In 2015, Suzi Padgett had reached that point in her career where it was time to make her next move. The manager of Long & Foster’s Columbia office had built the enterprise to approximately 220 professionals; she’d run it since 1998, and it was busy and stable. Her next move, she figured, was to become further involved in the community where she has enjoyed great success.
Leadership Howard County (LHC) provided just the opportunity to learn more about the area, apply her talents and give back.
“What we do at the real estate office is sell the community, so we benefit, as an industry, from everything it offers,” said Padgett, a 2016 LHC grad who came to Howard County in 1992 from her native Washington, D.C. “My husband and I raised our family here, and we saw the benefits.”
A Broader View
Graduates of LHC garner various benefits, often with a common thread of wanting deeper understanding of where they live and how they can make it better. In Padgett’s case, that meant greater integration into the general business, government and nonprofit communities.
“It gave me the opportunity to meet more people who work outside of my industry,” she said. “Our class toured places like the National Security Agency, backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion and a recycling facility — where I learned the worst thing you can do is put your plastic bags in the recycle bin, because it [causes issues with] the equipment. You need to [dispose of them at] a grocery store.”
After graduation, Padgett became a member of LHC’s General Membership Steering Committee and LHC Premier’s Recruitment Committee, which creates its events plus programs like This Just In, which features a talk from a community leader. Padgett coordinated Mission BBQ Co-Founder Bill Kraus hosting a session.
Outside of LHC, she sits on boards of nonprofits “that speak to me,” she said. She serves as board chair of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, “because when I was a single mom, that was our entertainment.” Padgett also serves on the boards of Winter Growth, as her mother suffered from dementia; and Bright Minds, the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) nonprofit, which recently garnered a $250,000 grant from Brendan Iribe, former CEO of Oculus, for HCPSS’s Advanced Research Laboratory.
“Being with Bright Minds has been important, because my kids benefited from the county’s public schools, and the residential real estate industry benefits from the system,” Padgett said, adding that her daughter teaches at Harper’s Choice Middle School.
In case that isn’t enough, Padgett also just joined the board of Blossoms of Hope, which plants cherry trees in support of people who suffer with cancer and other causes; and, from her office, Long & Foster Columbia Gives.
“It’s all a way to pay it forward,” she said.
Those who have worked with Padgett have plenty of stories about her energy and the depth of her Rolodex. John Moore, a consultant with Prosperity Home Mortgage, has worked with her since 2011.
“What I see are her leadership skills. With all of the agents, title partners and mortgage consultants in our office, that’s important,” Moore said. “She’s obviously been good at organization and delegating, as well as setting up staff events and promotions. She also has a way of picking the right person for a job and setting them up to succeed.”
In fact, that direction and drive resulted in the office recently winning its second Foster Cup in three years. “She is very good about sharing the credit. She’ll never say it was just her,” he said, “especially when she accepts the award at the ceremony.”
But Moore also made the point that she’s not all work.
“She’s a tenacious leader, but also very family- and community-oriented,” he said. “When you add everything together, it makes people respect her and want to work for her, because she’ll go to bat for you. On the other side of the coin, she knows that people can need a shoulder to cry on, too.”
In No Time
Padgett’s contributions within the nonprofit community are well understood, said David Phillips, executive director of the Columbia Festival of the Arts.
“What she brings to the table are her business leadership skills, as well as her substantial experience on the various boards,” said Phillips. “Plus, Long & Foster has a long history of being supportive in that community. She’s the reason why.”
There’s more to that compliment than first meets the ear. “Nonprofit boards are generally comprised of well-meaning people who are also very busy,” he said, “but Suzi has the unique ability to inspire and motivate our board members to stay involved. That produces results for the festival and for the community.”
Stacie Hunt, president and CEO of LHC, agreed. “She is modeling the behavior that she would like to see in everyone else; and when she attends a meeting, she’s involved and discusses ideas that can be approached as a group, and even leads. She does the heavy lifting.”
Hunt would know. She also referred to a telling moment about Padgett that occurred during an LHC General Membership Steering Committee meeting. “The day we talked about a luncheon with Bill Kraus, it took her a total of one hour to have everything arranged for Mission BBQ to host it. So she’s not only well connected, but she gets involved with an idea and follows through.”
Hunt went so far as to say that “all of the nonprofit work Padgett does helps keep the local economy stimulated. It’s not even that she needs to lead the parade,” she said. “She just wants to ensure that things are getting done, without coming across as overbearing. She tries to lift people up.”
Back at the ranch, Padgett, who managed her first real estate office at 27, doesn’t sell anymore. Instead, she sticks to managing the associates in her office “who work with 1,200 families a year.”
And while doing so, she oversees yet another nonprofit, which, in this case, is based in-house: Long & Foster Columbia Gives.
“We hold events throughout the year and fund about $20,000 in annual giving,” Padgett said. “We are the largest funder for organizations such as One Month’s Rent and the Maryland Food Bank; we fund a music scholarship at Wilde Lake High School and work with pupil personnel workers who help families with emergencies.
“It a very community-minded office,” she said, “and we’re proud to take our place here.”