Shelton Blame it on the need for greener pastures, but Western National Group's management arm has a new president. Thomas K. Shelton joined Western National Property Management as president at the end of 2008 after having spent 33 happy years in Phoenix, Ariz.?10 of those years with locally based Greystar Real Estate Partners, where he served as regional partner.

"Western National Group is very highly respected and well-known," says Shelton, adding that "the opportunity to be president of such a company doesn't come along very often." According to Shelton, the move to Orange County, Calif., was a natural step for him, while also offering a chance to set his own agenda, be involved in the day-to-day decision-making of a company, and establish a path for growth.

The new recruit comes to Western amid high hopes. Shelton opened Greystar's Phoenix office in August 1998, starting with two properties and about 300 units. His recent departure left the firm with 26,000 units in 110 properties across five states. At Western, Shelton says he intends to "expand our third-party portfolio through the utilization of the entire platform of services," which includes among others, underwriting and acquisition assistance, financial analysis, consulting, and property management.

A 25-year industry veteran, Shelton was 24 years old when was introduced to multifamily real estate. His first job was as a property manager for a large homeowners' association in Mesa, Ariz. He followed that with more property management positions, honing his verbal communication skills and sharpening his budget and financial knowledge. MFE caught up with Shelton to get his take on the industry today.

Q: What are the big opportunities for multifamily firms?

A: I always refer to the management part of our business as the evergreen piece of the multifamily business. As the seasons change and the market fluctuates, the management business is always there and continues to be a very profitable, high-margin part of Western's business. On the acquisition side, there are limited opportunities, but our acquisition guys are chasing a couple of deals now that we're trying to get under contract. [They] are well-located assets here in Orange County that would be great additions to our portfolio. We have a project under development that is-knock on wood-on time and on budget, The Enclave in Warner Center, and another project in lease-up in Los Angeles' Northridge area. [With] those deals, we think that by the time units are delivered, we're hoping to see a little bit of a rebound in the economy and in job growth to help us with some lease-ups.

Q: With the market the way it is today, are there still career opportunities in multifamily?

A: Even though you're seeing some middle and senior management positions eliminated through consolidation with bigger companies across the country, I do believe there are still excellent positions at the property level-property management positions, leasing positions, maintenance positions. I've worked pretty long and hard through the National Apartment Association and the National Multi Housing Council with their education institute to try and educate people at the high school and college level about opportunities. It hasn't been well publicized that there are excellent jobs and careers in property management.

Q: What is the best career advice you've ever received?

A: I've received a lot of it, and I'm not sure who told me this, but I use this quote in a lot of the speaking that I've done: 'Successful people are always easily identified by the successful people they surround themselves with.' And I think that I'm smart enough and experienced enough to know that my success is really a byproduct of the people that I've been fortunate enough to surround myself with.