If you’ve seen the recent news releases and items about the leadership changes at ASA, you already know that there is a new Executive Vice President running the place. Michael Adelizzi took on the job right after Labor Day this year, and he’s already in the thick of things, meeting wholesaler and manufacturer members and developing new strategies and approaches to our industry’s challenges and the role ASA needs to play.

Sometimes it takes a new pair of eyes to see what’s right in front of us. And sometimes a “fresh bar of soap,” an expression borrowed from my good friend Hal Williams, is the absolute right prescription. Mike brings that keen vision and freshness of approach to ASA’s position right now, and I’m very pleased to be working with him in my new role at the Education Foundation.

In fact, I’m hankerin’ to roll up my sleeves with the Foundation and really dig in. Over the past year or two, when the opportunities that the Karl Neupert Endowment Fund now offer us started to make themselves more apparent, we realized that even though we had strong leadership at the Education Foundation, we needed more soldiers to carry out that work. Along the same time I started to think that maybe it was time for a little change of my own scenery.

In the association business conventional wisdom holds that a CEO usually runs out of steam after about 7 or 8 years and begins to “coast” in the job from then on; there is burnout potential. After all, it can be a pretty stressful position, particularly if you do it right and put yourself out there, talking to members - no, not talking - listening. All members have expectations of their association, needs, wants, and the right to be heard. The stress comes in when any given ten members have no fewer than ten different opinions about how things ought to be done. Big ones, little ones, those in between. You get the picture.

I had the privilege of leading the ASA professional team since 1995. And maybe my clock runs a little slower than most, but late last year, I asked the volunteer leaders of ASA for their advice and support. What had happened to countless others before seemed to be happening to me. Yet at the same time, I was seeing a tremendous opportunity that would allow me to stay in the industry that I’ve grown to love since I first started here more than 22 years ago.

I told them that I had a burning desire to spend more time getting ASA members to use our training programs, and some new ideas about getting more of them developed and into members’ hands; keeping all of the other ASA trains running on time and in the right direction didn’t allow me the luxury of that kind of focus. And I asked them if maybe they felt some new executive energy might be a good thing for ASA.

They took a look at where we were, where we wanted to go, and what it was going to take to get us there. And after a lot of thoughtful review on their part, the timing seemed right to move forward with the suggestions that I’d proposed. So the search began for a new executive, and they gave me the job I was so excited about - running the ASA Education Foundation. I am exceedingly grateful.

Giving me the chance to put my energies into the Education Foundation full time is already bringing me a newfound sense of purpose and excitement. I have a variety of new ideas that I want to present to the Foundation’s Board for 2008, and I’m really looking forward to putting them into play. We need to make training more accessible to members who want it, while at the same time making the case that training can be directly linked to profitability to those members who haven’t yet made that connection.

Together with Paul Martin, who’s built up a tremendous record of achievement at the Foundation for almost 10 years now, I look forward to building on the excellent menu that we already have - our ProductPro® series, our Essentials brand of certificate courses, and the management resources like the HR department-in-a-box (otherwise known as the Employee Performance Tool Kit). We’re also going to be putting more programs on the Internet, adding audio and video programs, webinars, regional seminars and many more opportunities to train your people.

At the same time, that fresh bar of soap that goes by the name of Mike Adelizzi is rolling up his sleeves with his own brand of excitement and enthusiasm for all of the opportunities that are out there for ASA to serve our members and our industry.

I want to say a special word of thanks to the folks who take their jobs as association volunteers seriously, and who care enough about the organization and the industry to spend the time and effort to do the right thing. You have given me a wonderful new career opportunity, and I will not let you down.