Brian Toohey’s life has been full of surprises, like in 2005 when he and his wife, Jennifer, had adopted a baby girl only to find out a short time later that Jennifer was pregnant. The Realtor couple’s recently built home wasn’t big enough, so they simply built another.
Another surprise? Falling into the real estate industry at all. Toohey had just completed his MBA at William Woods University when he saw Jennifer’s career as a Realtor take off. Upon graduation, he set out to help her.
The most recent surprise was, after leaving the real estate business for a short time, when then-CEO of the Columbia Board of REALTORS Lee Russell hired Toohey as director of operations.
What doesn’t seem so surprising, though, is Toohey’s promotion to CEO of CBOR, effective June 1, following Russell’s retirement after three years in the position.
CBOR, which aims to protect the rights of property buyers and sellers, is the local chapter of the National Association of REALTORS and has 500 current members.
A natural choice
When Russell announced her retirement, board President Becky Sterling says Toohey was a natural candidate for the position.
“Generally, we [fill that position] from the outside, but in the case of Brian, we knew we wouldn’t find anyone more qualified,” Sterling says. “It’s going to be a much smoother transition than if we had someone new to start with from the ground up.”
Not only did Toohey have a history with CBOR spanning more than a decade, but he also had the academic credentials, financial knowledge and tech-savvy skills Sterling says the board was looking for. With a bachelor’s degree in political science from Westminster College in 1997, he also had the interest in public policy education, one of the main tenets of CBOR since its founding 1944.
Having been a Realtor himself, Toohey says he also brings a unique perspective to the role. Not only is he informed about local, state and national issues affecting Realtors, but he also says he can see things from a board member’s view, a quality Sterling says was particularly important for CBOR’s new CEO.
“We hate to lose [Russell], but we’re happy for her,” Sterling says. “I think she did everything she meant to do during her time with CBOR.” According to Sterling, Russell’s greatest impact on the organization was her legacy of financial integrity.
Sterling believes that not only will Toohey continue Russell’s legacy of financial integrity of the organization, but he’ll also contribute to improvements in technology.
“I like to have hands-on experience with the tech tools our members use so when members call our staff with issues with the key box system or using the [Multiple Listing Service] within a specific Web browser, we can answer those questions because we’re familiar with the systems ourselves,” Toohey says.
“Technology is always a challenge for Realtors,” Sterling says, remembering the days when property-listing books were “out of date as soon as they were printed.” “[Toohey] is really up to date with technology— absolutely up to snuff.”
“The mission [of CBOR] hasn’t changed since 1944, but the methods are completely different,” Sterling says. In Toohey’s new role as CEO, Sterling believes CBOR will continue to improve its methods to better serve its members.