After years of tremendous growth, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers is confronting serious questions about the trade group's future.

Members are wrestling with fundamental issues such as how the group should be structured, where it should be based, and who should lead it.

"The decisions they make now will determine whether or not they are going to be an ongoing force in Washington and nationwide," said Michael J. Hoogendyk, the association's former executive vice president.

Decisions will be reached within the next three to four months, members said.

Already the association has decided to splinter its education and licensing arm into a separate company.

The new National Association of Mortgage Brokers Education Foundation will be run separately from the parent trade group. Cathlyn Michel will be its president and chief executive.

Board members feel this is the best way to emphasize mortgage broker education and certification, said Tony Davis, president of Preferred Mortgage Associates, Downers Grove, Ill.,

The group's self-evaluation began in September, when Mr. Hoogendyk, who ran the day-to-day operations, shocked members by resigning abruptly.

Then, late last month, the group's president, Gary W. Winslow, also resigned suddenly.

Mr. Winslow left because market pressures required him to dedicate more time to Coast Exchange Mortgage Services Inc., the Bellevue, Wash., brokerage of which he is president.

The group's president-elect, Charles E. Eck, who is president of Lincoln Mortgage and Funding, Schaumburg, Ill., has taken over for Mr. Winslow.

Mr. Hoogendyk said in September that he was leaving the association because "it was time for a change."

He was instrumental in developing the association from an inconsequential outfit of 440 members in 1984 to its current standing as a major trade group for lenders with about 5,500 members.

He also greatly expanded the association's network of statewide organizations.

Mr. Hoogendyk is now responsible for business development at Homepoint Mortgage Co., the Phoenix brokerage he started with his wife in 1984.

Mr. Hoogendyk has been replaced temporarily by Andrea Waas. But the organization is now trying to determine who it wants to replace him full time and even what the parameters of the position will be.

Part of that is ascertaining where the association will be based.

The growing prominence of the association's Washington lobbying office has made some members call for the group to move its headquarters from Phoenix to the nation's capital.

A task force is currently deciding on the matter.

A source familiar with the trade group said that whether or not the group should move to Washington depends on its focus as well as the potential move's economic value.

If it moves to Washington, the association runs the risk of losing touch with its members around the country and ruining the further growth it is poised for, the source said. If it doesn't head east, it might sacrifice some lobbying power.

"I think everything that is going on is positive," said Mary J. Burr, a staff vice president with the group.

"Of course, I'm an optimist."

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