Mayor Walsh and CRE Industry Honors Begelfer with Affection and Humor at UMass ClubFebruary 17, 2019 - By Mike Hoban
BOSTON–It wasn’t a Comedy Central roast, nor was it a funereal occasion, despite some tears from those who worked closest with him and know him best.
Instead, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Senate president Karen E. Spilka, and Stephanie Pollack, secretary and CEO of the MassDOT, joined a host of Greater Boston CRE luminaries to celebrate the career of the outgoing CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, David Begelfer, at an intimate invitation-only gathering on January 16th at the UMass Club in Downtown Boston.
Begelfer, who stepped down after 28 years at the helm, transformed NAIOP into the leading voice for the CRE industry in New England during his tenure. Under his leadership, the trade organization expanded its membership from 135 members in 1990 to over 1700 members today, becoming the largest chapter in the country. In addition to advocacy, Begelfer and his staff developed into one of the premier resources for meaningful CRE educational programming, offering approximately 50 seminars and networking events annually, as well as creating NAIOP Massachusetts University (NMU), which provides continuing education for CRE professionals. He is stepping down from his position after 28 years of service, but Begelfer is not in any danger of fading into the sunset any time soon, as he also recently announced the launch of his new venture, CRE Strategic Advisors, of which he is the principal.
In a brief program that included Walsh, Spilka, and Pollack, as well Begelfer’s successors, executive director Reesa Fischer and CEO Tamara Small, speakers shared professional and personal anecdotes about Begelfer with the crowd. Walsh related that when he was elected and the two first met, a skeptical Begelfer immediately began peppering him with questions about whether he was planning to increase housing stock and diversify the workforce, “and I knew I was in the lion’s den,” joked Walsh, who later added, “but for the last five years we’ve had an incredible relationship.” Walsh presented him a Revere Bowl and a street sign bearing the name Begelfer Way and laughed when it was asked if it would be replacing the Jersey Street (formerly Yawkey Way) sign.
Spilka shared that she knew Begelfer long before her initial run for the legislature, and was impressed with his “honesty, his enthusiasm, his passion for what he was doing at the time, and his sense of humor – that you have to appreciate but,” she said as the audience laughed…”it’s a very unique, strong sense of humor, but it is great.” Spilka, who once served as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, asserted that Begelfer and his staff have “helped to shape so much of state economic development policy – from pure development to brownfields to financing and so many other ways…and he really has been an advocate for the entire state.”
Pollack, who also served as senior VP and acting president for the environmental advocacy organization Conservation Law Foundation 15 years ago, came the closest of the politicos to roasting Begelfer, opening her remarks with, “First of all, I’d like to say I really like the format, because this is one of the first times I’ve seen him stay quiet for this long,” she zinged, drawing peals of good-natured laughter from the audience. Turning serious, she called him a “powerful and effective voice for the development community, and even if you don’t agree (with him), he is articulating the position, he is carrying forth policy agenda, but he’s doing it in a way that everyone who leaves a conversation, or a meeting or a session with David, even if you haven’t reached agreement by the end, people appreciate (his) forthrightness, sense of humor, honesty, and reasonableness.” Pollack also lauded him for his work with the helping in the struggle to improve the MBTA. “David’s really been a hero in the work we’ve been trying to do for the last four years to fix the MBTA. It was really essential that there be a strong business voice (in the process),” she added.
Small thanked Begelfer for, among many things, creating the work environment that exists at the organization today. “We often joke that NAIOP is a lot like a family, she said. “Well David, that culture was created by you, and your sincere concern and compassion for every member of the team.” Following a video featuring colleagues, developers and politicians which can be seen here, Fischer presented avid golfer Begelfer with a gift from the staff, an autographed one-iron that legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, (the “Golden Bear”), used to hit his fabled shot at the 17th hole at Pebble Beach to cement his win at the US Open in 1972.
“David, to our leaders, members and the industry, you have blazed a trail that has significantly changed the real estate industry and has tremendously impacted economic development in Massachusetts,” said Fischer. “You truly are the “Golden Bear’ of commercial real estate.”
Begelfer began his farewell speech uncharacteristically, stating, “Wow. I’m at a loss for words,” before reverting to his trademark sense of humor. “I really never thought I was going to be able to see my own funeral, but just in case I’m not around for that one…”
He then thanked his staff and those in the industry that have helped make NAIOP arguably the premier advocacy force for commercial real estate development in Greater Boston, characteristically deflecting the credit. “Everything that’s being said about what I’ve done is great and I appreciate it, but it wasn’t me. It was you,’ he said. “I just happened to be the conduit if you will. It’s all you. It’s all the people that I’ve worked with for all of these years. The expertise, the talent, the intelligence…what we’ve accomplished, we accomplished together. I’d love to be able to take the credit for it, but I could not have done of this without all of you… (And) I’ve pretty much enjoyed every moment of it. And the reason I’ve enjoyed it is because of all of the friendships I have here in this room.”Mayor Martin Walsh and David Begelfer