Community Association of the Year

Past CAY Award Winner Insider Tips: You Can Be a Winner, Too!

I have served on WMCCAI’s Community Association of the Year (CAY) judging panel for over fifteen years. We’re always impressed with the unique aspects of so many communities in the Washington Metropolitan Chapter! As a committee we challenge ourselves to improve the application process to attract new contenders. This year we decided to ask past winners to share what they believe helped them edge out the competition.

In my opinion the essay is what sells the winning vision to me as a judge. Be certain to put your best writer forward on the application so your most stellar impression is vivid for judging!

Here’s what others had to contribute.

Chuck Foster, board president at Lakeport Cluster Association (2019 Small CAY Winner) believes that their community is better than others because of a survey they took among owners. He said, “what they liked best was its location (next to a lake with proximity to shopping and entertainment), a beautiful and tranquil setting with attractive homes, friendly neighbors, and a good community spirit (which is encouraged by social events and a board that is responsive and helpful to owners).” To distinguish excellence in their community, Foster shared that they enhanced community spirit by adapting social activities and improving communication in the neighborhood during the pandemic. They worked together on updating architectural standards which simplified maintenance and increased home values. In addition to a new dock, street repaving and new bollard lights, a newly landscaped entrance is welcoming, and they also built a kids garden with a free little library for all to enjoy! These projects wouldn’t have been possible without obtaining outside grants and incredible volunteer involvement.

Heidie Rothschild from The Grove at Huntley Meadows Homeowners Association (2018 Medium CAY Winner) shared, “Our community is a tight-knit community with many diverse cultures. Having individuals live here from all over the world provides us with a unique glimpse into other cultures and shows a community can be greatly enhance by cultural diversity.” Her other tip seems like common sense but it’s always good to be reminded, “Strive to be the best you can be. Put in the time and hard work to ensure your community thrives.”

Past president, Tom Burrell with Westridge Swim and Racquet Club (2019 Very Large CAY Winner) said, “We have some great volunteers working on important boards and committees. We have all the necessary policies in place for the efficient and effective running of the community.” Next, he offered that effective communication channels between management and the board of directors are tied closely so that issues are often resolved quickly. Westridge’s general manager, Deborah Carter added a reminder to “advise the board to periodically review and implement the CAI Best Practices.” After all, that’s one of the most important purposes of our membership with CAI!

Marty Reagan, immediate past president at Potomac Green Community Association (2017 Very Large CAY Winner) says, “Be prepared to follow the instructions precisely, and to have to submit two or three times before you win.” He explains that “the points that CAI really wants covered in the application are the areas that good communities will excel in.”

Doug Kleine with Montebello Condominium (2018 Very Large CAY Winner & 2018 Communicator of the Year) offered that they had a “newly formed Quality Improvement Committee which presented new opportunities to involve residents in future projects.” For specific projects an ad hoc committee was also formed with the charge to “devise a process whereby the residents would feel as though they were heard, and they had input. Communications included short surveys and weekly updates.” Focus groups were found to be beneficial as well as processes where “trust can be built so that outcomes are not dominated either by the “technicians” or by the loudest voices.”

Michelle Olsen, board president of Keen Mill Woods II Condominium (2017 Communicator of the Year) said, “I see CAY as a great opportunity to learn from and inspire each other to make our communities the best they can be, by celebrating and learning from everyone’s successes.” To interested communities she says, “Definitely apply!” Other advice shared by Olsen is, you might start by reading articles from winning communities in past CAY issues of the Quorum magazine, to get a feel for the process. Attending the awards session at the WMCCAI annual conference where the winning communities do a presentation will also spark ideas. “The year we won, it was fun to share our thoughts, but also inspiring to hear great ideas from other neighborhoods.”

Gary Clukey from Dominion Valley Owners Association (2019 Communicator of the Year) says, “We look to continuously improve, adapt, and respond to internal and external opportunities.” Transparency, stakeholder engagement, and multi-channel outreach are a major goal in their Association’s Strategic Plan. Dominion Valley takes every opportunity through their website, Facebook page, Valley Voice newsletter, email blasts, holding town hall meetings, community surveys, board meetings, and monthly resident open forums to keep the community informed and to solicit feedback. Clukey also encourages that communities devise a solid vision statement that underpins your strategic plan and governing documents. “These are abetted by a caring and motivated leadership team of community management professionals and homeowner volunteers operating under a structure which is influenced by CAI guidelines and standards.”

The point is that any community can rise to the top with excellent management, some extra effort, strong volunteers, efficient communication and of course a little fun!


By Kara Permisohn, EBP

Kara has proudly worked in business development for Minkoff Company since 2004. She has enjoyed serving on the Washington Metro Chapter Community Association of the Year (CAY) and Quorum Editorial Committees for many years and is the currently the vice-chair of the CRCCAI Golf Committee. Kara is a past president of the Chesapeake Region Chapter and has served on both WMCCAI and CRCCAI boards of directors. Her involvement with WMCCAI has also included serving and/or co-chairing the Events, Golf, and Outreach Committees. Other accolades include earning her Educated Business Partner (EBP) designation, the WMCCAI Rising Star in 2005 and Committee Co-Chair of the Year in 2011.