AFTER 36 years with the NTEA, 35 of those as executive director, people often ask, “Well what are you going to do with all your time, Jim?” “What's next for you?” There is a whole lot of life out there that I have yet to explore - more traveling, improving my photographic skills, golfing and spending time with my daughters and grandchildren. Oh, and keeping out of the way of my wife. She's kind of worried about that. Competition for house space will be keen as I try to assert myself in what has been her domain.
In 1976, when I accepted a position with the NTEA, I told my wife I would give it three years, and then move on. Here I am 36 years later at the conclusion of what has been a wonderful career. I never aspired to be an association executive - in fact, when I interviewed for the job, I didn't know what a trade association was. I often say the job found me, rather than me finding it.
And it has always struck me as oddly coincidental that the NTEA was founded on February 15 in 1964 - and my birthday happens to be on February 15. So perhaps there is some kismet there, maybe some astrological alignment that brought me to the Association.
We have seen tremendous change in the industry in 36 years, haven't we? Many companies that once dominated certain regions or segments are gone evidenced by the fact that only three of 33 companies that were awarded the Association's Distinguished Distributor Award back in the mid- to late-70s still survive today. But over the course of time, the industry has grown, become more innovative and sophisticated. And the NTEA has flourished. It has grown from a small organization with a staff of three to one of 28 employees today. More importantly it is widely recognized as being very influential in Washington, DC and innovative in its services and programs. I am proud to have been a part of that.
But I emphasize that I have only been a part of it. So many members and volunteers have given of their time and energy to make the NTEA the great organization it is. Volunteerism and member involvement is the heart of a successful trade association. I'm especially grateful to the past NTEA presidents for their progressive leadership, friendship and confidence in me. And to the many trustees who also contributed to the NTEA's growth and success. I have enjoyed working with all them.
I also want to thank the members of the NTEA that have made my time at the Association very enjoyable and rewarding. This industry is made up of real people - no nonsense, down-to-earth, hard-working people. And I have always loved that about my work. I don't know that I could have gone to another industry and enjoyed it so much.
I want to assure industry firms that I leave the organization in the hands of a very capable staff. Over the years, they have worked with me to build the NTEA. Some of them have been with me for more than twenty years. They are a great bunch of people, very service oriented, and I know I leave the NTEA in good hands.
As I leave, I have only one regret, and that is that I will not be a part of all the exciting growth and opportunity you have ahead of you in this industry. Yes, I had a hand in the history of the NTEA. But I view my retirement as not a commemoration of the past but a celebration of the future, an opportunity for new ideas and for new leadership to continue to build the organization.
So as I ride off to explore my new life, I wish each of you continued success, good health and prosperity. Thank you for allowing me to serve you over these past 36 years. It's been an enjoyable journey!