In honor of his 33-plus years as leader of Illinois REALTORS®, CEO Gary Clayton was presented with a new award Thursday.

The Legacy Award honors Clayton for the many positive changes that came about during his tenure and the ceremony gave him an opportunity to thank previous leadership teams and staffs for their support.

“It’s been an interesting journey, and it’s been a pleasure,” said Clayton during the online Board of Directors meeting. “There’s not too many times in life where you get to have a job that you enjoy every day, and I have. I appreciate all the comments, but I can say with total honesty that there was a team effort every day for 33 years.”

The ceremony also gave Clayton a chance to thank his wife Marsha for all her support. The Claytons sacrificed time together because of long work nights and constant travel while they raised four boys. But over the years, they have also entertained many REALTORS® in their own home and traveled all over the country – and the world – with members of their REALTOR® family. So even when she showed up at the Illinois REALTORS® headquarters the day of the board meeting, her presence was not out of character.

“Gary and Marsha have dedicated the last 33 years of their lives to us and we cannot say thank you enough,” said Illinois REALTORS® 2020 President Ed Neaves at the Online Fall Business Meetings.

A legacy of success

“Gary has dedicated his career to making our jobs, our businesses and our lives better,” said Neaves. “We owe him our gratitude, if not more. Thirty-three years is a long time, and because some of our previous in-person plans to honor Gary have been postponed, I ask for your indulgence as I take a few moments to properly acknowledge someone who has contributed so much to our Association.”

Clayton laid the foundation for the RVOICE advocacy program, placed governmental affairs directors around the state to advocate on local issues and led negotiations on rewrites of the Real Estate License Act (RELA) and several state laws, including the Rent Control Pre-emption Act. The association successfully opposed numerous pieces of legislation that could have negatively impacted property owners, like a 1,500 percent increase in the Cook County Real Estate Transfer Tax and one governor’s proposed gross receipts tax.

Clayton helped create the association’s real estate school and worked with Vice President of Operations Len Taylor to put the association on firm financial footing. He oversaw the creation of one foundation to educate homeowners on the buying and financing processes, and another foundation to help those negatively affected by natural disasters. Also, he convinced association leadership to make a $100,000 donation the REALTORS® Housing Relief Fund in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

These successes and more gained esteem for the association, said Neaves, including the construction of the Bicentennial Plaza in Springfield, next to the association headquarters.

“The Bicentennial Plaza next door to our headquarters reflects our association’s and Gary’s philosophical commitment to equality and fairness for all. The plaza is filled with historical panels illustrating Springfield events and people critical to the progress of civil rights, fair housing and equality. And importantly, the plaza contains the Fair Housing Monument – a beautiful stone commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act.

“Whether in our own license Act, continuing education courses or in the many forums and meetings we’ve all attended, we’ve witnessed Gary’s commitment to promoting the principles enshrined in the Fair Housing Act, and which now, thanks to him, are permanently celebrated on REALTOR® property for all.”