2016 Women Managers of Excellence

2016 Women Managers of Excellence:

Driven to Accomplish

Published November 2016

 2016 Women Managers of Excellence


Editor’s Note: There were nine 2016 Managers of Excellence. Due to the fact November is the Women in the Industry Issue, we have chosen to only feature the six women managers. The three men will be profiled in a subsequent issue. For a full list of winners, visit www.communitiesofexcellence.net/managers.


Key Question

The following questions were posed to each of the six women who were 2016 Managers of Excellence winners. The questions are listed in the order which they will be answered below by these Managers of Excellence.

  1. What is a hot topic in community association management and what are its effects?
  2. Why did you decide to become a CAM?
  3. What professional achievement are you proudest of?
  4. What is most challenging in your job?
  5. What is most rewarding in your job?
  6. Who has been your biggest influence professionally, and how has this person influenced you?
  7. Who has been your biggest influence personally, and how has this person influenced you?
  8. What words of advice would you give to a new CAM?
  9. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  10. What is your most effective stress reliever?
  11. How would you describe yourself in one word?

Being a community association manager involves multitasking par excellence—a strength of most women, whether through nature or pressure. The women who were named the 2016 Managers of Excellence are not each made from the same mold, but they share a keen interest in people and the drive to accomplish much. Matched with their ambition is the competence to achieve what their communities desire. Welcome to a brief visit with these ladies to learn the views and background of each.


kirstenKirsten Alvarado
Community Association Manager, Valencia Pointe HOA, Boynton Beach, FL

    1. Adapting to changes in our increasingly interconnected world is necessary in successfully managing any industry. Management strategy has been redefined through technological and demographic changes, and the inability to be strategically flexible with both will have major consequences in our communities.

Embracing new technology (from online voting, social media, mobile apps the residents can utilize to see association business and updates, etc.) will increase communication, transparency, and open governance. Utilizing the technology available to us will also help management in making operations more efficient and effective.

Embracing demographic and generational changes in both the workforce and the community is equally important for growth and development. Building a culture of inclusion and diversity stimulates engagement of employees by recognizing and utilizing what each individual brings to work. When employees are engaged, they are exceptional performers. Knowing your demographic and generational differences will also assist in how you effectively communicate and relate to your residents.

  1. I began working the front desk in association management as I was looking for jobs in biology and research. However, as I worked my way through learning and working every position in the office, I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed working with people more than the idea of doing research in a lab. Also, as I helped my co-workers, managers, and board members to resolve their issues, I realized that what I truly enjoyed was making other people’s jobs easier. Compounded with my love of working with people and changes in routine, the decision to become a CAM was an easy one.
  2. Being awarded the Managers of Excellence Award is by far the professional achievement of which I am the proudest. It signifies working successfully with a wonderful community and team in achieving common goals.
  3. I feel that the most challenging part every day is having insufficient time to attend to all tasks as closely as I would like. There never seem to be enough hours in a day, and prioritizing my time is essential. I’ve learned that pushing for the impossible“perfect” in all areas ends up getting me nowhere in all areas. One of my favorite quotes I have at my desk as a daily reminder is, “The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists. It rewards people who get things done.”
  4. There are many things I find rewarding about my job. One of the most notable for me is when an employee grows their career and becomes a manager or other department leader himself.
  5. Over the years, I have had two women serve as mentors to me. Beyond the usual management training they provided, they taught me through their example the most important management lessons that resonate with me today. They have shown me the positive impact of good character, accountability, and attitude, and the importance of being able to perform all the tasks my employees perform. This is so important for many reasons: it helps a manager’s understanding of operations, it instills your employees with confidence in your ability to train and lead, and it is important in managing board and resident expectations.
  6. When you grow up with a family where you are pushed to do better and mediocrity is something to be avoided, you would think you would have competitive siblings. That was not so with my four sisters, who are my biggest personal influences. We were supportive and collaborative, making sure we all shone rather than just one of us. This early influence of team-work has imbued my outlook with what it should be like to work with groups of people.
  7. You will need training and lots of it. Managers do not seem to be given the same thorough preparation for their responsibilities before taking the wheel as is true for other professions. New managers are often hired because of an excellent skill set or habits that demonstrate high quality work and productivity. They are then given control over vital functions—budgets, human resources, equipment, facilities, and other valuable resources. Demonstrating a willingness to learn is important because as a manager, you are accountable for all the many unique aspects of the new community, company, geographical area, etc. that you will have to learn about in order to be successful. You must be knowledgeable in so many fields, and without constant training and education, the sink or swim approach can lead to costly mistakes.
  8. I spend a lot of time with friends and family in my free time. Whether it’s watching a movie or trying out paddle boarding, I would rather spend my free time with friends and family than doing the same things alone.
  9. The most effective stress reliever is getting unprompted hugs and kisses from my nephews.
  10. Diplomatic.


katieKatie Ciccotelli
Community Association Manager, Royal Harbor P.O.A., Tavares, FL

  1. Electronic voting is something that Royal Harbor P.O.A. will look into for 2017’s elections.
  2. I decided to become a CAM because every day at work is different, exciting, and challenging. Additionally, I like trying to make a positive impact in people’s lives by listening and helping others learn from my experiences in the industry. Most days it doesn’t feel like work because I really enjoy what I do.
  3. The Manager of Excellence Award from the Florida Communities of Excellence is what I am proudest of. It’s nice to be recognized while doing something that you love and not looking for recognition.
  4. Making 100 percent of people happy, but it’s fun to try, though.
  5. I am a people person, and I enjoy finding ways to help enrich the lives of others by striving to make the community that I work in a better place to live—a place residents can be proud to call their home.
  6. My biggest influence professionally was my first supervisor when starting in this industry. My supervisor was able to coach me without interfering. He was educated in the industry and was able to provide knowledge and availability when needed. He also had a lot of faith in me and my decision-making capabilities at a very young age, which in turn gave me the confidence that I needed to grow in the industry.
  7. My mother has been my biggest influence throughout my life. She was a positive, powerful role model who introduced me to many things to become well-rounded. My mother guided me to win honorably and lose gracefully. She taught me about fairness, my own strength, and what it means to be an independent, productive person in society.
  8. I would tell a new CAM that she will need to have patience and flexibility while being organized. I would also mention to her that she will be wearing many hats and her job will never be boring.
  9. Spending time with my husband and daughters outdoors or traveling. My favorite motto is “Get busy living or get busy dying” (from Shawshank Redemption).
  10. A long run.
  11. Genuine.


jeannetteJeannette Graham
Community Association Manager, River Dance Condominium Association, Bradenton, FL

  1. Reserve funding is a hot topic. With the economy being in its current state,an uncertain upcoming election, and property values being unstable, people want to keep their money close and hold onto it. They don’t want to think about repairs that will be needed in 10–20 years, and they certainly don’t want an association reaching into their bank accounts to fund future repairs on a property where they may no longer reside. Getting them to understand that reserves add to their home equity is difficult.
  2. After my daughters started school, I needed a part-time position while they were at school. A condominium was looking for an office assistant four hours per day. I discovered that I loved condominium management and decided to get my license!
  3. This year, winning two Communities of Excellence awards, as well as Condominium of the Year, and add to that the Manager of Excellence award. I was speechless and couldn’t have been more proud of what I have accomplished along with my board of directors and Atlantic Pacific Management.
  4. Dealing with difficult personalities—they vary between residents, vendors, staff, and board members.
  5. Having my residents proud of where they live and making sure that I help them feel happiness and positive energy when they come home rather than negative feelings.
  6. My previous board president, Bob Enberg, has been one of my biggest professional influences. He has helped me to be a better communicator as well as more understanding and compassionate toward others.
  7. My husband, Roger, has been my biggest personal influence. We  started dating when I was a teenager. We have grown up together. He has always been supportive of me and gives me a different point of view.
  8. I would tell a new CAM that 80 percent of the job is customer service and 20 percent is keeping a smile on your face while enforcing the laws and documents.
  9. I enjoy reading, cooking, golf, and spending time with friends and family.
  10. Watching TV and reading!
  11. Energetic!


margieMargie Kilfeather
Community Association Manager, WaterGarden Condominium Association Inc., Fort Lauderdale, FL

  1. Ecology and environmental issues are concerns today and will continue to gain in importance in the future.
  2. I saw opportunities presented by the growth of the industry and the need for good managers.
  3. Being able to implement cost savings projects year after year in order to keep fees stable. In the last 9½ years the maintenance fees have not increased, and each and every year we have been able to realize a budget surplus without infringing on the residents’ lifestyle. In 2015 the budget surplus was $160,000. We have also been able to capitalize on cost savings projects developed in-house to bring about the surplus that is WaterGarden’s catch phrase.
  4. Being able to remain professional and impartial in stressful situations.
  5. Seeing the fruits of my labor and longterm effects of all our cost savings projects.
  6. Turner Billups, Senior Vice-President at FirstService Residential, for his years of support and commitment to my success. I will never forget his dedication and loyalty to me.
  7. My husband, David Harris, who has always encouraged me and has been my biggest support.
  8. Work hard, be willing to put in the time, and above all be a team player.
  9. Spending time with my family and friends and just relaxing.
  10. Going home after a stressful day, sitting on my patio, and sipping a glass of wine.
  11. Driven.


aliciaAlicia T. Laine
Community Association Manager, Egret Landing at Jupiter POA, Jupiter, FL

  1. Sober Homes [halfway houses after a substance abuse rehabilitation program] and the legislative environment that will affect them moving forward is a topic of concern for both boards and managers. It is a good topic for legislators to address at the state level. It seems like association rights are eroding somewhat to the benefit of some investor-owners and the detriment of some community association families.
  2. After the 2008 downturn, big changes came to the medical industry. Independent practices got squeezed as reimbursements and profit margins shrank. I was also serving as president of a self-managed community hit hard by the real estate bust. Tough times teach you resilience, diplomacy, and the ability to find creative solutions on a shoestring budget, and that community required so much focus, drive, and unpaid work that I decided to make it a compensated career!  I can’t tell you how much we learned the hard way managing that community ourselves, and we later turned it over for professional management.
  3. I came into Egret Landing during a transitional buyout. Change can be hard on everyone. I re-read Who Moved My Cheese and lobbied for fresh teamwork going forward. Two years later, Egret Landing believes in itself and knows how unique and valuable it is! A focus on service delivery and resident communications helped Egret qualify for three Communities of Excellence nominations! I am so proud of the board and the residents, and proud that I was named a Manager of Excellence within two years of receiving my CAM certification!
  4. Going home, calling it a day, taking a vacation, it’s hard! There is always more to do, ways to improve, one more resident to assist, or one more e-mail that needs a reply!
  5. It is rewarding to see a community take pride in itself and develop to maximum potential! Home is where the heart is—residents should love where they live, and live where they love to be! Watching that happen is gratifying; helping to make it happen is even more gratifying.
  6. A friend of mine is a former realtor/CAM. If I need a second opinion, an alternate contact, or industry advice, I can count on her for helpful information. As she is also a personal contact, she helps the balance between personal and professional demands and supports my endeavors at career advancement. Other influential people include a boardmember who quotes Ghandi; Alan Penchansky, who encourages CAMs to improve Communities of Excellence benchmarks; and a Regional Director who always picks up the phone when questions arise.
  7. My older sister has always pushed me to believe in myself, not take life too hard, and definitely maximize my potential. As an influential counseling psychologist with her own wisdom blog, she sets a pretty high bar. It is nice to know she trusts my ability to handle any challenge I choose. If I left association management, she has a boutique hotel for me to purchase and manage!
  8. Every association is different, and they all have their own special qualities and challenges. Maximize their strengths, whatever they may be. Don’t internalize the negative feedback. To raise the bar, you’ve got to be all in—join their community and make it your top priority. That is the only way to have true impact on the families.
  9. I am a CAM—there is no such thing as “free time”!
  10. My sister has property in the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Seattle, and has developed a “thinking trail” where visitors can hike and explore spots and placards engraved with quotes from famous leaders—poets to presidents and even Pooh Bear. That nature trail is all it takes to put things into perspective.
  11. Real.


maryMary Peralta
FirstService Residential/On-site Manager, K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Delray Beach, Delray Beach, FL

  1. The scare caused by the Zika virus is starting to be a big issue. As the virus spreads, we need to educate and protect our residents by taking steps to reduce the risk from a management level. 
  2. Before becoming a CAM, I was a sales manager for The Continental Group, now FirstService Residential. I was eager to learn community association management from a different perspective, resulting in getting my license.
  3. I have several notable accomplishments in my career. The one that I am most proud of is receiving the Manager of Excellence award.  I was truly honored and proud. The reality is that without my team, the board, and the countless volunteer hours, this would not have occurred. They too are winners!
  4. Meeting and exceeding the demands with a smile. Managing an active adult community with 315 single-family homes can be a little challenging, as every person brings their own individual tastes, likes, dislikes, and preferences to the community. Most, if not all, residents are home and are eager to provide expert opinions.  The reality is, without their suggestions and creative resolutions, Four Seasons would not be the community that it is.
  5. I truly love my job and what I do. Coming to work is rewarding to me. I can’t really pinpoint one specific aspect.
  6. Professionally, I would say Diane Burt, may she rest in peace.  What I have learned and apply on a day-to-day basis is that excellence is about setting a high standard for yourself and the team while focusing on providing exceptional service and solutions.   
  7. My dad was the most influential person in my life, through how he treated my mom, provided guidance with love and affection, etc. He was always there when I needed a listening ear. I can’t exaggerate the impact that he has had on my life and how it gave me perspective on how I see life, how to parent, how to treat others, and how I expect to be treated.
  8. You cannot know everything, so rely on your professionals. In moments when you may not have the answer, don’t be afraid to tell the person that you need to do some research and get back to them. Sometimes it’s better to admit when you don’t know and be willing to put in the effort to find the answer; it’s appreciated more than you can ever imagine.
  9. I enjoy boating with my family and sitting back and reading a good book.
  10. The gym or a nice glass of Merlot.
  11. Driven.