Courtesy Oakwood Homes

After more than 30 years, Oakwood Homes’ co-founder Pat Hamill will be transitioning from CEO to strategic advisor, beginning June 14.

Hamill helped start Oakwood Homes in 1991 with Larry Canarelli and Robert Sanderman. The company has since grown to build more than 20,000 homes in 14 communities across Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.

“When good companies grow, they look different,” states Hamill in his company leadership announcement. “Three decades later, Oakwood looks different. I also look a little different. And moving forward, my role will be different.”

As strategic advisor, Hamill will dedicate more of his time to the BuildStrong Education Foundation, in addition to occasionally collaborating with Oakwood Homes to continue to create more attainable housing in Colorado.

To learn more details, BUILDER spoke with Hamill about the succession plan, his greatest CEO accomplishments, and his future goals. See his insight below.

This couldn’t have been an easy decision for you, what encouraged you to make it? Why now?

Every good leader knows when it’s time to make room for others to lead. The timing is right both for Oakwood Homes, as well as for me and my journey as I look ahead to what is next. We are fortunate to have a wealth of talent here that will take this company to the next level.

Ryan Smith, who is our current president of home building, will begin leading our executive team as chief operating officer. Amy Schwartz, who has been instrumental in shaping our philanthropy and setting the stage for the BuildStrong Education Foundation, will serve as our new vice president of social responsibility and community partners. And finally, Jamie Van Leeuwen will serve as the new managing director of the BuildStrong Education Foundation, taking over from Amy as she moves on to her new role. Jamie brings extensive philanthropic, nonprofit, and public sector leadership experience, including serving in the administrations of Denver Mayor and later Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper for more than 15 years.

This formidable group brings unparalleled industry and cross-sector expertise to both Oakwood Homes and the communities where we work. I am both grateful and excited for the opportunity to work with this innovative team in my new role.

With this transition I am ready to spend more time channeling my entrepreneurial spirit into the BuildStrong Education Foundation and my other community endeavors that involve supporting education and workforce development. I want to spend more time mentoring and less time in meetings. As for the business, the future of Oakwood Homes is bright! The company is embarking on its next chapter, and I am excited to play a new role.

Under our capable leadership team and with the resources and expertise of Berkshire Hathaway and Clayton Homes, Oakwood Homes will continue to thrive as we remain deeply committed to making homeownership attainable for all.

What will your new role as Oakwood’s new strategic advisor entail?

As strategic advisor, I will work closely with the Oakwood Homes leadership team and the communities where we build to continue to provide high-quality, attainable housing. For example, it’s important to me that teachers and first responders can afford to live in the communities where they work. One of the many things I am proud of is our commitment at Oakwood Homes to produce a superior product for less. This helps build healthy and thriving communities by offering accessible and personalized homes at every budget.

We know that homeownership is key to building generational wealth. One of the unique ways Oakwood Homes helps prospective homeowners achieve this is through our Homebuyers Club, a free program that gives people the resources and knowledge to be financially ready to purchase a home. The Homebuyers Club is a great example of our superior customer service, unwavering commitment to our customers, and dedication to an attainable, rewarding and seamless home buying experience.

The future at Oakwood Homes is bright and I intend to be a part of it. There is mentoring and community development work that I want to lean into, and I will have more time to do that in my new role. I guess you might say that at Oakwood Homes, the strategic advisor is about more mentoring and less meetings! And along the way we are going to take Oakwood Homes to the next level.

Where do you plan to shift your time and attention? Any specific future goals?

In my new role, one of my priorities is to focus a lot of my time on the BuildStrong Education Foundation, working alongside Van Leeuwen. We both believe that the key to good community development comes through collaboration and working together, and we will work across sectors to build out our education and workforce development platforms. At the same time, we are looking at innovative models to drastically increase access to affordable housing both in Colorado and across the country.

We just returned from Charlotte, North Carolina, where we launched our sixth BuildStrong Academy, and we are starting to see the community and economic impact of training people to build careers in construction. Our inaugural Denver location, which opened in 2017, will be moving to the Community College of Aurora’s new Center for STEM, Power Mechanics, and Applied Technologies in fall 2025. We are planning to have 20 academy locations open across the country and train one million new construction trade workers by 2037. It’s an ambitious goal, but we know that BuildStrong Academy is a vehicle that has the capacity to fill big gaps in the labor market for skilled construction and home building trade workers, as well as preparing people for rewarding, fulfilling careers.

In my new role, I can color outside the lines a bit more and think about ways that philanthropy can leverage new resources for affordable housing, jobs, and education to truly transform communities where people live and work. There are so many opportunities to be innovative and identify new solutions to old problems and I want to be a part of that!

How have you prepared the company for this leadership transition?

I think good leaders and good companies are always preparing their organizations for change. Any company that relies on one person is very vulnerable. At Oakwood Homes, we believe in the power of the team and there is not a single person at this company who doesn’t bring something important to the table.

Ryan Smith, our current president of home building, will become Oakwood Homes' chief operating officer and will lead our executive team and company as we work toward continuing to grow and expand with what we do best: building communities. Ryan has been with Oakwood for seven years. I couldn’t be more pleased with my successor and look forward to supporting him in this new role. He has what it takes for Oakwood to grow!

Amy Schwartz joined Oakwood Homes in 2008 as executive director of the BuildStrong Education Foundation, our nonprofit arm which helps build educational programs and initiatives, including professional development, student recognition, new school development, and the creation of collaborative public/private partnerships. In her new role as Oakwood Homes' vice president of social responsibility and community partners, Amy will lean into the world of public and private partnerships. Her deep bench and extensive experience at this company will take us to the next level.

Our new BuildStrong Education Foundation managing director, Jamie Van Leeuwen, is a distinguished leader and advocate in public policy, community development, and social justice. Jamie has been a community and government advisor for Oakwood Homes as we started to think about how to really grow into the affordable housing space. He understands the art of collaboration and strategic partnerships, and his extensive networks will serve us well. We are very much aligned with his values and emphasis around making sure that there is a seat at the table for everyone in each community where we work.

What do you consider your biggest achievement during your tenure as CEO?

The proudest accomplishment of my career also happens to be one of the biggest challenges. My work in Denver’s Green Valley Ranch taught me so much about what it means to be a builder. Not just a home builder, but a community builder.

We built quality homes where teachers, police officers, and health care professionals can afford to live in the same neighborhoods where they work. And we built quality schools like the Denver School of Science and Technology. Looking back, it was one of my proudest accomplishments, but good community development is not easy. It takes time and commitment and passion. We need to continue to invest in communities like Green Valley Ranch moving forward.

How has the company's strategy evolved under your leadership?

Our vision at Oakwood Homes has remained the same since I started the company in 1991. Every day for the past 33 years, we’ve worked to not just build homes, but to also build spaces where families can grow and thrive. When you do it right, these spaces become communities where parents take their kids to their first day of school and neighbors become lifelong friends. And when you create high-quality homes, those high-quality homes grow in value and create wealth. And they change lives.

How do you hope your tenure will be remembered by the employees and stakeholders?

I hope they will remember what we accomplished together. Oakwood Homes is not about one person. It is about the team of people who come to work every day to create spaces for people to live and work. Oakwood Homes is just getting started and we need each of them at the table! We have enjoyed many successes over our first three decades and these have set the foundation for this company to grow.

What advice would you give to the next generation of home building leaders?

I think the home building industry is navigating a unique moment in time. For many, owning a home has never seemed more out of reach. As home builders, there is an opportunity to seize the moment and figure out how to dramatically increase access to affordable housing.

At Oakwood Homes, we do this through vertical integration, efficient operations, and strategic partnerships to make homeownership a reality. Owning a home is much more than just a roof over your head; it brings stability, community, proximity to exceptional education, and builds generational wealth for families. It is important to me that home builders around the country understand the magnitude of what they do and the positive impact they can have on communities.