President & CEO, OC United Way
Max L. Gardner is the President and CEO of Orange County United Way. In this position, Mr. Gardner leads the 91-year-old health and human services organization toward improving lives and strengthening Orange County by focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life: Education, Income, Health and Housing. By investing in Orange County’s children, families and individuals, United Way helps people create pathways to self-sufficient futures through education and training. A former Orange County United Way Board member and Co-Chair of the Tocqueville Society, Mr. Gardner was appointed President and CEO in July 2011.
A 10-year community-wide action plan was launched in 2014 to make a measurable difference in the lives of the people who live and work in Orange County. Under Mr. Gardner’s direction, United Way launched FACE 2024, a collaborative approach advancing the common good by Funding innovative programs, Advocating for the voiceless, Collaborating with those who have the passion and expertise to get things done and Educating community leaders about critical issues facing Orange County.
Prior to joining United Way, Mr. Gardner was President of Irvine Company Apartment Communities, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Irvine Company. In this role, Mr. Gardner was responsible for all aspects of the company business including development, construction, acquisitions, property management and finance for a portfolio in excess of 40,000 apartments in more than 100 communities. The Irvine Company is a century-old, privately held company best known for its comprehensive focus on quality-of-life in the balanced, sustainable communities it has planned and developed on the Irvine Ranch in Orange County, California. After 11 years of service, Mr. Gardner retired from the Irvine Company in July 2010.
Mr. Gardner, who has more than 30 years of real estate experience, previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Bay Apartment Communities, where he also served as a member of the company’s Board of Directors. After Bay’s merger with Avalon Properties, he had overall responsibility for development and acquisitions in the western region for the newly combined company, AvalonBay. Prior to that, Mr. Gardner spent seven years at Trammell Crow Residential, first as Regional Partner of Finance for the west coast, and subsequently as President and CEO.
Mr. Gardner serves on a number of boards and committees including: the Orange County Funders Roundtable (immediate Past Chair), the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness, the OC Forum and United Ways of California. In addition, he is a member of the Orange County Business Council and the UCI Chief Executive Roundtable. Mr. Gardner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and a master’s degree from the Business School at Georgia State University. He and his wife reside in Irvine, California and have four grown children.