and REALTOR® needs were met in a timely manner,” said REALTOR® Bob Hartman, FPC for Rep. Rouda, who attributed the seamless transition to a virtual format to the local association staff.
And REALTOR® Bob Pahlke, FPC for Rep. Levin, noted that his town hall provided for wider collaboration and engagement: The virtual format allowed for a terrific opportunity to collaborate across local associations, engage our members, and discuss the issues of most importance to our industry with Congressman Levin, in lieu of our traditional in-person visit on Capitol Hill in May.”
To learn more about how Orange County REALTORS® are keeping members and the broader community informed about issues in Congress that affect them, contact Government Affairs Director Dirissy Doan at (949) 586-6800 x119.