My first ever SWACE conference was back in 2002 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I wanted to get involved in the organization, so I volunteered for the Registration Committee in order to meet people. I worked the check-in table and handed members their name badges and bags for a couple years. From there, I volunteered with the Technology Committee. We were the people in charge of building and maintaining the SWACE website. There was a lot of turnover that year and I remember going from a committee Member, to committee Chair, to Board Director for Technology within a year. Things happened FAST. I remember feeling out of place at board meetings, so I stuck to what I knew which was web design. During summer of 2005, our president, Randy Wilson brought to our attention that SWACE would possibly be merging with SACE. The next year, the vote passed and the transition began, merging the two associations. Through this transition and some intense board meetings, I was able to see the talent involved in making such crucial decisions to merge the two associations.
I can remember it like it was yesterday. November 12, 2012. I was at home sitting at my desk working on graduate school work when my phone rang at about 9:00 p.m. Toni McLawhorn had emailed me earlier in the day asking if we could talk. I was curious why Toni would be calling me at my home on a weeknight. She cut straight to the point and asked me if I would mind being nominated for President Elect for SoACE. Stunned, I began asking many questions. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem saying yes to new opportunities, but this was a big deal. All I could think of were the Presidents before me, Karen Thompson, Donnie Brown, Norma Guerra-Gaier, Eric Pearson, Toni McLawhorn, Shelly Garcia, and Tim Harding. There’s NO WAY I could be President. I’m thankful Toni was as patient, kind and understanding as she was, because after answering all my thousands of questions over a few days, she assured me it was the team that made things work for SoACE, and was she ever right. I was, and remain, impressed by the talent involved with SoACE.
As President Elect, Matt Berndt and I had a wonderful conversation in St. Pete that I will never forget. To reference City Slickers, Matt looked at me and said, “Focus on one thing in your presidency and put all your energy into it.” The next year, as an organization, we passed new by-laws that made the organization more inclusive (thanks to Tim Harding’s futuristic strength). The next step was to follow up on that inclusiveness and provide a group option for membership so whole offices could participate in SoACE. This was our one thing that year. An executive committee made up of some of the most powerhouse thinkers diligently and deliberately thought through all the potential pitfalls and gains that could possibly come from a group membership. Stacy Ballinger, who headed the committee, presented the group membership option to the organization, which went to vote at the New Orleans conference in 2014 and passed unanimously. Since then, our numbers have increased and we have broken the thousand-member mark. A huge thanks to Jeff Cummings, Corinne Earle and all the folks at CMCglobal who keep us organized and running efficiently.
I smile thinking of SoACE. I smile as I reflect on my years on the board and the presidency, and I think of the unforgettable conferences, the wealth of knowledgeable and inspiring people, and the relationships I have been so fortunate to build. I smile. I look back on the countless hours I spent questioning what decision to make (right, Tim?), but now
realize that being surrounded by a wonderful team is how decisions get made. Through the nearly 10,000 emails in my SoACE email folder and all the conversations with the best people in the world, I am grateful for all the wonderful people involved with SoACE who put their time and energy into making it function. I smile ear to ear.
I am continually excited to see the up and coming talent that is being produced in SoACE. Each year the conference gets better and better, and I look forward to all the new and exciting offerings SoACE is delivering. KGs, the Employer Relations Summit, the webinars, and consultations are just some of the excellent resources SoACE provides year-round.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!