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“We had lived in West Virginia and Virginia on the outskirts of the coal fields,” she says. “I had sold our houses before, and I was deputy treasurer for the County of Lee. I sold our house there, and we moved to Kingsport.” When her children started school, Hills enrolled at East Tennessee State University. “ETSU had a great real estate program; you could earn a certificate in one year. I took business law, real estate law, principles, property management—about seven courses. I really enjoyed it.”

As a TREC commissioner, Hills views real estate education as critical. “Speaking for myself, not for the entire commission, I think the standards should be higher,” she says. “I’m grandfathered, and I continue to take classes; it’s just important to me. One year I took 50 hours. Not everyone does that. Personally, I wish we didn’t have grandfathering.”

When “poorly written contracts” cross her desk, Hills says, it underscores the importance of education. “The good thing about practicing real estate is that you see it day to day. I think the standards will rise eventually, but I don’t know how long it will take.”

Hills says it’s “humbling” to see applicants appear before TREC who have prior convictions (felonies, theft, theft of property) and are seeking a new path. “It reminds you that we can all have a past,” she says. “The effect of seeing people trying to change their lives in another direction, how they’ve gotten to that point, has been the most surprising.”

With a blend of personalities on TREC, Hills tries to bring an ordered, problem-solving focus. “I’m not very artsy or creative. With me it’s like measuring a house. I look at it, I do it, and it all makes sense to me: an offer, a contract, the process. This group of commissioners all come from different walks of life, but we are engaged and take it seriously.”

Hills is proud mom to two grown children, Patrick and Clarissa. Clarissa is a broker who continues to work with Diane after duo founded Southern Dwellings..

“She grew up going to TAR conventions,” Hills says of Clarissa. “In high school she could explain the process, how local associations work, how TAR and NAR function. We are the only mother and daughter who have both been presidents of our local association and REALTOR® of the Year” with the Northeast Tennessee Association of REALTORS® (NETAR).

Hills also is blessed with four grandchildren, born within 22 months and ranging in age from two-and-a-half to one. “They all came at once, and that’s the end of them!” she says. Her Portuguese water dog, Gigi, is another cherished family member.

Among other civic roles, Hills was a member of Kingsport’s zoning-appeals board before stepping down in light of her role with TREC. Community involvement is important to her as well, from Meals on Wheels to the American Red Cross. “I love Meals on Wheels,” she says. “We take Gigi, we take the grandbabies with us, we enjoy serving that way.”

Commissioner Marcia Franks Commissioner Johnny Horne Commissioner Diane Hills Tennessee Real Estate Commission

Commissioner Hills is a Kingsport REALTOR®, broker with Southern Dwellings. Southern Dwellings was established by Diane Hills and Clarissa Brown in April 2013 to provide high-quality real estate services to Kingsport and the surrounding Tri-Cities area. The mother-daughter duo have over three decades of realty experience between them, and they pride themselves on offering attentive, personalized and knowledgeable services to all of their clients.

Commissioner Hills attended Ferrum College, a small Methodist school outside Roanoke, where she studied pre-dental hygiene. Later, however, dabbling in local politics and relocating several times with her coal-industry husband she found herself making a career move into real estate.