Association of Progressive Rental Organizations | America’s Champion for Rent-to-Own

2024 Legislative Conference: Highlights from Capitol Hill

Since its inception in 1994, APRO’s Legislative Conference has been a cornerstone event for rent-to-own professionals nationwide. This year’s conference, held in late April in Washington DC, marked another milestone in advocating for the RTO industry.

The conference commenced with a warm welcome at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, where 77 attendees gathered for registration and a Welcome Reception, sponsored by Benefit Marketing Solutions. Attendees collected their conference materials, enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while they mingled and met with their teams to plan for their day on the hill.

APRO’s inaugural class of legislative fellows.

A new addition to the conference was the Legislative Fellowship Program, which mentored eleven legislative fellows sponsored by State Rental Dealer Associations and Ashley Furniture Industries to be champions and advocates for the industry.

Day two started with a hearty breakfast sponsored by TRIB Group and a keynote address. Charlie Keller, Chief of Staff for Ann Wagner from Missouri’s second district, emphasized the importance of building relationships with legislative staff. Fifteen teams representing 25 states, guided by experienced conference veterans, held 120 scheduled appointments, engaging with staffers across various roles. The day culminated in a group photo at the Capitol Building sponsored by Hudson Cook, followed by a Debrief Dinner.

Charles Smitherman presents custom lapel pins to veteran Legislative Conference attendees.

During the Debrief Dinner at the historic Daughters of the American Revolution headquarters, sponsored by Ashley Furniture Industries, APRO CEO Charles W. Smitherman, JD, PhD recognized the Board of Directors as the heart and the leadership of the organization. He then offered recognition of 21 attendees for their long-time attendance at the Legislative Conference, including five who have attended twenty or more years.

Attendees shared their experiences, setting the stage for reflections from both long-time participants and new fellows.

“Having a chance to walk those halls really was a dream come true,” said Legislative Fellow Phil Hamer, Director of Operations for Buddy’s Home Furnishings. “We were able to make an impact on a national level and be a part of possible change.”

Shannon Strunk shares his reflections from his day on the hill.

Baber Strunk Enterprises owners Shannon Strunk and Cynthia Baber-Strunk are both long-time conference veterans. Strunk was amazed that with their sixteen meetings, they didn’t meet one single person that was here during their last visit five years ago. He noted, “The need to come here every year and develop these relationships is so important. Consistency does matter.”

“Going into today I was incredibly nervous – and I had nothing to be nervous about,” said Legislative Fellow Alexandria Feuhrer, Assistant Manager for SKC Enterprises Inc. dba Rent One. “All of the talks we had were wonderful. One of my favorite parts was getting to meet people that were from my district. It was an amazing opportunity to be here as a Legislative Fellow.”

APRO Board VAC Liaison Mike Helton of Rivero, Gordimer & Company P.A., recounted his last meeting of the day, where the legislative aide already understood the business and knew exactly what purpose we serve. She said, “You don’t need to tell me anymore. When I was 10 years old, my family needed your transaction, and I remember walking in and picking out my first bedroom set, and it’s still in my family today, 15 years later.”

Smitherman concluded the evening with gratitude, saying, “Thank you all for being here. This was really awesome to see this group that cares this much to take the time to come and do this. We look forward to doing this again next year.”

Upcoming Events