Profile: Mary Smedley

August 7, 2015
By Boca Beacon

p-Mary SmedleyBY JACK SHORT – Three years ago, I wrote my first profile. The subject was a former ambassador to Morocco and an undersecretary general of the United Nations. I could barely fit his resume on any number of pages, and in trying to show how elite he was (and consequently how important I was), I produced a dry, painfully boring 1,800-word tribute to my vanity, and my naivety, as a writer. In the process, I ignored the man’s charm and kindness, and the seemingly small qualities that made him human and interesting.
As I interviewed Mary Smedley, managing broker of the Englewood and Boca Grande Michael Saunders offices (and also my most recent and final profile), she worried she wasn’t storied or interesting enough, and I was a little surprised. Here, sitting in front of me, was a positive, friendly person who danced ballet, raised an aeronautical engineer, who had been a journalist and a real-estate broker, who has been married for 32 years, who still geeks out over Star Trek (she named her dog Tiberius) and – after all this – would rather brag about her agents than herself.
I can’t imagine a more interesting subject.
Mary began her life as sort of a nomad. Her father was a Colonel in the Marines and as a result they lived in several different places while she was growing up, few for more than a year at a time.
After time in Germany, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, they settled for a longer duration in Ohio, where Mary went to high school. Even then, she said, she knew she was meant for management and leadership, assuming the role naturally whenever she was involved in a group project with her classmates.
She had taken ballet classes for several years as well, and after deciding not to pursue it professionally, went to Purdue University in Indiana to study communications. But that also turned out to be a lesson for her.
It was her experience as a journalist for a television station that taught her she didn’t want to be a journalist. She was covering a helicopter crash on scene, and was supposed to get as much information as she could, she said, and didn’t hesitate until she had to ask someone, who’d just seen a loved one die, to speak about the experience.
“I couldn’t be that cold, that intrusive,” she said. “I thought, ‘This would not be for me.’”
However, she found her calling eventually as a real estate broker.
When she met her husband, Jeff, to whom she’ll be married for 32 years this coming week, he was involved in auto-dealer financing, and Mary was managing a network of around 90 dentists.
Mark, one of Mary’s five siblings, set them up.
“I didn’t want to go out with anybody,” she said, “but, when I met him, that was it. Soulmate.”
Knowing that she was a dancer, Jeff later confessed, he learned to dance the tango so he could put a rose in his mouth and step onto the floor with her on their first date.
They still tango, around the house, the backyard, wherever, she said.
Jeff noted that her beloved Olds Cutlass was a far cry from the luxury cars her dentists drove.
They decided to break into real estate, and in 1990 Mary started with a small, independent brokerage in Indiana. Jeff joined her later. After all, as Mary said, two Smed’s are better than one.
Corny, but it worked.
They would have to modify that catchphrase when their daughter, Angelina, was born. She’s 24 now, in her 5th year at Embry Riddle University.
Two Smed’s became not only better than one, but “Two Smed’s and a baby.”
Jeff and Mary are optimistic about what she calls becoming “empty-nest-ers.” Mary said she’d like to travel out west in an RV, particularly to the mountains.
“I’m a mountain girl,” she said.
When asked whether she might be in the wrong state, she didn’t seem perturbed. She and Jeff have a connection to the area that stretches back considerably. They had both vacationed, since they were children, on Siesta Key during the same summers at about the same time. Of course they never met, but they were both familiar with the area and decided to move together many years later.
When she came to Florida, Mary didn’t necessarily want to be part of a larger firm, but Michael Saunders’ mission, she said, resonated with her. It was about taking care of your agents, and for someone with a history of management and who took to the heart the lessons of her Marine Corps father, the idea that you look after your people and don’t leave anybody behind connected.
Now, two years after coming on board at her offices, they’re scheduled to have nearly quintupled their sales figures from the first year.
She credits that to her focus on teams.
“We’ve built an office that works together,” she said. “It’s a subculture that works … and energizes each other.”
Whatever she does, whether it’s an empty-nest RV trip, or just tango-ing around the yard with Jeff, we’re sure she won’t forget her co-workers and family – the team that brought her to where she is.