Sherman Lends Hand To Gbbr

Veteran Realtor Takes Interim Post At Time Of Crisis

A `People Person' Style

He Hopes To Rebuild Morale, Membership, Find New Headquarters

April 27, 1997|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

The last time Mal Sherman offered his services to help the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors get through tough times, they said thanks, but no thanks.

This time there wasn't a question that he should be the one to soothe the wounds of a berated staff and help a befuddled membership.

And when they asked him last week to be the interim executive officer of the GBBR, the man who has been associated with Maryland real estate for almost a half-century gladly accepted.

Sherman, 74, who has served as a past president of the GBBR and the Maryland Association of Realtors in the 1960s, replaces the executive vice president, Christine Vasiliou, who was asked to resign almost two weeks ago.

"I think that they thought that I had a management style that would fit what was needed at the board while the search went on," Sherman said Wednesday after a "town meeting" between the GBBR officers and its membership.

"They felt they were bringing in a `people person' who could relate to these people here and make them feel good about what they were doing and where they were going," he said.

Vasiliou left after she fired several staff members and encountered a backlash from some of the remaining employees.

After bringing in an industrial psychologist and hearing stories of Vasiliou's "intimidating" and "threat- ening" style, board President Gayle Briscoe reinstated those who were let go and asked and received Vasiliou's resignation.

It was almost a repeat of what happened three years ago when Fletcher R. Hall, also known for a rough management style, resigned as executive vice president.

Nancy Hubble was board president at that time and recalled that Sherman, who was on the search committee that eventually hired Vasiliou, had offered to act -- without pay -- as an interim executive officer.

Hubble declined, saying the board's government affairs person could do the job.

But this time, "I remembered that [offer] and told Gayle that she ought to give him a call," Hubble said.

"We didn't think of anybody else. We know what a fine gentleman he is," she added.

And a gentler touch is apparently what the staff needs.

"When I met with the staff, I didn't want to talk about the past because that was covered by a professional [psychologist]," Sherman said.

"My interest was talking about the present and the future and how they will have a quality of life that will make it fun to be here," Sherman said. "There's a very positive feeling here. I have been with each one of them. They are all relieved."

Sherman's arrival comes at a critical time for the board.

Among the issues confronting the GBBR are:

Finding a permanent successor to Vasiliou and possibly revising the position of executive vice president.

The regionalization of the board to attract more Realtors and reverse a declining membership base.

Adjusting to the new Metropolitan Regional Information System multiple-listing service, which has been frustrating agents since its start in mid-February.

Finding a new location for the GBBR, as its leaseback agreement with Maryland General Hospital expires in September.

"We have a lot of key issues that we're dealing with here," Sherman said. "The future plan for the board, where is it going, what does it want to be.

"I've talked with Michael Yerman [head of the search committee], and I believe he's going to lead a very careful search and that he and his committee will first -- even before they go to search anybody -- will draw an up-to-date job description of what this board needs in this world in the year 1997 based upon the experiences of the past."

Sherman was quick to say that the board wants to learn from its experiences and that it won't rush into a decision.

The MRIS multiple-listing service has had its problems since going online, and a majority of GBBR members vented their anger at Wednesday's meeting.

However, Sherman said it would take a period of between July and September for MRIS to work out all the bugs, and "by this fall, this thing should be in good shape, from what we were told."

As for a new location for the GBBR, he said a committee has found "a site that they're negotiating for."

He added that the committee has been looking at areas in the city as well as in Baltimore County.

Working through controversial issues is nothing new to Sherman.

He was active in board affairs and championed open housing practices in the 1960s, helping African-Americans move into all-white neighborhoods.

"I have seen this board change from a board that, when I first entered it, was not only anti-Negro but it was anti-Semitic back in '49 when I came in," he said. "I've seen them go 100 percent full circle."

Sherman said he has no aspirations to turn his temporary appointment into a full-time job, noting that he has a real estate consulting business.

Instead, he said, he hopes to elevate the staff's collective ego.

"We want to let the staff find its own level now and do a lot of the things it does so well for the members," he said. "We have to give them the room to do what they are so good at doing."

Pub Date: 4/27/97

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