One-on-one with Jessica Tonjes: 'At the end of the day, people know the last name but I still try to forge my own way'


Shelby Perea
Real Estate Reporter, Albuquerque Business First

Tonjes: it's a name Albuquerque knows well with Gary Tonjes as the president of Albuquerque Economic Development. But it's also a name Albuquerque's real estate industry was introduced to throughout the year, as Gary Tonjes' daughter Jessica Tonjes made a big career shift.

Jessica Tonjes was previously in the nonprofit realm for about four years, serving as the membership and communications manager for Explora Science Center and Children's Museum of Albuquerque and as the director of development at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. But she has since joined Cauwels & Stuve Realty & Development Advisors LLC as an associate broker, seeking a change and something out of her comfort zone.

From nonprofit to real estate

"I thought someone would be a better fit at it," she said about leaving her previous positions.

She found herself on the hunt for a new career and reached out to Cauwels & Stuve Principal and Founder Jeff Stuve, asking for an inside look into real estate.

"I told him to give me the good, the bad and the ugly," she laughed.

After an initial meeting, Stuve asked Jessica Tonjes to meet the team – something she called "an accidental interview." From there, she said, she must have hit it off with the other brokers because she was given a job offer.

The company is No. 11 on our Commercial Real Estate Firms List with $21.5 million in 2016 commercial transactions value.

Since accepting, Jessica Tonjes said it's been a big shift, but one that allowed her to hone a skill set she already had including being flexible with changing markets and working in sales. New things she enjoys about her role include each day being a little different, getting to meet so many new people and getting the inside scoop on Albuquerque.

"For our age group, we don't have to be stuck on one career track," she said. "We are more fluid with our career."

But for now Jessica Tonjes says she is enjoying the real estate world and "could see this being a long-term career."

How she got here

While Jessica Tonjes was born in Missouri, Albuquerque has become her home and she said she has no plans on leaving the state, citing the love of the outdoors and New Mexican food as big factors.

The 28-year-old received her bachelors degree from the University of New Mexico in communications. She said she was inspired by her father who was also a communications major and she knew it would be a versatile field of study. Her age and that versatility were factors in her career swap as well, she explained.

Throughout her career and her life, she noted Gary Tonjes was always supportive without pushing her to be too much like him. She recalled some of his advice has stuck with her today including: "To those who much is given, much is expected."

"At the end of the day, people know the last name but I still try to forge my own way," Jessica Tonjes said.

What you didn't know about her

As if she didn't have a full plate already, Jessica Tonjes told Business First she also has had a wedding planning business on the side for about 1.5 years.

Jessica Tonjes is an associate broker at Cauwels & Stuve Realty & Development Advisors LLC.