NAGLREP Northern Nevada’s A.J. Palomar: Making a Difference
The NAGLREP Northern Nevada chapter has become one of the leading voices in the thriving Reno LGBT community led by chapter President A.J. Palomar.
Since starting last year, the chapter has partnered with a variety of LGBT organizations including working with HRC in hosting the city’s Trans Day of Awareness last month.
For those who know A.J., his leadership in making things happen is not a surprise. He has been an advocate since launching his professional career.
A.J. grew up in Atherton, CA, a Bay Area suburb, before moving to LA.
After a couple of years, he traded the glitz of the City of Angels for the quiet of Pocatello, Idaho, where his best friend lived. It was there that A.J. met his future husband Steven. The next move was to Reno so he and Stephen could be closer to A.J.’s grandmother.
A.J. then launched a 13-year career in banking that began with Wells Fargo. The company had embraced diversity and welcomed A.J. launching one of their first LGBT employee resource group (ERG) chapters.
He eventually moved to U.S. Bank where he stayed until the recession soured his love of the industry.
“It was definitely difficult to go through the recession and I didn’t like what I saw in finance,” A.J. said. “It was also really hard to see so many lose their homes to foreclosures and short sales.”
At the same time he was growing disgruntled, he and Steven bought their first home.
“I had a terrible experience with our agent,” A.J. remembered. “She was awful and I knew I could do a much better job. I quietly got my license and when I told my district manager I wanted to also work in real estate, he said it was a conflict of interest to be in sales at bank at also in real estate. He said I couldn’t do both. That made the choice very easy. There was no other option.”
He worked at several Reno area real estate firms before working as an agent and then technology trainer at Keller Williams. He moved to Chase International Realty last year.
Along the way, a friend asked him to be the Program Director for the local Women’s Council and A.J.’s desire to help people returned.
“My friend thought it would be a good fit for me while enabling them to bring more diversity to the group and the marketplace. There was not really a diverse presence in real estate.”
When NAGLREP member Herman Chan came to Reno to speak, the seeds of a new NAGLREP chapter began.
“Herman and I hit it off and started talking about NAGLREP,” A.J. said. “He introduced me to Jeff (Berger) and I realized I absolutely wanted to start a chapter that represented me and people like me in the area. If you are gay, where could you belong? Women’s Council isn’t a natural fit. NAGLREP is.”
With A.J. at the helm, the chapter quickly grew and became a recognized leader in the LGBT community with a concerted effort to reach the trans community.
“We have a rather large trans community in our area,” A.J. said. “Unfortunately as a global LGBT community, a lot of people push trans to the side. It’s so new. I have a lot of trans friends who realize that I am there to support them. That’s become a passion for me to make sure than our trans community is protected. We are in a very volatile time. It impassions me to know they have support.”
Tesla’s new Giga Factory has provided the region with better paying jobs that an already large LGBT community in Reno has taken advantage including several trans people A.J. knows who are saving towards homeownership.
“It’s really nice to see them learn about homeownership,” A.J said. “They didn’t know they were represented by NAGLREP. They didn’t know they have agents and vendors who are going to look at them as clients, as people, not trans. Some of the trans people I have met were just afraid to consider homeownership.”
The NAGLREP chapter’s work in the community, led by members John “Goose” Ritter, Michelle Wood and Sam Olsen, was noticed leading to the joint effort with HRC to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility that featured a video from U.S. Senator Cortez Masto.
“The community saw us as a champion, A.J. said. “NAGLREP is available to help members of the community when they need housing help.”
NAGLREP has also impacted A.J.
“My involvement with NAGLREP has changed I how interact with people,” he said. “It definitely forced me to be involved and get involved in issues that I might not have known about or take a stance in. Being an advocate for those who might not have the same privileges as me.”