Posted: November 01, 2008
Executive Edge: Will Roberts II
Denver Board of Realtors president follows father's lead as groundbreaker
By Lynn Bronikowski
Will Roberts II (Photo by Mark Manger)
When Will Roberts II was sworn in this fall as the first African-American president of the Denver Board of Realtors he thought how proud his father — the late William Roberts, a former Denver City councilman and deputy mayor under Federico Pena — would be.
"I saw my dad as Superman; I hung on his arm when I was growing up," said Roberts, a 14-year veteran of the real estate industry. "He instilled in me a sense of compassion and to have patience in certain situations."
In today’s tough real estate market, such virtues couldn’t be more important, said Roberts who insists there are some bright spots in Denver’s housing market - such as lower inventories and a decrease in the number of days houses are on the market.
"Denver is poised to lead the nation out of this crisis," said Roberts, who is serving a one-year term as president of 120-year-old organization with 3,800 members. "To be in a leadership position in the industry during this challenging time is a blessing, a privilege."
Roberts learned about civic leadership at an early age — marching side by side with his father in Martin Luther King Day parades to City Park and to a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., in part paid for by his father, who took out a second mortgage on the family home to help pay for it. He recalls handing out turkeys to needy families during holidays and cleaning up the neighborhood by plucking empty bottles from the bushes of a neighborhood liquor store.
"When you’re doing all this, you don’t realize the good you’re doing at the time," said Roberts, 39, a 1988 graduate of Mullen High School, who would go to work for his family business, Empire Construction. "I grew up in the construction business — early on I’d grab a broom and clean up after subcontractors. Later I got a construction license to build everything from a dog house to 550 homes in Curtis Park."
A 1993 graduate of the University of Colorado with a degree in operations management, Roberts was president of the student body. But since childhood, when he played with toy fire trucks, he longed to be a firefighter.
"Working the 24-hour shifts gave me the ability to give back in the community," said Roberts, who would retire from the Denver Fire Department in 2000 after receiving the Medal of Honor for helping to rescue a stranded motorist caught in a flash flood. His partner died downstream during the rescue.
"I saw death in its face," Roberts said. "But I guess God had a plan for me, and I realized from that tragedy that my life is greater than just me."
Roberts shifted his career to development within his family’s business and became a Realtor.
"I love the negotiating part of the business and going through all the contracts," Roberts said. "The first-time home buyers are always enjoyable to work with — it’s truly great to see their enlightenment as you’re holding their hands and walking them through the transaction."
Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.
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