Go forth and retire

Ted Hugghins, president of Abstract Associates of Iowa, announces departure

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Ted Hugghins, president of Abstract Associates of Iowa, poses at the company's Fort Dodge office inside the Wells Fargo Center, 822 Central Ave., Suite 304. Hugghins has announced his retirement.

Fast, accurate and friendly.

You could describe Ted Hugghins with these three words.

“His wife Cathy told us once that they would leave work at the same time from the same location, and when she got home he would be there already, in his recliner dozing when she walked in the door,” said Danielle Michalski, with a laugh.

“Ted is for sure ‘fast,’ fast with a new idea or a way to point out something we could do more efficiently, and ‘accurate’ ranks up there also. He spends a lot of his time checking and double checking our work and can quickly point out what we need to correct,” Michalski said.

The mantra, “Fast, Accurate and Friendly” has also become the distinction of Abstract Associates of Iowa Inc., started by Hugghins and partner, Jerry Schnurr III, in September 2009 during the height of the housing debacle of 2008. The idea came to the friends after Hugghins formerly worked with New York Life and Gunderson Funeral Home.

“Jerry and I were together one evening out on his deck, in late summer of 2009 sharing ideas and a martini,” Hugghins said. “Jerry said, lets start an abstract company. If you really want to work; your service and operations background, coupled with your attention to detail may fit nicely.”

At the time, there was only one abstract company serving Webster County. Jerry and his former law partner, Jim Fitzgerald, had dreamed of an abstract company for over 10 years. Fitzgerald’s father had abstracted in Fort Dodge for 40+ years and Jerry and Jim wanted to continue his dad’s legacy.”

Hugghins replied, ”OK, let’s do it!”

The next day the pair contacted Candy Robinson, with NorthCentral Title in Humboldt, who in turn led them to Kathy Vosika, a “legend” in the abstract and title search business.

“She endorsed our enthusiasm, creativity and ability to seek a new opportunity,” Hugghins said. “Kathy found time to guide us and later joined our payroll in our Fort Dodge office.”

In addition to Vosika, Carolyn Sandvig was the first Abstract Associate to join the company.

“She was a typing whiz,” he said, “It was a great fit for our company, and she informed me that she already had abstracting experience. Her high standards of accuracy are still the focus of this business.”

Abstract Associates now has offices in Webster County, Calhoun County, Wright County and most recently Franklin County, as Franklin County Abstract Company, a division of Abstract Associates of Iowa, Inc. In addition, the Webster County Home office has relocated into a new expanded space, still located in the Wells Fargo Center, on the third floor.

Since its creation in 2009, the company has continued to see substantial growth, and continues to be the abstract company of choice for many area realtors, attorneys and lenders and the clients they serve.

“This year especially, we have seen some serious growth as far as our workload goes. We have always been a company to work our absolute hardest at accommodating our clients. Our associates take deadlines and our workload very seriously, and I think that is what sets our company apart from others in this business,” Hugghins said. “And what makes our business so successful is the relationships we have built with our clients. That’s where the ‘Friendly’ comes in. I don’t think there’s an associate in our office who doesn’t have a connection with our clients. We truly care about them, and the work they need done.”

Accuracy in the abstracting business can make or break a deal for a land owner, and Hugghins knows that this is the constant objective and driving force. That accuracy has been the focus of many aspects, including the advancement of modern digital title search products, designed to make abstracing faster than ever before.

“Our associates strive for perfection in this business, it’s a key factor in land transfer. Even a comma out of place can change everything,” Hugghins said, “We take this very seriously, and over time, we have tweaked our process to ensure that we are providing the most accurate, quality product possible.”

After working to build a successful abstract company for almost 12 years, Hugghins has made the decision to retire.

“I wanted to wait until I could maximize social security at 70. Men in my family have been fortunate to have lived into their 90s. I have always thought about and planned for retirement. The kids have completed college, married and have begun developing their family life and their futures,” Hugghins said, ” I married the love of my life and now we can do some things we have talked about. There comes a time when you feel like you just need to ‘get out of the way.’ I see the good things that are happening here. Every associate works diligently, every day, to better themselves in our profession. They ‘own their work’ like it’s their company. I am very proud. Our company is in good hands.”

Hugghin’s work history in Fort Dodge, however, did not begin with Abstract Associates.

His longest career stretch in the community was working as the store manager of our local JCPenney.

“As the local Penney manager, this community embraced me and my young family with open arms,” Hugghins said, “I quickly had a seat with the former Chamber of Commerce Board, which in turn developed into the Greater Fort Dodge Area Growth Alliance, which I currently serve as an ambassador. I also served on United Way Board, I became active in Noon Rotary Club and became active in the Crossroads Mall management. I am also currently active in our vibrant church family at First Presbyterian Church, serving on the Church Foundation.”

For Hugghins, a valuable lesson learned was the “Golden Rule.”

“JCPenney began as The Golden Rule Store in 1902, with Matthew 7:12 ‘Do unto others as you have them do unto you,’ as a motto,” Hugghins said, “I adopted that scripture-based approach to my business acumen at an early age, 16 years old, and to this day I weigh my actions and those of our associates against ‘The Golden Rule.’ This motto is what has influenced me well into this current business atmosphere, as well as personally.”

After so much time being active in the Fort Dodge community, Hugghins has seen a multitude of positive changes.

“The growth at the Labs, the clean up improvements in the community, the growth of Iowa Central and the Lundgren Windfarm Project, those have been some of the biggest changes I’ve seen,” Hugghins said, “There is so much, I have an entire list. The OHV Park and our trail system are a few of our community’s hidden gems. The people that we draw in for these amazing places is really something to be proud of.”

Hugghins is a native Texan, growing up in Midland, Texas, through Distributive Education in high school established a career with JCPenney for 33 years, 8 months working in thirteen (13) different locations in various management positions. He and his wife Cathy, moved to Fort Dodge in October 1993 from Wylie, Texas (Dallas area) and have three children, son Seth Hugghins (Jaymie), and their son Hudson a first grandchild, son Luke Hugghins (Lexie) and daughter Hope Hunt (Zac).

As retirement approaches, Hugghins and Schnurr have made some changes to management structure within Abstract Associates, establishing an executive board and named Danielle Michalski, CLTP, as manager of Abstract Associates of Iowa Inc. and Abby Dorsey, as assistant manager.

Hugghins and Schnurr will remain as owners of Abstract Associates of Iowa Inc.

“Danielle and Abby both have extensive knowledge in abstracting, they have both spent a lot of time training, and getting first hand experience with the title search business. Not only that, they both work hard to grow their knowledge in the business by working directly with our clients, make sure that our company continues to grow and change as the industry changes,” Hugghins said, “I have confidence in them both continuing to grow; making this company better every day. I can also say at this point, Abstract Associates of Iowa has the most experienced Abstractors in all of the counties we serve, and that I am incredibly proud of their professionalism and attention to details.”

“Ted has really taught me so much in my time as an Abstractor already, and I’m excited to continue to grow our company. We have so much more to accomplish, and the group of associates that we have in all of our offices could not be a better group of people to work with. It really makes this journey of leading our team one that I am truly honored to have,” Michalski said. “His knowledge in not just land transfer, but in all aspects of business has really been invaluable.”

Michalski graduated from Buena Vista University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and psychology. She has been a Certified Land Title Professional for 7 years, and has been with Abstract Associates since 2012. Michalski resides in Manson, and has four children. She will oversee the entire company.

Dorsey has been with Abstract Associates since June 2016. She has a degree from Iowa Central Community College. Dorsey’s role will focus on the counties outside of Webster. For Dorsey, the challenge of land transfer makes coming to work every day rewarding.

“This is really a job that is challenging, but one that I really love. I enjoy being here every day, I’m not sure that many people can say that, that they have truly found a job they love,” Dorsey said.

In addition to Michalski and Dorsey, Abstract Associates has 11 associates, and is continuing to grow.

As Hugghins shifts from the normal day to day lifestyle to one a little bit more relaxed, he offers this advice to both his fellow associates, and others in our community:

“Visionaries should ask themselves, ‘Can I help our community and those who live here?'” Hugghins said, “Focus on the details of how you will get started. Survey the market, ask questions of those you love and trust. Always use a realtor for land dealings. Talk to your banker about your dreams. Listen and take notes.”


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