Battleship. An American naval vessel of sufficient size which is heavily armored and equipped with the most powerful armament, used to take part in operations of significance. The term “Battleship,” and its 4 in.-thick reinforced iron sides, was used on numerous occasions throughout the two-year term of Michael (Mike) Meehan as the American Fire Sprinkler Association’s (AFSA) Chairman of the Board of Directors. From AFSA’s Annual Convention in October of 2015 until AFSA36: Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition last September in Las Vegas, Mike held the most authority on the AFSA Board and provided exemplary leadership to our organization’s officers and executive staff. Additionally, Chairman Meehan ensured that AFSA’s duties to member interests were fulfilled, often referring to the process of developing education and training for merit shop as a battleship heading down a very clear and defined route – undeterred by any outside forces interested in diminishing the high return on existing AFSA benefits.
Taking over the AFSA Chairman of the Board position from Joe Heinrich in late 2015, Mike Meehan had big shoes to fill in terms of recognizable accomplishments over a two-year time period. Joe had successfully delivered on his two core initiatives of further developing the AFSA’s professional staff and instituting an AFSA NextGen Initiative. Drawing upon inspiration from serving as a fire sprinkler industry volunteer and executive leader for VSC Fire & Security, Mike knew that developing and maintaining strong codes and standards were critically important to the present and future success of merit shop contracting. As his initial objective, Chairman Meehan guided AFSA’s Technical Services Department to levels of expertise that are without question the finest collection of staff and volunteers the industry has to offer.
Working diligently with AFSA’s Senior Vice President of Engineering & Technical Services Roland Huggins, PE, Mike Meehan engaged all aspects of AFSA’s technical resources over the last couple of years, particularly regarding building codes, NFPA standards, the AFSA Technical Advisory Committee, and helping to identify the most qualified merit shop contractor ambassadors to serve on NFPA technical committees – a daunting task indeed. In total, Chairman Meehan oversaw Roland’s appointment of 31 AFSA-member representatives, allowing for 27 NFPA technical committees to receive AFSA’s authority regarding the intent of crucial installation standards that drive the fire sprinkler industry.
For his second objective, Mike referenced the position he held directly prior to assuming the role of AFSA Chairman of the Board of Directors – Chair of our Chapter Grants Committee. AFSA Chapter Grants are a fantastic mechanism where local chapter volunteer leaders identify programs worthy to facilitate throughout a given year which qualify for a matching financial grant. Project categories include Apprenticeship and Education, Industry Promotion, Licensing and Legislation, Special Projects, Organized Chapter Events to Raise Money for Charity, and a Fitter Licensing Legislative Fund. As Chair of the Committee, Mike Meehan learned how impactful national AFSA monies were to help support local projects which, in turn, benefited AFSA member contractors in the professional development of their companies.
Drawing from years of volunteerism at a dynamic local group, AFSA’s Virginia Chapter, Chairman Meehan dug in on the issue of driving more national financial resources to help merit shop contractors extract valuable tools from regional programming. Through his good guidance, Mike was able to navigate a 50 percent increase in national Chapter Grant contributions in 2017 compared to 2015! Budgeting $110,000 for chapter leadership to then match at 100 percent as a result of their own locally raised funds this year allowed for AFSA contractor members to be educated, trained, protected and philanthropic while also promoting our great industry. Another critical point is the foresight Mike had to support new chapter growth models. Increasing the spend for chapters to provide impactful meetings has allowed for total AFSA chapters to expand from 19 in 2015 to 29 in the fall of 2017, at the conclusion of Mike Meehan’s term as Chairman.
Forging a path for the success of a national trade association is never easy for a newly elected Board of Directors, nor its Chairman. Fortunately, AFSA allows for a rich history of volunteer fire sprinkler industry leaders to have instituted a formidable outline that has proven to be exceptionally worthwhile for participating member contractors. Chairman Meehan brought tangible results to the table during his time as chief executive of the organization. Now, as Immediate Past Chairman, Mike will look to guide Chairman Wayne Weisz, the AFSA Board of Directors, and our general membership as they enjoy the fruits of his labor – in particular, codes and standards that adhere to the voice of the merit shop automatic fire sprinkler contractor as well as local AFSA chapters scattered across the country aimed to promote the development of educational and training programs. Let’s appreciate Mike Meehan’s ability to lead and his core motivation to deliver on our mission statement, similar to the laser focus of maintaining the successful trajectory he would often refer to when comparing AFSA to a “Battleship.”
Frank Mortl III, CAE is president of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.