Member Profile: Walter B. Duke III, Walter Duke + Partners September 28, 2017
A self-described Army brat, Walter B. Duke III was born on New Year’s Day at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. For the first six years of his life, Walter’s Army-pilot father was stationed at various bases around the globe and so the family traveled with him wherever he was sent. When his father went to serve in the Vietnam war, Walter’s mother moved the family to Fort Lauderdale to be close to her parents who had lived in the area since 1956.
Walter grew up the South Florida way, on the water, fishing and boating with two uncles and an aunt who loved salt water fishing in the Atlantic and fresh water fishing in the Everglades and Chokoloskee. When his father returned from the war he became a commercial airline pilot and moved the family to nearby Hollywood, where they planted roots and became fixtures in the community. Mr. Duke was a major figure in little league and the youth sports scene in Hollywood, where he has a baseball field named after him at Rotary Park. Walter credits his father with teaching him the value of volunteering, teamwork, and leadership skills through his involvement in sports, and thanks his aunt and uncles for helping him to become a true steward of the marine industry.
Walter attended public school in Hollywood, including Hollywood Hills High where he played quarterback for the football team, shortstop for the baseball team, and was voted “Most Popular” in the senior superlatives. He learned the importance of hard work when he started his first company – mowing lawns at residential and commercial properties around town. He earned a business degree in real estate from the University of Florida in Gainesville, the only time he lived outside of Broward County as an adult, and obtained his pilot’s license. He contemplated a career as a pilot, following in his father’s footsteps, but ultimately decided on a career in real estate.
After graduating, Walter came back to his beloved South Florida home and worked briefly in the family business until he was hired by a local appraiser in 1985. From early on, Walter enjoyed the analytical aspect of real estate and found his niche in the appraisal and evaluation of commercial properties. The company, now known as Walter Duke + Partners, is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale with satellite offices in Tampa and West Palm Beach. In its 42nd year, the company has a broad general practice with four areas of specialty – one of which is the valuation of marinas and boatyards throughout Florida and in the islands. He feels especially privileged to work with people in the marine industry, who are extraordinarily hard working and ask only for a level playing field in which to operate and the opportunity to compete. He considers the appraisal profession an “old school” business that has improved through the implementation of operational efficiencies and greater market transparency, not unlike boatyard operations.
In 2007, Walter met his wife Lisa, who was a civic activist in Dania Beach. Walter, who until then stayed busy raising his children and running his business, started to wonder why Dania Beach wasn’t doing better, so he got involved in helping to move the City forward. Despite having no political background, Walter ran for and won a seat on the Dania Beach City Commission. In 2012, he ran for Mayor and won overwhelmingly, due in part to his background in boatyards and marinas, and advocating on the importance of the marine industry to the local economy.
Today, Walter and Lisa have moved back to Fort Lauderdale, where they are socially, civically, and charitably involved in the community, and where they hope to retire. They continue to raise their three children: 24-year-old Kate who is in her last semester of nursing school at Nova Southeastern University, (after attending UF and realizing she hated finance and real estate); Social Media expert and UF grad, Chloe who is 23; and awesome and amazing son Connor, 22, who is autistic. Walter considers the challenges of Connor’s early months in the intensive care unit when he was born, his open-heart surgery at age five, and his inability to verbally communicate until he was seven as a daily reminder of what is truly important in life.
As a candidate for the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, Walter rarely takes time off, but enjoys target practice and tries to work in time to shoot at a local range each week. He also shares his son’s love of reading books and enjoys spending time with him at his favorite place, the bookstore.