Greetings fellow members and guests. It’s truly a privilege and an honor to be given the opportunity to serve as President of the New York State Land Title Association.
Walt Disney once said, “First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.”
That’s a saying that has applied to my title career throughout the years.
I promise not to bore you with a long, drawn-out speech, so I will skip the 1800s and begin with 1997. I was working for a small downtown law firm in the city when a title agent client suggested that I apply for a title position at First American. I was advised that I would be part of a mentorship program for newbies and that I would be trained in all facets of the title industry. It sounded like a proposition with potential but it also meant giving up the traditional practice of law as I imagined it. Was it a worthwhile risk? If it didn’t work out, what’s the worst that can happen? I was relatively young, I could always return to a law firm or do something else. “If you don’t take a chance, you don’t stand a chance.” I thought, I believed, I dreamed and finally I dared to take the first step even though I couldn’t see the whole staircase. And the rest is history.
Upon entering the title industry, some title colleagues would give me a sly look and say, “You know James, once you’re in, you can’t get out.”
I was perplexed but as they say, “Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.” (Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and philosopher who died at age 48).
Mind you, it was not all roses. On my first day, I was told to put my jeans on and go to Surrogates Court to examine. I went to law school for that? And then more “fun” followed, reading, surveys, recordings, clearing, etc. Along the way, I took the best out of every experience, good or bad. And today, 25 years later, as I stand before you, I am a product of those experiences. I am grateful for “each and every” one of them as I would not be here without them. (truth be told, I’m a bit of a title geek anyway).
Six years ago was another turning point for me for two reasons:
- AmTrust approached me with an exciting new opportunity which would build upon my many years of title experience;
- And then, the esteemed Marvin Bagwell approached me during an EC meeting and asked if I would be interested in being nominated as the next co-chair of the Title Section. I was honored and scared at the same time.
I thought, I believed, I dreamed and finally I dared to say yes to both propositions. And Chapter 2 of my title adventure began.
Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” (Allen Saunders) And our industry and the New York State Land Title Association are the epitome of that.
The title industry has faced challenges and come under attack in different forms over the years, including:
- New DFS regulations and the ensuing litigation;
- Proposals for government-run title insurance;
- A global pandemic, county closures and filing/recording delays;
- RON (remote online notarization);
- Emerging technologies; and
- In-house duties like amending our Bylaws and Code of Ethics to reflect current times.
Challenges always abound but as we confront them, we grow, we become stronger and more resilient.
I say “we” because our strength is the result of teamwork. Many of us are competitors but the totality of our experiences makes us a resource to each other and to the industry.
“Goodness is the virtue of strong people.” And I have had the privilege of working with such people at the New York State Land Title Association, including:
1. Bob Treuber and Regina Capone, the common thread which keeps it all together;
2. Past presidents Marianne Mathieu, Bill Collins, Rich Estrella, DeAnna Stancanelli, Dawn Pereyo and most recently Jean Partridge; my Title Section mentor and chair Mary Jane Keyse, and later my Title Section co-chair Steve Vincini;
3. And of course, Rich Gilliotti, his passion and advocacy for the industry and agents is unsurpassed.
But the list does not stop there and every chair, co-chair and committee member, among others, has played a pivotal role in my development at our association.
As President, I promise to be engaged, committed and available to lead us through whatever lies ahead, including:
- Navigating the new political environment with our new governor and new DFS superintendent;
- Seeing RON come to fruition and seeking possible tweaks along the way;
- Continuing our advocacy on behalf of the title profession and consumer protection;
- Keeping our members abreast of the latest developments affecting our industry in a timely manner;
- Welcoming new members and encouraging diversity;
- Working closely with our committees, the lifeblood of our association;
- Continuing to evolve our technology initiatives with the help of the Technology Committee;
- Revisiting the Mutual Indemnity Agreement;
- Continuing to develop our mentorship program and our newsletter; and
- Continuing to deal with the effects of the pandemic, eviction moratoriums and climate change. But we promise to “zoom on” and adjust accordingly.
For one of our newsletters, Ronni Bleich, Chair of the Newsletter Committee, interviewed Jean and myself separately. She asked “What’s your favorite movie or song quote?” Unbeknownst to either of us, we gave the same answer: “Snap out of it!” from Cher’s character Loretta Castorini in “Moonstruck.”
A bit weird but also a sign of cohesion. I thank Jean and all her predecessors for their calm and steady leadership. I hope to build upon stable principles but not stand still. Because when duty calls, we snap out of it and get down to business!
As Walt Disney said, “First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream, And finally, dare.” Thank you