State Rep. Nicholas K. Smith of Chicago left no doubt about the value of his state legislative contact (SLC) says Neil Malone.

“He basically told me he wanted to talk to Marki Lemons Ryhal before making a decision on a particular issue,” said Malone, Illinois REALTORS® director of grassroots and political programs, and the association’s liaison for the SLC program. “His comments showed me he counts on Marki’s real estate expertise and trusts her opinions.”

(l to r) Chicago REALTOR® Marki Lemons Ryhal, Sen. Nicholas K. Smith and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Kari Steele.

An associate broker and the director of education at Exit Strategy Realty in Chicago, Lemons Ryhal has made a name for herself as a social media strategist, keynote speaker, emcee, event host and political campaign volunteer, too. She served on several political committees for the Chicago Association of REALTORS® since becoming a REALTOR® in 2003. She’s known Smith for more than 20 years, and both worked on the campaign to elect Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Kari Steele in 2012.

When she joined the state legislative contact program a number of years ago, Lemons Ryhal was assigned to Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago. His January resignation, after 25 years in office, led to the appointment of state Rep. Elgie R. Sims, Jr. as his successor, and to Smith’s appointment as Sims’ successor.

Why politics?

“I became involved in the SLC program to better serve my fellow REALTORS® and my neighbors by being a voice for them with state legislators,” she said.  “As an SLC, I built my confidence in the same way I did as a real estate broker. I became more effective by taking consistent action and building rapport.

“The more events I attended, the more people became familiar with me and the easier it became to have meaningful discussions,” she said. “It took time for me to build the relationships, but as I built one relationship, it opened the door to forming additional relationships in the same circle.”

The experience of working with Sen. Trotter and understanding the system, said Lemons Ryhal, will make her even more effective for in working with Sen. Smith to benefit the industry and consumers.

“Sen. Trotter taught me to be clear about my objectives, get to the point and paint a clear picture,” she said. “You also need to be consistent because you never know when a person will challenge you for changing your story.”

The Illinois REALTORS® State Legislative Contacts program matches members with 59 state senators and 118 state representatives. It is modeled after the NAR Federal Political Coordinators program, which matches REALTORS® with U.S. senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. To read previous stories on participants in the state legislative contacts program, go here.