First Team Executive
Chief Executive Officer & Founder
Cameron Merage’s front–line experiences as a top agent perfected his precise skills, nurtured his unrivaled understanding of consumers’ needs, and gained him the professional resources necessary for success in the real estate industry. Early in his career, Mr. Merage personally completed hundreds of transactions involving millions of dollars of sales volume during his five years in home sales. He parlayed his hands–on experience into a long–term strategic vision for First Team, based on an unwavering commitment to client service, value creation, and unmatched knowledge of the local market.
Following his graduation with a B.S. degree in Business and Marketing from Sacramento State University, Mr. Merage began his career in 1971 in Newport Beach, California, and consistently achieved top sales records with a leading real estate corporation. An innovator by nature, he founded First Team® Real Estate in 1976 and rapidly established his reputation as one of the top–producing real estate professionals in Southern California.
The Merage family is a philanthropic pillar of Orange County, with a long history of diverse humanitarian, academic, and cultural giving that has left an indelible mark on the community. Cameron Merage has remained true to his philanthropic roots, founding and personally overseeing “First in Our Hearts,” a charitable foundation that, he explained, “exists to build on and focus First Team Real Estate’s long tradition of working to make life better in the communities we serve.”
A brilliant entrepreneur, Mr. Merage enjoys meeting the new challenges that arise in a constantly evolving real estate industry. His passion for harnessing innovation and creativity have helped to increase the First Team market share and position his company at the top of its industry.
Chief Operating Officer, Broker of Record
Michele was born and raised in New Jersey, coming to California during her enlistment in the United States Marine Corp where she served as a C-130 aircraft mechanic at Marine Corp Air Station El Toro. After putting herself through school at Chapman University she decided not to reenlist, but instead try her hand in the real estate market. She got her license and began working at a local office where she became a top producer, and eventually earned her broker’s license. Michele became a real estate investor owning over 100 units of apartments in Long Beach and although managing properties was a full time job, Michele wanted to help and teach other agents how to build a sustainable career in real estate and build wealth as well, so she decided to open her brokerage up to hiring agents. Star Estates started with 2 agents and grew 130 agents with offices in Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Dana Point, and Aliso Viejo. Star Estates was voted one of Orange County Top Woman Owned businesses of 2015 by The Orange County Business Journal.
Star Estates has now merged with First Team Real Estate, with Michele as our Chief Operating Officer and Broker of Record. She also serves as a Federal Political Coordinator for the National Association of Realtors, as well as a director for the California Association of Realtors and the Orange County Association of Realtors. She is a past- president for the Women’s Council of Realtors South Orange County chapter. Michele is an activist for small business issues and private property rights. Michele recently authored her first book “From Zero to Hero, achieve your dreams through the power of self-discipline”
Exec Vice President Business Development
Rich Casto has a diverse history in the real estate industry. He started as a top 1% agent in the country averaging close to 200 transactions a year. He has owned two brokerage firms and has held licenses in four states. He spent 10 years traveling the country as a leadership and agent trainer for the majority of the top 50 firms in the country. Before coming to First Team he was the Chief Strategy Officer for one of the largest brokerage firms in the Country in Northern California He has been a contributing author to Realtor Magazine, Broker Agent Magazine, Broker Agent News and Realty Times. Before his real estate career Rich served as an Army Officer. Today Rich focuses on the growth of First Team adding over 2 billion in volume to the company thru mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures.
Tom Wagner has extensive experience in commercial and residential real estate management and transactions, as well as dispute resolution and education. Certified with his California Broker’s license since 1992, Tom served as President of the Laguna Board of Realtors in 1998. Now, in his role at First Team Real Estate, he is our primary source of legal advice and resident authority on all compliance issues.
Raised in Philadelphia, Tom moved to the Washington D.C. area to practice law in the Army Judge Advocate Generals Corps, and later with the General Accounting Office and the Department of Energy, where he served as the chief counsel for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. In 1981, he relocated to sunny California to join the General Counsel’s office of TRW Inc.
Tom came to First Team Real Estate in Orange County from the law firm of Manning and Kass, Ramirez, Trester. He holds degrees from Bucknell University, as well as the law schools of the University of Virginia and Temple University, and is admitted to practice law in California, Pennsylvania, and before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Chief Product Officer
“The future of Real Estate is already invented, it just happens to be stuck in a white paper somewhere.” – Steve McCloskey
Having worked at Morgan Stanley and for creative companies like Paramount Pictures, Steven brings a creative-analytics approach to product development and implementation. Steven has developed an empirical methodology that helps companies sort through the 7,000 + software “logos”, bad developers and all of the other noise to identify the perfect fit for product and marketing technology.
Steven became an expert in real estate thanks to his wife Beth McCloskey, one of Orange County’s top producing real estate agents.
Scott Gruszczynski joined the First Team family as Controller in January 2017, bringing more than 20 years of accounting, finance, and executive management experience to his role with the company. Gruszczynski is responsible for First Team’s Family of Companies accounting and finance operations, including commissions payment, fixed asset reporting, financial reporting, operational audits, and accounting system management. Additionally, he oversees the Property Management accounting and operational group.
Gruszczynski drives his team to enhance the agent experience. His group supports branch office managers, branch office staff and the administrative team at the home office. Gruszczynski’s approach to providing excellent customer service is derived from the company’s Core values (teamwork, accountability, respect, quality, responsibility, and innovation). Through his leadership, he has streamlined processes and implemented policy to meet the company’s goals.
Scott Gruszczynski graduated from Michigan State University, earning his bachelor’s degree in Accounting with a minor in Finance. He is married to his wonderful wife Sherri, and they have twins Alexia and Brodyn. They reside in San Clemente, California.
Director of Education
Lynn Tacinelli has been with First Team Real Estate for over 21 years and is currently the Director of Education. With a strong background in real estate sales, she has worked in many different capacities in the industry including training and coaching groups across Southern California, at a variety of different experience levels. She got involved in training and coaching over 14 years ago and has developed multiple programs including the new agent Power Curve, and Power Curve Plus programs. She continues to provide training for all sales associates at First Team from new agent training, to sales mastery and team training.
As the lead trainer for the First Team University, Lynn has proven success in teaching, designing curriculum, developing systems, delivering successful training programs, and integrating technology to provide onsite and virtual training. She is a Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE) and certified as a Re-Marketing Specialist (RMS). Today, Lynn’s purpose is to invest in our agents by teaching them how to put systems in place so they are working smarter, and not harder, providing a clear road map at every level of their career to provide stability and longevity in their lives.
Director of Global Relocation & Corporate Services
Gayle Glew is Director of Global Relocation and Corporate Services for First Team Christie’s International Real Estate. He joined First Team in 2011, bringing more than 30 years of corporate relocation and real estate brokerage experience to his role with the company.
Gayle drives new business opportunities and growth to the company by developing relationships and facilitating alliances with global referral networks, corporate relocation management companies, and local employers. He is also responsible for creating and delivering training for specific program requirements to First Team associates interested in participating in these unique opportunities.
In 2017, Gayle helped launch “First Team Heroes”, a successful marketing program offering unique benefits to military veterans who choose First Team associates for their real estate needs. A Seattle native and graduate of the University of Washington, Gayle holds the prestigious CRP and CRB designations, and was honored in 2015 with receiving the President’s Award from Leading Real Estate Companies of the World for his meritorious achievement and service.
Human Resources Director
Merry Pisors has been with First Team Family of Companies for over 12 years. As Human Resources Director, she is accountable for the functional areas of the department including benefits, employment, compensation, timekeeping, interpersonal relations, performance improvement processes, workers compensation, and leaves of absence. Overseeing compliance and implementation of state, federal and local labor laws, she is responsible to our wide network of employees and to the company. Our employees are valued team members and Merry strives to provide the highest level of assistance and a positive experience to each and every team member, promoting collaboration, teamwork, and respect in all areas of First Team Real Estate.
Director of Marketing
Sandy Chang serves as the Director of Marketing and is integral in providing First Team’s agents and clients with best-in-class marketing services through a fully staffed in-house marketing team. She oversees the planning, development and implementation of its marketing and communications strategies, in addition to managing First Team’s 40+ year old brand. With over 10 years of real estate marketing and design experience, Sandy brings a creative edge, a strong business acumen, and has a passion for marketing distinguished properties.
General Operations Manager
Peggy Salazar is the General Operations Manager for First Team Real Estate and has been with the company for over 20 years. She is committed to the vision and leadership provided by our CEO & Founder Cameron Merage, and Chief Operating Officer Michele Harrington. Responsible for the Agent Service Support Team, her scope of responsibilities includes managing all receptionists, office administrators, and transaction coordinators throughout our various local branch offices.
Peggy has an extensive background in operations, recruiting, and customer service gained from her experience at First Team and Verizon Communications. She believes that the support of First Team agents, and thereby the consumers, is of utmost importance and this is the number one priority for the Agent Services team.
A third generation California native and resident of Fountain Valley for over 30 years, Peggy enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.