Reflections from our 5th President: Toni McLawhorn


While it’s hard to believe that SoACE will soon celebrate its tenth anniversary, it also seems like eons ago that the merger process began for SACE and SWACE.  But the memories of the relationships that were forged during that important process and the years that have followed are as clear today as when they began.

One of the first memories from my leadership years in a regional association began when Patsy Hammett (now retired from Milliken) called to ask if I’d consider serving as Professional Development Director for SACE.  Her words still ring in my head, just like it was yesterday……..”It’s not much work.  It won’t be hard,” were her exact words to me.  Patsy and I laughed about that almost every time I saw her thereafter…..and thus was born one of my first new regional association friendships.

The merger work was intensive but a great learning experience, and it was then that I met and got to know great people like Matt Berndt, Norma Guerra-Gaier, and Jay Killough – great colleagues who became better friends.  Together, with all of the other merger team members I had already known from SACE including Karen Thompson and Donnie Brown, we birthed the great organization of SoACE and began a new journey.

As I moved through the leadership roles with SoACE, one of the very challenging times was when the organization decided to conduct a search for an association management firm.  Being part of the team responsible for vetting those candidates and selecting that critical piece of the SoACE heritage was exciting, but a little daunting at the same time, but one I certainly will always remember.  Working in a leadership team with Norma Guerra-Gaier as past president, Eric Pearson as president, and me as president elect of the organization, was an experience I will never forget.  We became more of a family working together to accomplish a goal for the organization.

Another memory from my year as president comes from another very dear friend, Tim Harding.  It became a fairly regular occurrence for Tim to say to me, “I have an idea…….,” from which would come many great new or improved initiatives for SoACE or our profession.  That still makes me smile, and in fact, just last night I used that phrase with a friend, and when I did, a smile came across my face, thinking of Tim.

Every new year brings about more opportunity with SoACE.  I think it says a lot when, as I prepare to attend the conference each year, I get so excited about the opportunity to spend a week with my good friends and colleagues, and look forward to the learning that will take place, but also the fun we will have.   I continue to be an active part of this organization as a past president because I believe strongly in its mission and want to be a part of the work that takes place.  I look forward to the next way in which I can serve this great organization.  I would encourage each and every member of SoACE to make the most of your time in the organization.  Get involved.  Really get to know the people in the organization.  It will be one of your most rewarding experiences!

So CHEERS to the first TEN years of SoACE, and a TOAST to the next decade and beyond!


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