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Title News - January/ February, 2007

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January/ February, 2007 - Volume 86 Number 1

Inside ALTA®
My Experience at ALTA®’s Federal Conference

by Rebecca McKittrick

This Nebraskan was intimidated as she eased into the first session wondering what she might encounter. She found out that little separated us in our respective profession, customs and cultures. Get a look at the ALTA® Federal Conference from the eyes of a first-time attendee.

In March 2006 I attended the ALTA® Federal Conference for the first time. The experience was two firsts actually. It was my first time in Washington, D.C., too.
Being there gave me a great sense of reverence, camaraderie, and connection to other title people I’d never met, and, going even farther, a connection to America that I’d never sensed before. It was exhilarating. It was humbling. It was an opportunity of a lifetime!
My experience was eye-opening. It’s a big world out there. A big world with big government, big regulations, and big circumstances if the rules aren’t followed with regard to our daily business conduct. Here I was, fresh off the plane, fresh out of the cornfield, and fresh in Washington, DC. What would I do there? Who would I meet? Would I have the slightest impact?
Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know the people around you, but together you went through an experience. For instance, you were waiting for a flight that was delayed for many hours or you were in the same seating area at a championship game. Not so long ago, we shared a bond as Americans during 9/11. Going through these experiences where there’s an investment in time made, voluntarily or involuntarily, creates a natural camaraderie amongst strangers whether we mean for it to or not. Over that time together, we complain, cheer, talk about the weather, or find out through longer conversations that it really is a small world out there because through the endurance of our immediate situation, we’ve had time to find out that we know the same people through business, family, or some other source. We leave the situation usually shaking hands, exchanging business cards, or giving words of support, congratulations, or encouragement as if we’ve known the other person all our lives even though we may never cross paths again. This is the type of experience I had when I went to the ALTA® Federal Conference. I felt a common bond with those I met who share the same passion and enthusiasm for our industry. We are brothers and sisters in what we do for a living, because we speak a very special language, one that at times requires a lawyer as an interpreter!
Those that know me in my home state of Nebraska know that I’m not shy or timid, and I’ve been accused of having a strong personality. Strong personality? Maybe. I think of it more as a strong character because I’m passionate about what I do for a living. Either way, this Nebraskan was intimidated beyond belief as I eased into the first meeting wondering what I might encounter and whom I might meet. Shaking off the tenseness of a new situation, I began to talk to people from North and South, East and West about our industry, Nebraska’s association, their associations, our challenges, their challenges. I found out that little separated us in our respective profession, customs and cultures except southern drawls, northern accents, and the fact that I left my overalls at home.

ALTA® Can Help
Navigating me through the experience? ALTA®. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the people that work for ALTA®. As I prepped myself about whom I might meet on the Hill and what I might say, I learned at the last possible moment before my meeting with Senator Ben Nelson that what I was prepared to talk about were issues that weren’t to be discussed because there was no information back from HUD. Clinging to my new friend, Ed Miller, ALTA®’s brand new chief counsel and vice president of public policy, I asked: “Ed, I have these appointments with new discussion topics. What do I do now?” Ed was not able to go with me to the Hill due to another meeting. However, he said, “Take Mike Wille with you. Just tell them who you are, what you do for a living, and what it means to the consumer.” Seconds later, Mike Wille appeared before me. He asked, “Do you have your camera?” I told him I did and off in a cab we went. Mike was gracious, kind, understanding and knowledgeable. I chatted him up from the hotel to the Hart Building, learning he knew quick ways into buildings, shortcuts around town, and all about his love affair with politics.
I’m sad to say, as I write this, that my comments come on a posthumous note instead of a note in which he could read how grateful I was to him for being there for me when I needed him. He didn’t know me from Eve, yet he jumped in a cab with me to go see a Senator. In doing that, he changed how I felt about my abilities and strengths. I did have the opportunity to tell him while he was at the Nebraska Land Title Association’s convention in September of last year how much he helped me and how much I appreciated it. My experience with him gave me the confidence I needed, and he left me with a wonderful memory that I will never forget.

The Global Impact
Other encounters I had in Washington touched me globally. The evening of my arrival I met a gentleman from the country of Congo. His name is Noel Tshiani. He overheard some of us talking in the lobby of the hotel about title insurance, and was curious about our land registry practices in the United States. He told us that he worked for the World Bank and is the country manager of Congo. He explained that he owned a piece real estate in his country and had for six or seven years. He cleared the land over that time, having plans to build a hotel, which he hoped would bring more economic development to his country. After he finished clearing the land, a man showed up insisting that he had ownership in the real estate. He said he told the man to take documentation to his lawyer and he would take his documentation to his lawyer, and they would sort it out in court. He then went to the Land Registry office in his country, but found no claims by the other man to the real estate. The claimant vanished, and Noel wrote him off as a corrupt bully. Noel fears that once the hotel is complete, this same sort of thing will happen again and he could lose his investment without proper protection, for all they have is a Land Registry office. He has no assurance or insurance about anything in his hotel’s future. I came away from the conversation with him more certain than ever that our industry provides a beneficial, worthwhile service. I suggested to him that he solicit ALTA® to create a delegation to send to his country to assist them in organization of a better land records system as well as implementation of title insurance in his country. So, we’ll see what the future holds for the country of Congo as it tries to become a more developed country.

What I Gained
I returned to Nebraska a different person. I returned beaming with pride in our country and industry, but also humbled by the people I met and the surroundings I was within. I returned more knowledgeable about our government and also in awe of the countless large buildings that line the National Mall, each filled with departments of government. In visiting all of the magnificent sights of Washington, D.C., I also felt strength and pride standing with those that I did not know while gazing up into Abraham Lincoln’s face at the Lincoln Memorial or crying with eyes upward while viewing the stars and stripes in the Smithsonian that covered the large, gaping hole left in the Pentagon on 9/11. I returned a little less naive about world matters, taking into account how lucky we truly are as Americans, but I felt helpless about how to help those like Noel Tshani establish what many of us have that we take for granted - insured land ownership. I returned feeling like I made a difference, even if just for a day, because I got to speak with lawmakers that were part of a bigger picture. Maybe just one person like me really didn’t make a difference. Why would I? I’m just one person. I would like to think I did. What I want you to get out of this article, if anything, is the notion that we have strength in numbers! Sure, I’m just one person, but our industry is more than 100,000 strong! One hundred thousand people can be a force to reckon with if we all make it a point to talk to our congressional representatives either by visiting them, calling them, or writing them. One hundred thousand people cannot be ignored!

Why You Should Attend
I encourage everyone to attend the ALTA® Federal Conference - at least once if not more often. Realistically, its going to take all of us to turn around the general misconceptions about our industry and to teach those that need to be taught why the industry is beneficial and worthwhile. It is going to take each and every last one of us to make the decision that we are going to safeguard our industry, prove our worth, and protect the American Dream: homeownership. I’ve grown up in the industry, having written title insurance since I was 18 years old, and I’m still going strong nearly 17 years later. I can’t say enough wonderful things, not only about ALTA® but also about the Nebraska Land Title Association. For without grassroots associations, such as NLTA, and its dedication to education in its mission of “making title people the best there is,” I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn what I know and become involved.

Come On Over!
Last, let me add to known brothers and sisters and unknown brothers and sisters of the title industry, you are always welcome in Nebraska. We don’t ride horses to work, but we sure would have fun if we did! And if you are coming to one of our conventions, it would be best to bring a bathing suit to the pool, because if you don’t, you’ll cheerfully get pushed in fully clothed and become a cardcarrying member of the NLTA swim team! There truly is no place like Nebraska! Thank you, NLTA! And, thank you to all of the wonderful people that work for ALTA®!

Rebecca McKittrick is president of Suburban Title & Escrow, Inc., Omaha, NE. She can be reached at: 402-934-2001 or

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