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Nearly a thousand members and counting. As I look back on my work experience with AFSA, I can’t help feeling grateful. I landed here 20 years ago looking to begin a new career in association meeting planning. I got my dream job. Since beginning this job, I have seen the association grow in members and in services. I have seen business relationships flourish. I have seen business competitors collaborate on common goals as friends – not as competitors against each other, but as competitors with each other to advance the interests of a vital industry that saves lives and property from Hawaii to New York. I have led a staff that is dedicated to providing the best member experience possible. I have seen great leaders retire but continue to support the association in selfless dedication to a cause that is bigger than themselves. I am fortunate and proud to be part of AFSA.

In January of 2017, I was promoted to vice president of meetings and operations. I was given more responsibilities to work closely with staff directors. I have genuinely strong bonds with staff, so this new role felt very comfortable to me. Sitting in team meetings and collaborating with staff on projects that will have a positive impact on our members is what drives this organization. Working with such a dedicated staff makes this job extremely rewarding and gives a leader a sense of purpose. Our staff has a tremendous amount of pride in this association. Many have been with AFSA for well over 20 years, and have a wealth of institutional knowledge. This dedication to the association and experience within its network is the foundation on which we grow as an organization.

In June, the AFSA Board of Directors asked me to lead the association as until a permanent replacement for the president position can be filled. I am honored to be given this responsibility. This new role gives me the opportunity to remember our roots, the importance of our integrity, and the trust that our members invest in this great organization. We are a fire sprinkler contractor trade association. This is our mission statement:

“The American Fire Sprinkler Association is the voice of the merit shop automatic fire sprinkler contractor. In support of the merit shop objective, the American Fire Sprinkler Association promotes the development of educational and training programs to maintain the quality and effectiveness of automatic fire sprinklers, encourages an expanded role for automatic fire sprinklers in protecting lives and property, disseminates information on labor, technology and business, and provides programs to enhance business practices for the merit shop contractor.”

We will never lose focus of this foundational mission. I was hired as a meeting planner and educational director, and although my role has changed significantly in the last 20 years to include collaboration on issues within membership, technical services, communications, and marketing, you will still find me collaborating with staff on meetings and education programs as I did when I first started my position here. I am grateful for the career path that has brought me to where I am today.

While continuing to lead the organization, my eyes and energies are now focused on AFSA37 in Washington, DC. As every convention in the past, our team is again looking to break records, offering more educational opportunities than ever before and attendance numbers which have increased every year for last decade. This one will be one to remember. Attendance at this convention offers network opportunities which are invaluable in the business world day. This convention offers a networking hub which is trusted and respected throughout the industry. We have nearly 1,000 members and counting. Is your company going to be counted among our numbers attending AFSA37 looking to advance their business in 2018?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marlene Garrett, CMP is chief operating officer, Meetings & Events for the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

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