I am a firm believer of the axiom that “The times produce the leaders an organization needs.”
In my 17 years at the Oregon Association of Nurseries, including 12 as your executive director, this self-evident truth has proven itself. When disruption is matched by opportunity, chaos produces a clear and sane voice, where extreme points of view give way to a balance that serves every member of the association.
While the work of the OAN Board of Directors and our volunteer leaders goes unnoticed by a vast majority of the membership, it is important to recognize that our current bumper crop of visionaries has been serving faithfully in turbulent times. I could not be prouder.
The shoulders of giants
I am now shouting distance away from being the longest serving executive director in the association’s history. When I started as your government relations director, I knew that the makeup of the membership was one I was fully committed to working to my highest capacity possible. You deserve that effort, and I hope I have proven up to the task.
Be as that may, the legend is Clayton Hannon. No other executive director has shaped and molded the association to the same degree, working tirelessly with the titans of our growing industry to make it what it is today.
Before every event — and when I am semi-cogent in a column — Clayton often sends me a note of support. He is one of my biggest fans and a mentor I treasure. The leaders and industry stand upon the foundation and commitment of those who served before us. Trust is what every leader that has led this organization has given us. That’s why we work so hard for you.
A second generation rises
Look at the names on the roster of our board of directors. We are amid the second great generation of OAN leaders. Their temperament, judgement and vision were forged in the fires their parents endured.
Let’s not sugarcoat it. Our current leaders face intense pressure considering that their parents built this organization from a support network on the cusp of greatness to a national power broker.
I can tell you from my front row seat, this crop of leaders is exemplary. Each brings a voice, perspective, and expertise to the OAN. It is not about THEM, not about personal agendas or points of view that are dug in deep. It is about service. Service to the membership.
This last year was one of the toughest political years in my time at the association. Most leadership teams crack and get divided. We did not have uniformity on all issues but the association’s “voice” remained united and strong.
Back in June, the association’s Executive Committee had a one-day retreat over in Tillamook and it was a family affair. I love it. My youngest daughter, Carolyn, now a junior at Washington State University College of Nursing, remarked that she used to look after many of the kids running around at our annual convention. She remarked how much they have grown. That stopped me — she was a young, tow-headed girl of 4 when I started working for you.
When we all went for a meal, the cacophony of excitement — the kids enjoying sodas, their parents enjoying beers, everyone enjoying pizza — was proof enough for me that the Oregon nursery way of doing things builds long lasting relationships in an industry that matters.
Gifted advocates are the difference
I mentioned this was a difficult year politically, and it was. Change is needed in the state and national level, so when ballots are mailed in October, VOTE. Yes, there are endorsement suggestions by the Oregon Nurseries’ Political Action Committee (ONPAC), but in the end, it is YOUR VOICE that counts.
Legislators have enormous power over your business. Thinking otherwise is nice, but more can be done with a stroke of a pen to erect barriers to success than almost any other market condition. I can say without hesitation that the volunteer leaders who advocate on your behalf in the state capitol and in Washington, D.C. are elite. That is not by accident. They are trained every year for the situations and issues they will lead us through.
Your board and your Government Relations Committee are more and more influential. That is directly tied to their work on the front end. There are no short cuts for success, and they make a difference. Want to lend your voice? Giddy up and join us.
An industry thank you
Two special thank yous. First to our outgoing president Josh Robinson. His commitment, vision, and engagement at all levels is the hallmark of a tremendous leader. You are a brother, a friend, and someone I admire to my core.
The Robinson family endured a grueling year and are often not thanked enough. Josh’s spouse Ashley is amazing. The kids – they get to see their dad pulled in a thousand different ways, but he keeps his eye on being a father first. So, Kaden, Thomas, and William – thank you for sharing your dad!
I am normally a little maudlin when a leader terms out of board service. Kyle Fessler is the son of a titan of the industry. He has been a difference maker at the chapter level, a champion as the chair of the Government Relations Committee, and finally, a transformational leader and president of the association.
Kyle Fessler should be considered as a member of the Mount Rushmore of OAN leaders. Nobody took on the toughest issues like Kyle. When he spoke, U.S. Senators, Congressmen and governors listened.
While Kyle is formally leaving the state board, his service continues with the Horticultural Research Institute leadership program, where he will lend his considerable skills to our national association. I am a better leader because of Josh and Kyle, and we are a better as an association. Thank you both for your service to the industry.