New AATC Leaders – Mary Margaret Lemons

“My second day at Fort Worth Housing Solution (December 16, 2015), I was voluntold to be in a Santa hat on stage singing Christmas carols and dancing…I’m neither a singer nor dancer!” — Mary-Margaret Lemmons, FWHS, AATC Director.

That’s one of the funniest career-moments that happened to one of the newest AATC Board of Directors members Mary-Margaret Lemons, President of Fort Worth Housing Solutions. Her singing and dancing ability aside, to help you get to know Mary-Margaret a little better, AATC asked her about her professional experience and her life outside the industry.

Mary-Margaret Lemmons

Tell us about your current job? I started December 15, 2015, as the general counsel for Fort Worth Housing Solution (FWHS) ultimately becoming President in 2017. Fort Worth Housing Solutions (previously the Fort Worth Housing Authority) provides mixed-income, affordable rental and homeownership opportunities. Our mission is to develop housing solutions where people can flourish.

Prior to FWHS, what positions have you held? I was Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Omni American Bank for 8 years and I also practiced law in a boutique law firm focused on oil and gas.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you became President of FWHS? I wish I understood how personally responsible I would feel for each resident and each property, my brain doesn’t shut off when “my people” are involved.

What is the most rewarding aspect of leading FWHS? Seeing the families we serve succeed in their lives on their terms.

What does it take to be an excellent leader? Collaboration and strategic communication.

Tell us about your mentors: As a baby attorney, I had many mentors that took me under their wing, but my Dad was really my sounding board. He wasn’t an attorney or housing professional, but he was a great people person and connector. He really taught me how to always do the right thing with grace.

What is the best professional advice you have received? Tim Carter, President, and CEO of Omni American Bank told me “give more than you take.”

What advice would you give someone considering a career in affordable housing? It’s not for the faint of heart!  Honestly, there is such a need for affordable housing that it’s a great industry to get involved with especially if you have a heart for people.

Tell us about your family? I’ve been married 12 years to my husband, Eric, who I met at summer camp. We have Lucy, 10, and Thomas, 7.  We also have two boxer pups…Hondo and Dixie.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? I work to go on vacation, so we try to get away as much as possible. I think you learn through travel and experience, so we take our kids everywhere. If we aren’t on a trip, we are usually listening to live music at a brewery planning the next trip.

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Galveston, so I’m BOI (Born on Island) but we moved seven times before we landed in Fort Worth when I was 10. My Dad was a professional golfer, so we moved from small golf courses and country clubs around Texas until he became the Head Golf Professional at River Crest C.C. here in Fort Worth.

What is your education background? I have a BA in Public Relations from the University of Texas at Arlington and JD from Texas A&M School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan).

How your training as an attorney helped you professionally? The complex analytic skills I gained from law school always come in handy, but also basic knowledge about real estate, HR, and a variety of other topics that come across my desk daily make it easier because of my background. I also use negotiation skills quite a bit with developers, regulators, clients, employees and my kids!

If you could teach a class at AATC, what would it be and why? Customer Service—Most issues can be resolved with courteous service and a willing attitude, but unfortunately things escalate unnecessarily due to poor interpersonal skills.

How has your involvement with AATC professionally and personally benefited you? I was able to participate in AATC’s Lyceum class last year, and I learned so much about the industry, the benefits of the organization and I was able to meet so many great people. I always think the relationships I’ve formed with colleagues is most important both professionally and personally, what a great group to be associated with.

Most folks only hear their middle name used when their mother is mad at them! You’ve embraced “Mary-Margaret”! How would your life be different if you were only “Mary” or “Margaret”?  I come from a family of four girls and there is no one to carry on our maiden name, so none of us have a middle name and it was expected for us to use our maiden for a middle name when we got married.  From birth, it was ingrained that Mary-Margaret was my first name…hyphenated!

I could have completed headings and scantrons quicker in school if it were just one or the other and people wouldn’t automatically think I’m Catholic (which I’m not, just a large family with lots of females to honor).

Candy Maxey, Greystar, is AATC’s 2019-2020 President. For more information, contact Perry Pillow at ppillow@aatcnet.org.