By Kiara Candelaria
©2021 Community Associations Institute
JAMES H. DODSON IV, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM, executive director at Ewa by Gentry Community Association in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, has more than 40 years of experience in community association management. A former high school and college teacher, he switched careers in 1976 and founded his own management company in 1981, later selling it to focus on managing large-scale communities. A longtime CAI member, Dodson has served on the Board of Trustees since 2015 and chaired the 2019 Community Association Managers Council. He also has volunteered on the Foundation for Community Association Research board, served on numerous task forces and committees, and taught courses as a faculty member. As CAI's 2021 president, Dodson will focus on the importance of technology to improve the quality of service provided to community associations. —Interview by Kiara Candelaria
How has community management evolved since you began your career?
When I started managing community associations, nearly everybody we hired was unfamiliar with them. For many young people or retirees, it was an opportunity to try out a new career. Over the past 20 years, legislative changes have created the face of community management, and it's no longer an entry-level position with training provided by companies. Now, they often hire someone who can hit the ground running.
What skills should community managers focus on developing in their career?
A willingness to continue their education, the ability to listen, and, most importantly, improve their communication skills to express themselves clearly and precisely.
What will be your main focus as CAI's 2021 president?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many in community association management to look at the value of technology, but some were unable to work efficiently because they lacked the proper devices or software. Technology is crucial to provide continued services to our communities. We need to consider this to remain competitive in our marketplace.
What can be done to engage with the next generation of community managers?
The most important thing is advocacy. We have an opportunity to share our stories with many different people whenever the opportunity presents itself. It's our responsibility as CAI leadership to be advocates for our organization. We need to explain how CAI benefits our own professional growth and allows associations to appreciate the professionalism that comes from hiring a community manager.
What lessons have you learned throughout your career?
We're not here to tell people what to do, we're here to make their experience living in a community association a better one. To make that happen, we need to educate homeowners but also learn to listen and ask them questions to understand the root of their problem. Be prepared to say “no," but say it nicely. Also, a smile can almost always defuse any situation.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love spending time with my wife and our dogs, and riding my motorcycle. I also engage in philanthropy and advocacy work. I feel as though I was made for it.
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