A legacy of leadership: McGuinness announces retirement from NAIOP New Jersey

Its CEO for more than 25 years, his legacy is tied both to growth of the organization and the way he led it

It always has seemed fitting that commercial real estate in New Jersey — an industry filled with big personalities and even bigger deals — has been led for decades by Mike McGuinness.

Polished, proficient, professional — and so willing to let so many others grab the spotlight.

Last night, at the 36th annual Commercial Real Estate Awards Gala sponsored by NAIOP New Jersey, an organization he has led as CEO since 1997, McGuinness deservedly took center stage at the event, as he announced his retirement.

As could have been predicted, he used his moment to thank and praise others: the members, the board, the past presidents, the staff and, most of all, his wife, Sue McGuiness.

“For me, being CEO was a great way to use what I’ve learned at home, in the Boy Scouts and during my Jesuit education,” he said. “My passion has always been to help and serve others. And I believe that’s what has set me up for success.”

The more than 700 in the room at the Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset know that so much of the success of NAIOP New Jersey has been because of McGuinness, whose steady hand has helped bring together a diverse group of developers, brokers, attorneys — big and small — for a common goal: to lift the industry in the state.

Peter Cocoziello, a longtime friend, NAIOP board member and the founder of Advance Realty, tried to sum up what McGuinness has meant to the organization.

McGuinness’ influence, he said, was everywhere in the room — from the growth of the event to his personal impact on the members.

“Mike has been able to inspire others in a way that I have not seen by other leaders of organizations,” Cocoziello said.

Cocoziello said he saw it firsthand, during the networking portion of the event.

“Standing outside, when people walked up to him, they were saying, ‘You’ve really made a difference in my life,’” he said. “There are so many people you’ve connected with, and that that’s really a tribute to your leadership and what you’ve done.

“You truly have made this a better place than when you arrived. When you look back, and think about the growth, the amount of members, the ability to generate cash flow, the seminars and the knowledge, and, most importantly, the networking and relationships that we have with so many people in this room, you really have made this possible.”

McGuinness said the moment was bittersweet.

“Deciding to retire and saying goodbye to my commercial real estate family is not easy,” he told the crowd. “It’s been a privilege and honor to serve the needs of our members and work alongside all of you.

“The memories, the lessons learned, the laughs, the camaraderie — are priceless.”

Picking out a key moment was not easy.

“There have been so many rewarding aspects to my job: Leveraging my connections, my knowledge and skills to help others and solve problems, influence public policy decisions — and seeing the success of our advocacy in the form of job creation and the transformation of communities into vibrant centers,” he said.

McGuinness with Peter Cocoziello.

McGuinness proudly brought his successor, Dan Kennedy, to the stage, assuring the audience that the future of NAIOP New Jersey is in good hands.

He then exited gracefully and graciously.

“When you bring together great people, you can achieve great things,” he said. “It’s been an extraordinary learning experience, and one that has kept me engaged.

“I look forward to the many opportunities and adventures ahead, both personally and professionally, as I continue to seek ways to help others.

“Those who are successful have a duty to give back to those who are less fortunate. I’m blessed to have all of you in my life and I look forward to staying connected. Thank you.”