The new president of the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR), Chris Wilson, set out to find himself right after college graduation and instead found real estate. That was 34 years ago and the Laurel resident has no regrets about his chosen profession.
“I was just out of Mississippi State and traveling out West with a guitar over my shoulder,” he recalls. “I saw the vast land and sky and thought about something my Latin teacher had said, ‘Under all is the land.’ I looked out across this prairie and saw the land and sky. It dawned on me; this really is the foundation of everything.”
The young Wilson decided then and there he could use his marketing skills and go into business back home. He acknowledges some real estate mentors who made a difference in the early days of his career — J. Ed Turner and Lucky Jones, both of Hattiesburg, and Clarence Boone of Laurel.
“I have a warm spot in my heart for them and what they taught me,” he says. “They were gracious and told me to come on in.”
Wilson, 59, is now the managing partner of First Choice, PLLC, of Laurel and primarily deals with commercial property, acquisitions and sales. He travels around the state looking for property that people want and has handled residential property in the past.
“I’m still having fun in the real estate business and leadership is fun, too,” he said. “I have made many friends in the business.”
He has served as president of the Laurel Board of Realtors and was named their Realtor of the Year in 1989. He is a charter member of the Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors and was named Commercial Realtor of the Year in 2004. At the state level he has chaired MAR’s political action and legislative and regulatory affairs committees and has served as a member of the board of directors.
Serving as president is a pleasure for him as he encourages association members to plug in to his presidential theme, Make the Connection. “Our members are key players in making neighborhoods better, and that’s what makes up communities,” he said. “My goal is for these professionals to get more active in communities to improve things and get us off the bottom of the ladder. I’m tired of our state being on the bottom, economically and every way.”
Wilson believes the association’s 6,000 members are the best sales people there are and they can make the state better in economic development, education and with good government.
“I’ve made it my goal to try to talk to as many Realtors face to face as I can about getting active,” he said.” They can be proud of it, grow professionally, make the state better and make a better living, too. There’s no reason to not use our marketing skills to do so.”
He wants to make sure MAR’s members are connected at multiple levels of the Make a Connection theme. What’s the biggest issue facing members this year? He says it’s the grassroots opportunities the statewide elections present.
“It’s an opportunity that’s very important with an election year,” he said. “Our political action committee will take notice and carefully follow the election. We will play a part and we don’t care what party a candidate represents. We’re interested in their views on issues of concern to us.”
The MAR president feels that voting and owning a home are the two things the country offers that many others do not.
“Owning a home is still part of the American dream, and it’s easier than it’s ever been because there are so many ways to borrow money for it,” he said.
Wilson has also made contributions on the national level as a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Disaster Planning & Mitigation Task Force. Earlier this year he served as a panelist on a symposium hosted in Washington, D.C., by NAR on federal natural disaster policy. The symposium posed the question, “Is the Country Prepared for the Next Natural Disaster?”
He says not many folks know that Realtors from all across the country sent $3 million to Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina relief. A Lutheran-Episcopal group is still using those funds to buy supplies to aid recovery.
“We want to put people back in their homes and put rental property back on the market,” Wilson said. “We worked with the governor’s housing study to determine needs. Money from the national association, $135,000, paid for the initial study.”
Wilson, who was born and reared in Laurel, is a 1969 graduate of MSU with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Holly, his wife of 30 years, is from Greenville. They are the parents of a daughter, Elizabeth, who is volunteering in the Teach for America program in Quitman County.
“I admire Elizabeth for that,” he says. “It’s a hard job and she’s dedicated to teaching.”
If he weren’t in the real estate profession, Wilson says he would be playing guitar, singing and cooking at the Bullet Proof Café, a restaurant that currently exists only in his home. He and Holly are amateur cooks with a penchant for baking fresh French bread, pizza and doing lots of creative things with chicken and deer meat.
He says people would be surprised to learn that he’s really shy and has to overcome that characteristic to talk to them. With a busy year ahead as MAR president, he’ll get lots of practice overcoming his shyness.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.