Laura Lafayette, once a divinity graduate student and now CEO of the Richmond Association of Realtors, is a champion for affordable housing.
"Where a child is born should not determine the quality of life," she said in a 2010 interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "Everyone wants their streets to be safe, no matter where a child lives."
Lafayette is executive director of Partnership for Housing Affordability, a nonprofit affiliated with the Realtors association, a position she has held since the partnership was formed in 2004.
"During the past year or so, I’m really pleased that through the Partnership for Housing Affordability, we’ve been able to broaden and deepen the conversation about housing affordability and its connection to many other critical issues - land use, educational achievement, workforce preparedness and our region’s economic viability and competitiveness," she said.
Lafayette said the nonprofit has developed strong relationships in the private, public, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors: "I think these folks know that if they call upon us, we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work it takes to move our region forward."
Lafayette has been with the Realtors association since 1993 and at the helm since 2009, assuming the top job there when the housing market and economy were deeply troubled.
"Looking back over the last few years, I’m proud of how our team here at the Richmond Association of Realtors and the Central Virginia Multiple Listing Service helped our members weather the recession," she said.
Lafayette oversees a staff of 23 full-time employees and two part-time employees, and she encourages employees to donate time in the community.
Her first job after graduating from the College of William and Mary in 1987 was writing speeches for L. Douglas Wilder when he was Virginia's lieutenant governor. She returned to work for him in his campaign for governor in June 1989 and stayed with him after his election until August 1991.
IN HER WORDS
A small moment in life with a big impact
When we were kids, it wasn’t unusual for our parents to welcome folks into our home that we really didn’t know well. No one had to pass a security background test. I remember one gentleman who was down and out for a variety of reasons. My parents never really explained his presence. We just understood he needed a place to stay, and there was no judgment about his circumstance. What stayed with me is my parents didn’t talk about their motivations - they just set an example. It struck me at the time that what seemed to matter to this gentleman as much as a bed and food, if not more, was being treated with respect. What stuck with me is the fundamental lesson that if we don’t recognize the inherent dignity in others and treat others with the respect that this inherent dignity demands, then no matter how well-intentioned our acts are on their behalf, they’ll ring hollow and fall flat.
Alternate profession or course of study
If I had to go back, I’d be a professor of post-Enlightenment historical theology; that was the path I was on until I jumped ship for politics. If I had to pick my next act, it would at a nonprofit delivering direct services to clients.
I find myself rereading "To Kill a Mockingbird." It’s funny, it’s sad, it doesn’t smooth over all the rough edges of a complicated past. But there are really important, shorter works that deserve to be reread time and again: Paul’s Letter to the Romans - a concise, cogent theological statement; MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” - its enduring boldness is most appreciated when it’s read and not just listened to in snippets; and William James’ “The Will to Believe” essay - you can see a brilliant mind at work when you read it.
Something you’d like to do
My mother. She has consistently lived out her values; she is always focused on others. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her treat anyone with anything less than respect and compassion. She is honest, patient, kind. I’ll never be the person that she is, but at least I know what I should be aiming for.
Something that might surprise others
I’m actually an introvert.
Favorite thing about Richmond region
Besides our wonderful obsession with food, the people of our region rank at the top of my list. I love how generous people are with their time, their talents, their financial resources (the Amazing Raise is an incredible example of this), their willingness to connect people with each other. We’re more open to innovation, to individual creativity, more open to the differences among us and the potential of that diversity - all of which makes us a more interesting, inviting, exciting, entrepreneurial region.
Our children. They’re maturing into young adults who care about others and are thinking about how to give back ... even if they drive us crazy on occasion.
Position: CEO, Richmond Association of Realtors and Central Virginia Multiple Listing Service
Born/hometown: July 26, 1965; Richmond
College: College of William and Mary (bachelor's degree), post-graduate work at Yale Divinity School and the University of Virginia
Family: husband Michael; children Kate, Kristen and Jon Michael