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Rick Wertz Retires After 48 Years

by Suzanne Licata

Rick Wertz, vice president in Curry Real Estate Service’s multi-family division, likes to say he started at the ground level when he joined the company. Graduated from William Jewell with a business degree, he met Curry Chairman Emeritus Ray Brock through Brock’s daughter Carol who attended William Jewell, and began his career at the company’s Rockcreek Apartments on Kendallwood Parkway in Gladstone. Doing grounds keeping.

He did other things in the early days, of course, including repairs, pool and other property maintenance. He lived on the property and learned the value of being available – one of the many standards that have guided him throughout the years. In time, he traded a work shirt for a collared shirt and tie and learned multi-family property management.

Another guiding standard has been to share what he’s learned. You accumulate a lot of experience when you’ve been responsible as Wertz has for 1,000 properties, sometimes taking care of 2,500 units or more at a time. While he could and did do a lot of the hands-on tenant communications, maintenance, repair and renovation work himself, he long has been a gifted manager of property managers. His commitment to mentorship – supporting and developing generations of property managers – is one of his many legacies and it comes from a place of respect.

“You always knew if your name was associated with Curry’s, you were well respected,” said Wertz. “Working with people you respect and trust, who have a high reputation, was always fundamental in working for this company.”

Wertz said the respect for Curry was evident years ago when the company expanded from managing only its own properties to also providing multi-family property management for other owners. Then the mid-1970s recession hit bringing with it some of the highest inflation rates in recent U.S. history – up to 20 percent. Some of those other owners turned their properties back to their lenders and those banks and insurance companies – from all over the country – turned to Curry for help.

“Those lenders knew Curry’s reputation and sought us out,” he said. “We applied the same fundamentals to these bank-owned properties as we did to our own. We just customized them to their needs.”

Treating others’ properties as their own has not changed at Curry but Wertz has seen many other changes in the apartment management industry in his nearly 50-year career. That includes how much of it now can be accomplished online with nary a piece of paper exchanged or face-to-face contact made.

“Renting sight unseen started several years ago and a good number of us thought this was the craziest thing we had ever heard of,” Wertz said.

However, there’s no question, he said, that technology has made things easier and more efficient for property managers, tenants and owners alike. Still, his suggested tips for renters today are old-school and practical:

  • Check out your prospective apartment, townhome or duplex in person. Is the unit and surrounding property well maintained? Does it have the safety features it should?
  • Read and honor the lease.
  • Know the reputation of your property management company. Are the management people professional and available? Are they attentive to service requests?

Wertz said he always liked problem solving around all the property management challenges which were different from one day to the next. He also was gratified to work so closely with people on something as important as their housing. “As hard as it is to manage apartments, it is rewarding when you help someone find their home,” he said. “You connect with people on a personal level and most are very appreciative.”

When he first started with the company Wertz said his paychecks read, “Curry Investment Company,” and while that confused some people he liked the correlation to investment.

“We were taught not just to create a return on the investment but a return of the investment for the owner – improve the property as you go,” he said. “That kept me mindful of how I know Curry invested in me and my career over the years and how I hope I have done so with others around me.”

Now retiring after 48 years with Curry, Wertz said he looks forward to investing in other avenues and people known, like his five grandkids scattered to Dallas and Nashville, and those yet to be discovered.

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