By Kate Irish Collins
PORTLAND — Being a successful auctioneer requires more than the ability to talk fast.
It also requires dedication and the ability to read people.
For those skills and more, Thomas Saturley, president of Portland-based Tranzon Auction Properties, was recently inducted into the National Auctioneers Association’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s a huge honor for me, as an auction professional, to be chosen (for the) … Hall of Fame,” Saturley said this week. “To follow other members of our profession, many of whom have served as mentors and heroes of mine, is a phenomenal privilege.”
Saturley lives in Falmouth with his wife, Ellie Baker, one of the founding members of the local accounting firm Baker, Newman and Noyes. He is a second-generation auctioneer and primarily conducts real estate auctions.
In addition to Portland, Tranzon operates 30 offices across the country, which means Saturley travels regularly to conduct auctions for clients.
With his induction into the hall of fame, Saturley “joins an elite group of auction professionals,” according to a press release. The hall was founded in 1961.
The induction ceremony was held during the auctioneer association’s annual conference, which was held this year in Columbus, Ohio, in mid-July.
Saturley said at first he did not realize he was the one being introduced “because it’s part of the custom and excitement for the (presenter) to try and keep everyone guessing for as long as possible.”
But eventually, he said, “there are just too many coincidences.”
Saturley became a full-time auctioneer in 1990, after first working as a lawyer, including a stint as a prosecutor in the Maine attorney general’s office.
He began serving on the auctioneers association board in 2002 and became chairman in 2016. During his time on the board, Saturley also received the Presidential Award of Distinction twice.
While Saturley has racked up professional honors during his nearly three decades as an auctioneer, he may be best known in local circles for his unflagging commitment to various charities.
That includes service on the board of directors for organizations such as The Opportunity Alliance and acting as co-chairman of the annual United Way fundraising campaign.
In addition, Saturley volunteers to conduct “dozens of charity auctions every year,” according to the press release. The next such event will be an auction at the MS Harborfest Regatta in Portland on Aug. 18.
Saturley was introduced to auctioneering by his father, a veteran of World War II, who, after the war, “traveled to the Midwest to auction school and used the methodology often during his business career,” Saturley said.
And now one of Saturley’s daughters is also taking up the tradition, becoming a third-generation auctioneer in Westport, Connecticut.
Saturley attended the Mendenhall School of Auctioneering in North Carolina one summer during law school, along with his younger brother.
While there, he said, he learned “the fundamentals,” including the “steps necessary to learn the art of the auctioneer’s chant.”
What Saturley said he most enjoys about being an auctioneer is the ability to “bring calm to chaos” and to assist clients facing “significant challenges to find solutions.”
His most memorable auction, Saturley said, was one he held in Bar Harbor on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Saturley was hired to conduct an auction for an oceanside hotel.
“We had all been glued to the TV (and all) the bidders were very much aware of what was happening in NYC, Washington and Pennsylvania,” he said. “We gathered on the beach (to hold) a moment of silence (and) collectively determined that as American citizens we would not be intimated by the terrorist attacks and continued to boldly bid without knowing what might be next for our nation.
“It was a great moment for me,” Saturley said, “and a testament as to what makes this country great.”