ATLANTA — For the first time ever, the nation's rough-and-tumble hard-hat housing industry will be headed by an assertive woman home builder from Lexington, Ky.
Selected as the 50th president of the influential National Assn. of Home Builders at their Atlanta convention last week, Shirley McVay Wiseman has been in the building business for two decades, overseeing the construction of residential and commercial developments in Kentucky and Florida.
Nationally, she has served various stints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration and a Social Security task force. Recently, she was appointed to the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council by Florida's Gov. Bob Martinez.
Locally, the brisk, fiftyish builder founded Lexington (Ky.) Housing for the Handicapped, served as an adviser to the Urban League and served on the Executive Committee to Insure Good Government. She founded the local Home Owners Warranty Corp.
Her record is that of a doer and pragmatist but not a bleeding heart.
She spoke rapidly about the many issues confronting her as NAHB president during a sneak, one-on-one interview between action on resolutions by the group's board of directors. In a corridor of the vast Omni arena adjacent to the convention in the Georgia World Congress Center, Wiseman cited these principal concerns:
--The homeless: So many people are just "one paycheck away from being homeless."
--Congressional threat to eliminate mortgage-interest deduction: President Bush told her it won't happen. (The NAHB, the Mortgage Bankers Assn., and the National Assn. of Realtors will all fight the possibility of change, she said.)
--Parental aid in home buying: There will have to be more of it.
--Affordability: Government agencies can and should do more to help would-be home buyers qualify for loans.
--No white paper: That's the last thing she wants from a task force she has just appointed to focus on affordability of homes.
--Housing for the handicapped: More availability for them.
--Frustration: Knowing that the industry has a product the public wants but can't provide affordably because of countless regulations.
Wiseman is not all surprised that she has attained the top spot in the home building industry's trade group that has 157,000 members, predominantly male. After all, she has built more than 1,500 single-family homes and apartment complexes and developed commercial property and a shopping center.
She heads the Wiseman Construction & Development Co. Inc., of Lexington and Wiseman Homes of Lake Wales, Fla., During her year in office, a son, Larry, 38, will manage the firms. She also has a daughter, Sherri.
She will be traveling extensively but has already traveled far and wide and abroad delivering her message of the need to provide decent, affordable homes. One of her favorite expressions is "building homes for our families is no ordinary profession."
Wiseman has been active in local, state and national home building organizations during her 20-year career and has been honored as a local and state "Builder of the Year."
In the NAHB, she has served as a national vice president, member of the group's executive committee, chaired the membership committee and became a life director in 1987.
She was equally active in local and state NAHB affiliates, as a director of the Home Builders Assn. of Kentucky, served or chaired a number of its committees and was named the "Builder of the Year" by the Lexington affiliate in 1978 and given the same honor by the state association in 1980.
Michael Sumichrast, a nationally respected housing analyst and former NAHB economist, succinctly assessed the elevation of Wiseman to the presidency of the powerful organization.
Personally, acquainted with her work, dedication and verve--and alluding to the progressive changes which have taken place in the tumultuous industry--he said:
"Ten years ago, no way she (or any other woman) could have been named president. Today, she knows the government people and bureaucrats and how they work. She will do well."
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