Florida Realtors® Announces New General Counsel

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Juana Watkins, J.D., will serve Florida Realtors® as its new general counsel and vice president of law and policy.

Florida Realtors logo (PRNewsFoto/Florida Realtors)

For the past several months, Watkins, 45, served the state association as its associate general counsel. She brings more than 16 years of leadership experience in legal, real estate and regulatory fields to the job, and is looking forward to her new role.

"A year ago, I could not have imagined that I’d be here," Watkins says. "I like to meet new challenges, and the role of Florida Realtors general counsel offers something new and exciting every single day. For example, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) – that scope – is very new to me. I know that I’ll continue to learn and grow professionally, which is important to me."

She built a career at the Division of Real Estate in the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), first as a senior attorney and then as the division’s chief attorney. From 2008-2011, Watkins was deputy director for DBPR’s Division of Real Estate; from 2011-2017, she headed the division as its director. In that capacity, she directed all regulatory operations for more than 370,000 real estate and appraiser licensees in the state, including education, licensing, investigation and prosecution. She managed an operating budget of $5 million and led a team of more than 70 staff members located at the Orlando headquarters and across nine regional offices throughout Florida.

Watkins earned her Juris Doctor degree from the Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, Fla., and her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. She first joined Florida Realtors in 2005, serving as a senior counsel and advising Realtor members on legal issues from 2005-2008.

What challenges may lie ahead for Watkins in the next year? First, she knows: "I have some really big shoes to fill – (Florida Realtors’ former general counsel, Margy Grant, is the new CEO) – and then there is the ever-changing real estate industry, of course," she says.

But Watkins has learned that challenges offer new opportunities, she says, something her children show her every day. As the proud mother of a 16-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy, she says her kids inspire her and humble her – and always remind her to be in the moment to just enjoy life’s journey.

Favorite sports or team: I love football. My team is the Seattle Seahawks; they’re just a feel-good team. And I root for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!

Favorite place to vacation: Pensacola Beach, all day, every day!

Favorite food: Seafood – any kind of seafood, especially fried

Favorite movie: The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Favorite cartoon character: Mulan

What kind of music do you listen to? I love Tamela Mann, Jill Scott and Beyoncé – I guess those are my top three.

Hobbies: I love to cook. I’m a Southern girl and everything is fried, but it’s so good. I enjoy going to the movies whenever I can. And I love to fish – my daddy always loves to fish, and he taught me to go fish out on the pier and offshore, wading out ’til about waist-deep. it’s something that I love to do with my kids, too. There’s something so peaceful and appealing about fishing.

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Lee Fry