During his 40-year career in real estate, John Smaby has held just about every appointed and elected position possible in the industry.

Smaby can add another superlative to his résumé. On Monday, at the National Association of Realtors’ annual convention in Boston, he assumed his post as the 111th president of the national group (NAR), the industry’s largest trade association.

It’s a rare honor — Smaby is only the fourth Minnesotan to do it. His father also held the post.

“It was never a goal of his for me or any other family member to follow him,” Smaby said after his election as first vice president in 2016.

The NAR is largely focused on lobbying on behalf of the industry on Capitol Hill. It represents 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. The members belong to about 1,200 local associations across the country.

Smaby spent 2017 as first vice president and 2018 as president-elect. In those two years, he visited at least 35 states, speaking at all 13 regional conferences and addressing about 800 boards of directors.

“At one point, I was in the Atlanta airport five times in eight days,” he said.

Smaby, 64, has been a broker and agent for Edina Realty and its predecessor companies for 40 years. In 2013, Smaby received Minnesota’s Ed Anderson Political Achievement Award, and in 2014 he was named NAR’s Realtor of the Year. He also has been president of the Minnesota Association of Realtors.

Greg Mason, Edina Realty Home Services president and CEO, said the company is proud to have Smaby representing housing on the national level and advocating for agents.

“John has a wealth of experience and will do a great job as president,” Mason said.

Smaby was 6 years old when he started in real estate, helping out his father’s Edina firm, Bermel-Smaby Realty. His father, Philip Smaby, started the Bermel-Smaby brokerage in 1946 and was NAR’s president in 1976.

On Friday, the day the younger Smaby took his oath of office, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed Nov. 1, 2018, “John Smaby Day.”

Shannon McGahn, NAR’s senior vice president of government affairs, said in a statement that under Smaby’s leadership NAR will be focused on promoting policy issues related to homeownership and real estate investment. She said he will work with NAR’s advocacy staff in both Chicago and Washington, D.C.

“We look forward to working alongside John and the entire 2019 NAR leadership team to accomplish all of these goals as we enter into the 116th Congress,” McGahn said.

At the NAR conference, Edina-based Rod Helm, a sales agent with Coldwell Banker Burnet Minnesota, was named a 2019 regional vice president representing region 8, which encompasses Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said that John Smaby’s father was the first Minnesotan to be president of the National Association of Realtors.