Deborah Charlton was taken by surprise when she learned she was a finalist for the nonprofit National Association of Women Business Owners’ EPIC Awards. “I don’t know who nominated me,” says Charlton, CEO of PMR Companies, a property and asset management firm headquartered in Louisville. “Each year, I see the gracious women who have done so much,” she says. “I was very humbled to be selected.”
Charlton’s path has been a long road – literally. The Louisville native had been living in Houston for two decades and working as the chief operating officer of multifamily development firm Flagship Properties. That changed in 2001 when Charlton moved home to be with her aging parents, taking her husband, Ron, and their grown kids with her. “I’ve always loved it here. Even when I was taking job transfers, my heart was in Louisville.”
That love of place and properties was a perfect fit when Charlton opened Property Management Resources (now PMR) in the spring of 2002. Today, PMR’s 200 employees manage approximately 8,000 residential apartment units in Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri and Texas.
The ever-changing scenery is Charlton’s favorite part of working at PMR. “No two days are the same. My day could be ‘fire, blood or flood,’” she says, referring to incidents involving a fire, a death or a burst pipe. “So we’re on call 24/7. Our day does not stop at 6.”
Charlton and company are their own kind of first responder team; PMR found housing for more than 500 families displaced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and, before that, Charlton herself helped facilitate cleanup and rebuilding after Hurricane Andrew pummeled Florida in 1992. “Those are the toughest times,” she says. “People have lost everything.” Even those who stayed behind in the regional offices jumped in to help. “I can’t describe all the great things they did [during Katrina],” Charlton says. Due to collection efforts across all PMR’s offices, the company was able to send “truckloads” of materials to Houston to help evacuees set up housekeeping. “People of Louisville have big hearts.”
Even when winds are calm, Charlton enjoys being out in the field. “I do have a business to run, but the residents are our bread and butter,” she says. Her example inspires residents to also give back. “If we’re collecting for the needy, the soldiers, every property has a box set up in the office, and people actively participate,” she says, noting that in one 130-unit building in Evansville, residents collected over 500 coats for the homeless. “We try to [cultivate] an emotional tie to the community.”
Working alongside Charlton at PMR are son Derek VanVactor, vice-president of business development, daughter April Charlton, chief operating officer, and daughter Amy Cordoba, PMR’s director of special projects. Deborah and Ron live in Crescent Hill.
Members of the Louisville office, which will celebrate its first anniversary at the Baxter Avenue location on March 17, are working on a St. Patrick’s Parade float – a challenging but fun task of which Charlton is happy to be a part. “I always worked hard, and said if I slept well at night, I’d done a good day’s work.”
The 19th Annual EPIC Awards, honoring NAWBO’s Woman Business Owner of The Year, will take place Thursday, March 7. For more information, visit www.nawbolouisville.org.
PMR Companies is located at 963 Baxter Ave. in the Highlands. For more information, visit www.pmrcompanies.com.