- October 7, 2021
Director of asset management, Beneficial Management
Affordable housing is more than just a theory for Leonard Burke.
Burke is the 38-year-old director of asset management for Beneficial Communities, a developer that builds both affordable and market rate communities.
He grew up in public housing in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, raised in the same two-bedroom, two-story unit where his grandmother raised three generations. So he brings the experiences he developed over the years to the projects he works on today.
“What I look at is: would I be OK living here or would I be OK with my mom and my grandmother living here?” he says.
“When it comes to how a community is designed, constructed, put together, is it a place I feel good about? And during the whole design phase, and even during the construction phase, is it acceptable to my standards, would I feel OK raising my family in this community? And that’s how I look at it when it comes to putting projects together.”
Burke first discovered the real estate business as a student at the University of South Florida when he took an internship with Market Street Mortgage in 2003.
That experience sparked his interest and after graduating in 2005 at the height of the housing market, he went into business for himself buying and flipping homes. “Then the real estate market crashed and I’m like, ‘This ain’t working. I’m not making any money,'" he says. "'I’ve got to get a job.’”
He took several jobs after and eventually met Tony Cooper at a real estate certification class. Cooper, a developer, introduced Burke to a world of acquiring distressed apartments and tax credits as well as income restricted properties.
After the apprenticeship with Cooper, Burke began working with the Tampa Housing Authority, where he spent seven years, rising to director of asset management in 2018. He joined Beneficial Communities in November 2019.
“Tracing back to my roots, it really made sense for me to continue down this path, and to try to provide communities and apartments for those who don’t make a lot of money but can still live in a decent, safe sanitary place,” he says.
“A nice apartment that they don’t have to worry about the door being kicked in or somebody shooting at them. A place they can be proud of.”
Name: Leonard Burke
City of Residence: Tampa
Employer: Beneficial Communities
Title: Director of Asset Management
Years in the area: 20
Marital Status/Children: Married; 2 kids
Alma Mater/Degree: University of South Florida/B.S. Finance
What community group or organization are you most involved with? AMIkids Tampa, Junior Achievement Tampa
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? I had a manufacturing job attaching broomsticks to the end of a broom. I quit after the lunch break.
What's your top tip for being productive? Organize your day listing everything you have to do. Next, prioritize your top 3 things that must get done that day and then knock those out. Once you get those done, then work the remaining items on the list.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? A food critic for new restaurants.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Boxing and trading stocks
Have you gone to the movies in 2021? If yes, what did you see? Yes, if you count watching movies on my couch. If not, then that would be a "No"!
What's the top item on your bucket list? Visit Africa, serve on a mission trip and take a safari tour
What's your favorite podcast? Urban Alternative" by Dr. Tony Evans
Where is your happy place? A date night with my beautiful wife, away from the kids, eating delicious food!
Describe yourself in three words: Connecter, funny, and personable
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Jeff Chacon. He has guided me professionally, personally and spiritually. He has been there for me at my lowest moments in life. I am forever grateful for fatherly love.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? Jeff taught me that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. The expertise and insight doesn't mean a thing to the people you work with unless they know and feel that you care about them. If people feel that you care about them, they will follow you anywhere you go. I have tried to put this lesson into practice at every leadership level God has blessed me with. Jeff has also instilled in me the importance of being a servant leader. I shouldn't get so high up that I am no longer willing to serve the people that I lead and take on the minuscule tasks. If that means getting my assistant a glass of water then I go get the water.
The other lesson I learned from Jeff is that whenever I am speaking with someone, give them my full attention and try to make them feel like the most important person in the room. Reason being, they are giving me his/her time and I shouldn't waste it because they can't get it back.
He reminds me to stay grounded spiritually. No amount of money or wealth can save my soul so I shouldn't get too caught up in those things. He shares with me to pursue the things that will allow me to store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust won't decay them. Lastly, he challenges me to never stop pursuing my wife's heart. I have to work to make her feel like the most important woman in my life. Next, I have been commissioned to spend quality time with my children because they grow up fast and one day they will be gone.