I remember so well my first day on the job. I was going to college and was hired as an apprentice for the summer. I was sent to a strip mall in Alexandria, Virginia, my blue jeans held a brand new Craftsman stick ruler and a pair of channel locks, and I was sporting some fashionable new Sears work boots. It was a good fit. Later that morning another young man asked me what I was doing. I proudly responded, “I’m a sprinkler man.” He said that sounded pretty neat and asked how long I had been doing that. I looked at my watch and replied, “About three hours.” That was 36 years ago in the summer of 1979 and I am still a sprinkler man. I have often said you are either born into this industry or you fall into this industry. I fell into it. And what a stroke of good fortune it has been. I was lucky to be a young man in an industry that was in demand, an industry that was young and growing, an industry that was often considered obscure and overlooked, and to be in a society that was waking up to ways to protect its people and property. For me, providence and good luck crossed paths with hard work and mentors and I am thankful.
To be chairman of AFSA is an honor. The men who preceded me and paved the way are legends, friends, and mentors. I will forever be in their shadow and debt.
I am fortunate to be named chair at a time when the industry is doing well. There are certainly pockets of softness in the country, but they seem to be more of the exception than the rule and overall the level of activity is on the uptick. This bodes well for AFSA, because just like our contractor members we ride the up and down waves of the construction cycles. AFSA is seeing gains in membership, apprentice testing, and designer training as well as growth in contractor category size. All clear signs of growing contractors and healthy business activity.
The additional membership growth allows us to enhance our core mission of educating and training our membership. As always, that is our bedrock but we have evolved into so much more. I suspect all great industries have trade associations that represent them, but I believe our industry has some uniqueness that makes our trade association different and more necessary. Specifically, our relationship to the building codes and the installation standards creates a unique role for our association that only a national organization like AFSA can fulfill. The effort AFSA puts into strengthening the standards and the building codes is not always front and center but it is constantly there and constantly pushing us all forward.
To Steve Muncy and the outstanding staff at AFSA I say thank you for helping us be the industry and the contractors we are. To my predecessor in this role – Joe Heinrich – I say thank you for handing me off such a well-run Board. To my fellow Board members I say you are an extraordinary group of talented people, entrepreneurs, and friends and I am excited and humbled to work with you to enhance our industry and our association.
I still have the stick ruler I bought at Sears 36 years ago and it is one of my most cherished possessions.
Michael F. Meehan, senior vice president and a co-owner of VSC Fire & Security, Virginia Beach, Virginia, is Chairman of the American Fire Sprinkler Association’s (AFSA) 2015-2016 Board of Directors, leading the association into its 36th year serving the interests of fire sprinkler contractors across the country. A 1981 graduate from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, Meehan began his fire sprinkler career working summers as a pipe fitter apprentice. He is a NICET Level IV Certified Engineering Technician in Water-Based (formerly Automatic Sprinkler) Systems Layout and has more than 30 years’ experience in sprinkler design engineering, estimating, project management and senior management.