A changing of the guard at two area homebuilders groups has turned out to be a case of “like father, like son.”
Mike Toalson, CEO of the downtown-based Home Builders Association of Virginia, is retiring this month after 20 years as the nonprofit trade group’s lead lobbyist, and after 35 years total as a lobbyist at the General Assembly.
Filling his post is his son, Craig Toalson, CEO of the Home Building Association of Richmond, which the junior Toalson has led for six years.
The moves, which also include HBAR government affairs director Andrew Clark going to the state group, follow suit with a recommendation Mike made when he informed the HBAV two years ago of his retirement plans. He said at the time the organization needed two people handling the group’s lobbying, workforce development, membership outreach and education efforts.
What he didn’t recommend was to hire his son, Mike said, citing Craig’s track record and contentment at HBAR. It has grown in membership under Craig’s watch from 330 in 2011 to more than 500 today.
Craig said he didn’t jump at the job right away, putting his name in the hat only after talking with HBAV, which totals 3,200 members statewide, about whether his experience would be a good fit.
“I had to think long and hard about it,” Craig said this week.
Despite their shared surname, Craig said he was considered during the interview process without any mention of his dad or their relation.
“They truly interviewed me like any other candidate, and I really appreciated that respect for him and for me,” Craig said. “We have the same last name, and yes, I’m his son. But we’re two different people with two different skill sets.”
Filling Craig’s position at HBAR is Danna Markland, who started Monday after four years as CEO of the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce.
Markland, who spent four years with the Greater Richmond Chamber (now ChamberRVA) and has a master’s degree in public relations from VCU, said she had her eyes on the job since working with HBAR on revisions to Chesterfield’s cash proffer system for residential development.
“I was particularly interested in this industry because it does play such a significant role in Chesterfield County; and frankly, from the proffers standpoint, I believed in what they were doing and thought it was objectively the right thing to do,” Markland said.
A former TV news reporter who served a year as a deputy press secretary in the U.S. Senate, Markland has developed relationships in Richmond through her chamber work that Craig said adds to her suitability for the job.
Clark, who joined HBAR in 2014 and will continue his government affairs role at HBAV, said interviews for his replacement will begin soon, with the goal of hiring someone by the end of July. He said that person will work with Markland to continue the momentum he and Craig have seen and advocated for in their time with the group.
“This formerly sleepy town – No. 1 in murders per capita 20 years ago – is now a place where people are flocking to from all over Virginia and all over the country,” Clark said.
“We’ve got national builders coming in saying, ‘We want to get a part of that action.’ We’ve got new custom builders popping up, architects, engineers, attorneys who are all seeing the growth potential in the Richmond market,” he said.
Craig Toalson and Clark said they are jumping into state roles right away, with Craig starting July 1 and Clark a week later. They said their first priority will be to continue gains made on cash proffer reform across the state.
As for Mike, he said he is looking forward to starting his retirement at Smith Mountain Lake, then traveling across the country. While he doesn’t expect his son to need to lean on him for help, he said he will be available if needed – “on the phone,” he said with a laugh.
“I never envisioned either Craig or my daughter Bethany falling into the trade association management field, but when he chose it and excelled in it – he’s a natural,” Mike said. “It’s humbling. It makes me very proud.”