Duryee Reconnects With People

June 24, 2002
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HOLLAND — After nearly two decades as a manager, Graham Duryee is “back on the street” and directly dealing with clients. And that’s exactly how he likes it.

Whether working with a young couple, or meeting colleagues or business associates at the coffee shop, Duryee says he has reconnected with the “people” side of the real estate business that he had largely left behind years ago when he moved into the ranks of management.

“I’m having fun. It’s different and it’s enjoyable, and I’m getting a little fresher look at what’s going on,” said Duryee, a former manager and now a full-time associate broker at the Holland office of Greenridge Realty Inc. who was he was named “Realtor of the Year” by the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors for his involvement and leadership in the organization.

The award is the latest accolade in a career the 57-year-old Duryee began when he decided to leave the law enforcement profession.

At the time, Duryee was a detective sergeant with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department in charge of the Juvenile Division that he had helped to form years earlier. He moved into police work in 1966 after graduation from Hope College and taking a job with the Ottawa County Probate Court.

That soon led to an opportunity to join the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and organize the department’s juvenile division, a position that gave Duryee the chance to pursue his interests of working with people, especially children and teen-agers.

While the job was a “great experience,” it was time-consuming. When John Tysse, a neighbor and college friend who at the time owned Woodland Realty in Holland, called to see if he was interested in changing careers, Duyree was interested, even though he wasn’t looking to make a career change.

“That got the wheels started in a different direction,” said Duryee, who sought the advice of an uncle who was a successful real estate agent in the suburbs of Chicago. His uncle urged him to pursue the opportunity.

Duryee also talked it over with then-Ottawa County sheriff, the late Bud Grysen, who also encouraged him to pursue the opportunity.

“He said, ‘there’s only one good job left in this department for you, and I’m running for it the next time,’” Duryee recalls.

Duryee joined Woodland Realty in early 1977 and worked there until 1982, when he and a group of partners formed Peregrine Ltd., a real estate agency where he served as sales manager. The partners merged Peregrine in 1986 with Timber Brook Realty, an agency that Tysse had started some time earlier.

Duryee was sales manager and a partner at Timber Brook through 1994, when the agency was acquired by Greenridge Realty in Grand Rapids. At Greenridge, Duryee served as sales manager of the Holland office from 1994 to 2000, when he was named vice president of sales for the agency’s lakeshore offices.

When Greenridge eliminated the position in May, Duryee decided to return to a sales position full time, leaving behind the rigors of management.

“I’m managing myself now,” he said. “It’s like when I was in police work, I’m back on the street dealing with people, and I like dealing with people.”

Even with the technological advancements that have radically changed the real estate industry in recent years, Duryee sees people skills as the No. 1 tool an agent needs to succeed in the business. Clients can use the technology to learn about the market and what’s available, but they still need an agent who they can trust to walk them through the process, he said.

“They still need the personal touch and connection with to the community and the access to the properties,” he said. “There’s still that one-on-one, face-to-face thing that’s necessary. You establish a rapport and then you move forward.

The interest in working with people, both one-on-one and on a broader basis, led Duryee pursue other interests during his career, beyond involvement in Realtor associations on a local, statewide and national level.

He’s been active in both the Holland Area and Zeeland chambers of commerce, and has served as board president since 1986 of Heritage Homes Inc., a non-profit agency that provides housing for developmentally and severely disabled persons in Ottawa and Allegan counties.

Duryee also was active in Ottawa County politics, winning election and re-election as the City of Holland’s representative to the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners from 1979 to 1986.

The public service, again, comes back to working with people.

“I just enjoy being in the people business,” he said.

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