Seven CRE Rodeo Volunteers
The Rodeo is in full swing, which means half of your coworkers are mysteriously disappearing each afternoon. Most of them probably aren’t just going for the beer and Usher music—we caught up with seven real estate pros who dedicate their time as Rodeo volunteers.
JLL VP Wendy Vandeventer was named the first female chairman of the Gatekeepers, which includes 1,365 volunteers. She got involved with the HLSR in 1997 at the suggestion of Alamo Title’s Lucky Long and HFF’s Danny Miller, and was a founding member of the Gatekeepers committee in 2003. This year, she was appointed to its board of directors and honored as a Trailblazer (above, she’s with her family at the luncheon). Wendy says her favorite part of the Rodeo is meeting her fellow 28,500 volunteers (some of the most generous and good-natured people she’s ever known). She and colleague George Cushing have the 352k SF Marq*E Center under contract and closing in Q2.
Transwestern VP David Schwarz III is another Rodeo volunteer superstar; he was honored for over 35 years of service to the Commercial Exhibits Committee. (He started in 1978, and above he’s riding a longhorn in the Grand Entry in the ‘90s.) He particularly enjoys serving the youth of Texas, both at the Rodeo itself and as a past president of the Rotary Club, which judged the scholarships until last year. Back at work, he’s got a number of high-profile transactions closing soon. Recently he sold a 192-acre tract on Woods Road, and 18 acres in Greens Crossing to a data center.
Transwestern director of property management Steve Ash (who has 37M SF under management in Houston) has been part of the Breeders Greeters Committee since 2001. He assists exhibitors showing animals, checking health papers, and loading/unloading livestock. As a father of young children, he loves that the Rodeo helps hardworking kids pay for college and is proud to be involved in the Breeder Greeters Committee’s buying group that accumulates any sized donation into tens of thousands of dollars to buy animals that students auction. (It’s very rewarding to see the kids smile when they get the sale done!)
CBRE VP Kevin Kushner (here with his wife Brittany) has been on the popular Mutton Bustin’ committee for four years, herding sheep, performing as the rodeo clown, and working as an announcer. He started because he wanted to give back to Houston, and he loves seeing kids’ joy from participating and watching some of them conquer their fears. When he isn’t sampling all the food at the Rodeo, Kevin is a tenant rep—his recent deals include Air Liquide’s new HQ.
ARA VP Russell Jones has also been on the Mutton Bustin’ committee for four years (are you and Kevin hanging out, Russell?) and has been a HLSR volunteer for a decade. Above, he’s with his six-year-old, Anderson, at last year’s Rodeo. (Seeing that smiling face, you won't be surprised to hear that Russell also volunteers for the look of elation on kids' faces.) Russell and his team closed 44 deals for $579M in 2013.
JLL’s Susan Smallwood says that her gig (three years and running) as a Gatekeeper is like being the Walmart greeter of the Rodeo (she’s the one saying “howdy” when you walk in and “see you tomorrow” when you leave). She likes volunteering of all kinds, but the self-professed city girl really loves being around the animals. Susan also enjoys seeing the city pull together for the event. Above, Susan’s with fellow Gatekeepers Stephen Strickland and David Chambers.
When Skanska’s Chris Ellerman gives back to the Rodeo, it hits close to home. When he was a senior in high school, his art was selected by the HLSR as a top piece and sold at auction. He received some of the proceeds as well as a scholarship that paid most of his tuition at Houston Baptist University. He says the event was a turning point in his life, and he joined the School Art Committee in 2004 to help today’s students feel the same. Chris, who’s working on the student rec center for Prairie View A&M, admits the Rodeo isn’t all about touching lives for him—he can’t get enough of the BBQ Cook-off.