Contributed by Jennifer Miller

CAI has thrived for more than 50 years thanks to the dedication of countless volunteers and can point to many current and former women leaders who have made tremendous impacts. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, meet two women in community associations who are paving the way for CAI and the broader housing model.

Natalie Stewart, president of FHA Review in Huntington Beach, Calif., was asked by a community manager more than a dozen years ago if she knew anyone who could help with the increasingly complex process of reviewing Federal Housing Administration loans to meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development criteria. Where others might be daunted by reviewing hundreds of pages of federal guidelines, Stewart saw an industry need and a business opportunity. She and her partner founded FHA Review in 2010.

The California-based firm serves as a third-party service specializing in the FHA and Veterans Administration loan certifying process for condominiums nationwide. As one of CAI’s few truly national business partners, Stewart cannot over emphasize the value of name recognition: “A lot of our business comes from online searches, and when potential clients see that we’re CAI members, it’s an immediate stamp of approval,” says Stewart.

“CAI not only provides the benefit of learning about what you do in particular, but also what’s going on in other aspects of the industry so you can be an expert in your field and how it relates to the larger picture,” she says.

Stewart consistently focuses on the big picture and thinks about how community association management professionals can continue to make information more transparent and improve relations between real estate agents, lenders, and community association managers. Her involvement in state and federal legislative efforts over the years, including as executive committee public relations chair for the CAI California Legislative Action Committee, is one way she keeps the big picture front and center.


In 2020, she was honored with CAI’s Rising Star Award in recognition of her efforts on behalf of the industry. Stewart believes high quality work and top-notch customer service are vitally important to the industry. “It may seem silly because we’re just processing paperwork, but the person at the other end of the transaction is likely trying to buy their home,” says the self-described “Type-A” Stewart. She even admits to sleeping with her phone under her pillow to make sure she doesn’t miss a call from East Coast clients.

Alyson Astleford, CMCA, AMS, a manager with FirstService Residential in Bloomington, Minn., may be just shy of six years in the profession, but she has the resume of someone with far more experience.

“People call me the energizer bunny,” confesses the Minnesota native, who says she brings energy and passion — along with a lot of organization — to everything she does. Astleford also shares that “management is in my blood” from growing up watching her mom work in the community association management profession.

In 2021, Astleford received the CAI Minnesota Chapter’s Vision Award for Excellence in Service. The award recognizes a manager who displays integrity, reliability, commitment to the industry, loyalty to consumer clients, and the ability to interact well with board members, managers, service providers, and other industry professionals.

She graduated from FirstService Residential North Region’s Emerging Leader Class of 2022 and is just getting started on her other ambitious goals. Astleford plans to become more deeply involved in her chapter’s legislative action committee, at the national level of CAI, and ultimately would like to serve on the CAI Minnesota board.

“Since I’m a younger professional, l bring a good perspective on this ever-changing industry,” says Astleford, who thinks generational change is going to be a major issue for CAI to address in the years ahead. “Younger generations are not serving on their homeowners association boards as much, for example. That extra effort might not fit with their work-life balance priorities.”

Astleford has served on her condominium association board for three years and says it’s been an interesting way to see both sides of an issue. When it comes to getting younger stakeholders involved, Astleford advises pitching them with a “what’s in it for you” angle. Showcase up-and-coming leaders, show the benefits of leadership and involvement, explain how it’s great for their resume, or how it’s the best way to learn from other professionals. “I tell people they’re protecting their assets, and I help them understand what they stand to gain from the experience, along with how it’s for the greater good of their profession or their community.”

Jennifer Miller is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C., area. Profiles above adapted from articles in 2023 about emerging leaders in both CAI’s Common Ground magazine and Community Manager newsletter.

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