Tamara Small may have a diminutive surname, but her reputation in Massachusetts’ State House and commercial real estate industry is anything but. When you talk to her colleagues, the word that gets dropped the most is probably “respect.”
But when you talk to Small herself, she first and foremost praises the people she works with, both within NAIOP Massachusetts and at the state house. She uses words like “responsibility” and “privilege,” often together in the same sentence. And after nine years on the job, she says she still feels incredibly fortunate to come to work every day.
After graduating from Boston University, the Albany, N.Y. native worked in New York City for a trade association for developers of affordable housing. She returned to Massachusetts in 2004 when she joined NAIOP Massachusetts, also known as the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. Today, she is the organization’s senior vice president of government affairs, and she fills her days coordinating efforts among the leaders and thinkers in the commercial real industry and the state legislature.
David Begelfer, CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, notes with a hint of pride that he hired Small.
“She’s one of our top people,” he said. “She has a great strength in being able to work with some of the top tier professionals, from consultants to attorneys to developers. She’s also developed a great working relationship with many of the legislators and their staff, and that’s vital in any organization that’s working with any kind of legislative agenda.”
Among her recent victories – though of course she is modest about her own involvement – Small counts the passage of the Permit Extension Act in 2010, shortly after the economy crashed. That law, which was extended in 2012, essentially extended permits that had already been approved, so developers wouldn’t have to re-apply. It gave them a little bit of certainty in an uncertain time, Small said.
“It was a huge amount of work and a lot of time and energy – educating lawmakers and working with a number of different groups,” she recalled. “Now that the economy’s coming back, we’re seeing the direct results of that law.”
Begelfer also credited Small for getting NAIOP’s influence into the recent economic development bill.
Commercial real estate and lobbying may be male-dominated fields, but Small says women bring some unique assets to the table. Coalition-building is a particular strength for women, she says.
Small even organized a forum for female lobbyists in Massachusetts to get together, share ideas, talk and mentor each other.
“That’s quite an accomplishment, and it really showed her sense of leadership,” Begelfer said. “She saw a need out there and she set out to fill it.”
“We get together periodically to catch up and get to know each other on a social level, but because you’ve developed these relationships with people, it helps when an issue comes up where you may have a common interest,” Small added.
Small, who lives in Medfield and has two young children, also credited her family – particularly her husband and her mother – with helping her to achieve an enviable work-life balance.
“My husband is very involved, and my mom takes care of our children when we’re at work,” she said. “I know my children are being shaped by the best role model I could ever imagine.”
And just under a decade into the job, Small shows no signs of burnout.
“It’s hard for me to believe that after nine years, I’m excited to come to work every day, but I really am,” she said. “There are new challenges every day. It’s impossible to get bored in this job.”