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3 Brokers Elected to Fla Legislature

Ritch Workman, Debbie Mayfield and Nancy Detert win elections

November 11, 2008

By JERRY DeMUTH


Three mortgage brokers were elected to Florida's legislature. The trio attribute their success to political activity, volunteer work and professional experience.

All three have been active in the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers, two of them as office holders.

Ritch Workman was elected to Florida's House of Representatives with 54 percent of the vote.

Workman, who is president of FAMB and operates Melbourne, Fla.-based Workman Mortgage Co., said he became politically active shortly after joining the state trade group in 1995.

He went to the state capital in Tallahassee during 1996 for the first time to "promote bills that would protect the industry and the consumer," he told MortgageDaily.com. Then he made the first of numerous trips to Washington.

"I testified in front of HUD and before numerous committees," he explained. "So I have a real sense of how the system works. That gives me a leg up on what is expected of me and what I expect of the system."

At the same time, Workman had provided mortgages to all the teachers at the local high school, the head of the youth league at the family's church and the parents of all the kids with whom his kids play soccer through his company.

"So we are well ingrained in the community," he pointed out.

Workman Mortgage, which operates as both a mortgage banker and a mortgage broker, was founded in 1992 by his parents.

photo of Ritch Workman
photo of Ritch Workman

"We're nothing more than a local mom and pop shop," he said. "We were about $100 million a year in '03 and '04 but we've lost 75 percent of our business in the past three or four years. We're going to be lucky to do $30 million this year."

Before becoming FAMB president, Workman was a chapter president and then served on FAMB's executive committee, first as secretary-treasurer, then as vice president and president-elect."

photo of Debbie Mayfield
campaign photo
of Debbie Mayfield

Similarly, Debbie Mayfield, who was also elected to Florida's House, got involved in lobbying trips to Tallahassee and Washington beginning in the early 1990s when she was head of residential lending for two counties for Florida-based Barnett Bank, where she worked for 20 years.

Representing the bank, she and other employees worked with lobbyists on banking issues, she told MortgageDaily.com.

She left Barnett in 1995 and after a break joined the mortgage department of another bank, only to leave because of time demands after her husband was elected to the Florida House in 2000. So Mayfield got her broker license and founded Vero Beach, Fla.-based Mayfield Group Inc., staffed just by herself and a loan processor.

"Right out of the chute we had good years; 2001 and 2002 were stellar years," she pointed out. "I probably did a couple million [dollars] a month. A lot of refi business was coming in during that time. The last three years have not been that great."

Her husband's terms in the state house ended this year because of term limits and they both agreed that she should run for his 80th District seat, a decision she had to reconsider after he took ill and died of cancer last September.

Now Mayfield, who won with 65 percent of the vote, says she's looking to tackle housing, mortgage, insurance, property tax and economic development issues.

"They all relate back to people's housing," she pointed out. "Real estate wraps around many of the issues we're having right now. I just hope I can be a part of helping decide those problems with the real-world experience I have."

Nancy Detert, founder and president for 23 years of Venice, Fla.-based Osprey Mortgage Co., who served in the state House for the entire eight-year limit, was elected to the state Senate with 58 percent of the vote. She had been asked to seek that position after serving on her local school board for almost a decade.

"Osprey is a small company," Detert told MortgageDaily.com. "We had like six brokers."

In 2006, Detert unsuccessfully ran for U.S. representative against former Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris -- who became famous in 2000 when Florida was the deciding vote for president between George Bush and Al Gore.

She sold the company to one of her former loan officers in 2007 and, knowing she'd be running for state senate, took a less time-consuming job as a marketing representative with appraisal firm Chapman & Associates, in Sarasota.

While in the state house, Detert twice was named legislator of the year for her work on affordable housing and, at the request of FAMB, she sponsored a bill requiring continuing education for mortgage brokers, a measure that passed.

"I got my license in 1983 and, other than paying a license fee every year, nobody ever asked me a question," she pointed out. "Certainly the industry had changed a lot in those 20 years [since 1983] and we needed to see that everyone upgraded their skills."

photo of Nancy Detert
photo of Nancy Detert

Working as a broker also has enabled her to see the financial pains that many people are facing, an observation that may politicians fail to recognize and she wants to continue to address.

"To regular politicians, when they're speaking to people, people all look like they're doing fine," Detert said. "But we know that a lot of them are losing their homes or living on the edge.

"Part of my platform is to work on affordable housing issues," she said. "That used to be a minor issue and now it's a major issue. We have a lot of people here in Florida trying to hold onto their homes."

Workman, Mayfield and Deter, all Republicans, are to be sworn in at an organizational meeting for the new legislative and senate sessions on Nov. 18, according to Mayfield.


Jerry DeMuth is an award winning journalist who has been reporting for four decades.

e-mail Jerry at [email protected]
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