President Rewind: Katie Wrenn, 44th President, Led FAA Through Pivots from the Pandemic
By Diane Sears
Katie Wrenn got involved in the Florida Apartment Association through the encouragement of two people she considered mentors: her supervisor at the time, Kellie Jackson, who served as FAA president in 2011, and 2016 FAA Hall of Fame inductee Peggy Queen, who persuaded her to teach classes for the First Coast Apartment Association.
Wrenn was inducted as 2020 president, and she leaned on her mentors anytime she needed advice about her responsibilities. But the whole world changed in the middle of her term, and there was no one she could ask, “What did you do in this situation?” No president in FAA’s 50-year history had ever experienced what she would go through.
“The COVID-19 pandemic hit during my term, and we had to come together as an industry and as an association to navigate it together,” Wrenn said. “Everybody in the world was navigating this and trying to figure it out and what to do, and we had to pivot so much from what we had done in the past. Some of it was to ensure the association stayed strong through the year financially and make sure we continued to serve the membership.
“We were in uncharted territory, but it was uncharted for everybody, so we were all in it together. I was so grateful because FAA staff is just incredible, and they make it easy for the president.”
Wrenn serves as the director of training and development for WRH Realty Services in Jacksonville, and education is her passion. She was especially proud of the way FAA adapted quickly to offer online options that would help make up for the inability of the affiliates to hold in-person meetings and educational sessions.
“We asked, ‘How do we continue to create value for our members?’ We provided an education series for free and made sure we had good-quality speakers and topics that were relevant to the time of working remotely and leasing remotely,” Wrenn said. “We were blessed to have the supplier partners and the management companies and the staff, who were all understanding and supportive. Even with all the constantly changing legislation, the FAA team was constantly putting out notices and tracking every development in every local jurisdiction so people in our profession could continue on.”
Events were being canceled or postponed all over the world, and FAA had to tell its members there would be no in-person conference that year.
“That’s one of the biggest services the association provides,” Wrenn said. “We had to pivot the conference to virtual, which was something very new for us, something that had never been done before. I think it went over pretty well. It was different, but we were able to continue to get the business done.”
Wrenn had been looking forward to attending the conference as the outgoing president. It was at the 2011 conference, during a speech by her mentor Jackson, that Wrenn realized what FAA was all about.
“At the conference every year, FAA has a closing dinner and the president speaks and there are thank-yous and installations of new officers. It's a formal event with a nice dinner. I remember that very pivotal moment sitting in that seat, watching that particular president give her closing speech, and just being so inspired and so motivated to want to get involved.
“That's always been a driving force for me. During my presidency, I thought, ‘If I can just inspire even one person to want to get involved more and to give back and serve the industry, that’s what it’s all about. That would make me happy.’ People don’t always realize what a great industry this is and what kinds of opportunities are available. I love promoting that, and I'm really passionate about it.”
Ironically, Wrenn never got the chance to make her closing speech surrounded by peers in elegant dinner wear. She passed the baton to the next president, Kimberly Maggard, at an event on Zoom.
“So it was a different year — definitely one that's going to go down in history,” Wrenn said. “But the organization came out of the year strong and healthy.”