By Jon Broadbooks | Editor
Take a drive through Jacksonville, Ill., with Michael D. Oldenettel, and you quickly learn he is a REALTOR® adept at navigating two very different worlds.
In one, he’s a father of four who coaches his kids’ soccer teams, is active in the local Kiwanis Club and Chamber of Commerce, and recently volunteered to pick trash out of a flood-prone Jacksonville creek in a drysuit (rescue diver’s wetsuit).
But Oldenettel, CRS, GRI, also runs a thriving real estate business, RE/MAX Results Plus, Inc., and this year will lead the Illinois Association of REALTORS® at a time when the organization faces an uncertain national economy and changing consumer preferences. In this role, Oldenettel finds himself meeting with some of the nation’s and state’s top elected officials in his effort to be a real estate industry advocate.
Oldenettel, 46, is just as at ease discussing the history of the giant Ferris wheel that sits in the city park near his office (one of the early portable units made by a local firm) as he is the legal intricacies of real estate syndication.
It is his knowledge of the industry that has caused him to declare job one during his term as building IAR’s relevance to its members and the real estate industry. It’s a theme he mentioned repeatedly during his inaugural remarks at IAR’s Fall Conference in St. Charles, Ill.
“I want to make sure the people who are still active in the real estate business get the tools they need from our association to stay in the business—and to demonstrate our relevance as an association to any new entrepreneurs,” Oldenettel said.
The path to IAR’s presidency runs through Central Illinois where Oldenettel’s ancestors settled when they emigrated from Germany.
Oldenettel’s father was a teacher at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville and his mother was a homemaker. Oldenettel attended public schools in the community, became an Eagle Scout and was a lifeguard during the summers.
“I think it was Boy Scouts that really started me down that path toward service,” Oldenettel said.
Scouting also set him on the path to his first career as a broadcaster. In 1980 he went to the National Scout Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill, Va., where he worked in a makeshift radio station set up in a trailer. His job was to craft reports about the jamboree for folks back home.
Oldenettel is comfortable in front of a crowd and his ease with leading group discussions and public speaking was fostered by his theatre experiences in junior high and high school. In 1982-83, he was selected as an IHSA All-State Actor and performed at the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
He was also the drum major for a competitive high school marching band. He recalled how much he enjoyed the performances.
When it came time for him to graduate from high school, a postcard from North Central College caught his eye. Oldenettel had already determined he wanted to go into broadcasting, and the postcard advertised the Naperville, Ill. college’s radio station.
Oldenettel was a standout soccer player in high school and college, and through a physical education course picked up his scuba diving certification. In the summers Oldenettel worked as a lifeguard and he parlayed his work toward a broadcasting degree into part-time roles at several Jacksonville radio stations.
North Central’s broadcasting department had close ties with WGN and WBBM in Chicago, one of CBS’ largest radio stations. In his junior year, Oldenettel got an internship at WBBM where he wrote news copy for announcers.
The station was a happening place and Oldenettel never knew who he’d run into—literally—at work.
“I often visited with (famed movie critic) Gene Siskel in the vestibule,” he recalled. “I once ran into—physically—Craig Nelson (starring in Poltergeist at the time) in the hallway. I was looking down reading copy, turned the corner and walked right into him! He asked if I was OK, I apologized and kept walking. Then I kept thinking ‘was that who I thought it was?’”
As he approached his college graduation, Oldenettel weighed offers from a Rockford television station and the Jacksonville radio stations. His hometown won out, in part because of a lower cost of living.
“I never dreamed I would be back in Jacksonville,” he said.
But back he was, selling ads, writing commercials, doing voiceovers and even taking out the trash.
Enter one Charles A. “Charlie” Heitbrink, a Jacksonville real estate broker with an eye for sales talent who became a boss, friend and mentor. Oldenettel would occasionally see Heitbrink and others in Jacksonville at a regular 10 a.m. coffee gathering at the Elks Club. He didn’t know Heitbrink well, but had grown up with the broker’s children.
A chance meeting with Heitbrink at a local happy hour launched a second career.
To hear Heitbrink tell it, he broke a personal rule never to hire someone in a bar. (He’s never broken the rule again, he says.)
“I don’t know why it came out of my mouth, but I said ‘you know, you ought to be in real estate,’” Heitbrink recalled. “He said ‘you know, you’re right.’”
Oldenettel showed up the next day for work, ready to start another career at 22. He looked awfully young to sell houses, so Heitbrink advised him to wear glasses to “age” him.
Was the change from broadcasting difficult?
To hear Oldenettel tell it, no.
“There’s obviously is a big learning curve, but you have to have people skills to be successful in this business,” Oldenettel said. “You have to learn when not to be too much of a salesman, but rather to be the trusted advisor (who is the person) people want to hear what you have to say.”
The transition to real estate clearly has worked out.
Although Oldenettel is an owner of RE/MAX Results Plus, he’s also an active listing agent. He’s become a top producer in the Jacksonville market and was named to the RE/MAX Hall of Fame for lifetime sales achievement. Oldenettel shares his expertise with others in the profession as a continuing education instructor.
Heitbrink served on the Illinois Real Estate Commission for 11 years, and he sometimes took Oldenettel to the panel’s meetings. Early on Heitbrink noted Oldenettel’s passion for getting involved in volunteer work.
“He does want to shape policy and he does want to make a difference,” Heitbrink said. “A lot of people these days don’t have that deep commitment.”
Oldenettel says living in Jacksonville allows him to spend quality time with his boys, ages 16, 14, 4 and one.
His wife, Lori, is Coordinator of Community Engagement and Service at Illinois College and serves on the Jacksonville City Council.
His family comes first, and Lori Oldenettel and the kids played roles at the inaugural dinner in St. Charles.
Living in Jacksonville allows Oldenettel to indulge in his passions for soccer and community service.
He has served on the Jacksonville/Morgan County Search and Rescue Dive Team. His years as a high school and college soccer player resulted in coaching the men’s team at Illinois College for five years. More recently, Oldenettel spent portions of his weekends coaching youth soccer teams.
Oldenettel has been president of the local Kiwanis Club (one of the largest in Illinois and Eastern Iowa) and the Jacksonville Area Association of REALTORS® (two times), and he serves on the boards of the Salvation Army and the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
The balance of running a business, making it to his kids’ soccer games and taking on the leadership of IAR is a tricky one, Oldenettel acknowledges. Through two decades of juggling commitments he’s learned to set firm boundaries to maintain a focus on his family.
“You have to, be it in life or personal business,” Oldenettel said. “And I think if handled properly, and with providing the right understanding to people, it doesn’t offend them or alienate them.”
“Have I lost buyers because of it? I am sure that I have. Am I upset about it? No. These are my priorities,” he said.
So what’s the year ahead going to be like?
Oldenettel said selling and building IAR’s relevance is critical, as is raising the association’s involvement with the National Association of REALTORS®.
“There’s a lack of Illinois representation in NAR,” Oldenettel said. “The quality volunteer leaders this association has could play exceptional roles at NAR.”
As to his core mission of building relevancy, he says he’s particularly interested in growing the association with both commercial and residential members, and attracting younger people into the real estate business. They need to know this is a great career and you can make a good living doing it, he said.
For once, perhaps, Oldenettel has enough to do.
Already in 2012 he represented IAR in Capitol Hill meetings with top policy-makers, he attended the Republican National Convention and recently met with a Chinese trade delegation.
Since his inauguration in October, Oldenettel has represented IAR at the National Association of REALTORS® Conference in Orlando.
The time commitment doesn’t shake his resolve to volunteer and remain in Jacksonville.
“I am very set with this community,” he said. “I am very embraced by it. I embrace it and it embraces my family.”
“The quality volunteer leaders this association has could play exceptional roles at NAR.”
2013 IAR Leadership Team:
Michael D. Oldenettel, CRS, GRI
RE/MAX Results Plus, Inc., Jacksonville
In 2013, Oldenettel serves as chair of the IAR Leadership and Executive Committees, National Association of REALTORS® Political Advisory Working Group and will lead the state association’s Board of Directors. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).
Phil Chiles, ABR, CRS, GRI
Real Estate Group, Springfield
Chiles serves as chair of the IAR Strategic Planning Committee and vice-chair of the Leadership and Executive committees and NAR Political Advisory Working Group. He also serves on the NAR Board of Directors.
Jim Kinney, ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI
Vice President of Luxury Home Sales,
Baird & Warner, Chicago
Kinney serves as chair of the IAR Finance Committee, vice-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee and as a member of the IAR Leadership and Executive committees. He also serves on the NAR Board of Directors.
Immediate Past President
Loretta Alonzo, CRB, GRI
Century 21 Alonzo & Associates,
La Grange Park
Alonzo serves on the IAR Advisory Council, Strategic Planning, Leadership and NAR Directors committees and NAR Political Advisory Working Group. She is also a member of the NAR Board of Directors.