Volunteerism. The practice of volunteering your time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially within your community or industry. It’s an interesting challenge to draft a semi-regular opinion piece for an industry-wide magazine, and a lot of credit goes out to the past chairmen of the AFSA Board of Directors who all generously volunteered their efforts and energy to lead this tremendous organization while also often crafting impactful Sprinkler Age articles for fire sprinkler contractors to learn from and be inspired by. As I thought about the subject matter to choose for my first Sprinkler Age report as president of AFSA, the roles played by our many invaluable volunteers over the years who shaped this association into the powerhouse it has become in 2017 kept flooding into my mind.
Two gentlemen in particular have given so much of their time, energy and, let’s face it, sweat equity to not only creating a framework for merit shop fire sprinkler contractors to be provided with training, consulting, communication, representation and many other services, but also to establish- ing foundations for organizational structure. Armed with a rock-solid set of bylaws as well as the ability to identify the best staff leadership since 1981, Willie Templin and Jack Viola have overseen national employees who were/are dedicated to executing AFSA’s mission to the highest levels possible. Mr. Templin, owner of American Automatic Sprinkler in Fort Worth, Texas was among the initial small group of “rogue” contractors who made an ambitious and ultimately brilliant decision over 36 years ago to chart a course away from professional organizations that would not support apprenticeship training and education to the degrees necessary for open shop fire sprinkler contractors to succeed at their maximum efficiencies.
As a contractor and AFSA Board Chairman from 1985-1987 who is now celebrating the 50th year of American Automatic Sprinkler’s continued positive impact on the industry, Willie has maintained his position as Chairman of AFSA’s Nominating Committee and casts a wide shadow over the volunteerism efforts of contractor representatives throughout the country. He has been extremely forthcoming with me regarding how past issues tend to resurface over time and is a trusted resource for guidance on critical policies, protocols, and procedures that have and will continue to allow for open shop contractors to have a strong voice for the betterment of the individual, the fire sprinkler industry and the nation as a whole.
Jack Viola is another incredibly talented person who has also been volunteering his valuable time to AFSA since the 1980s. Learning much from his father-in-law Ed Smith, who was AFSA Board Chairman himself from 1987-1989, Jack has helped guide and shape policy for AFSA in so many practical ways that I believe our technical services, education, training and governmental affairs achievements would not be nearly as accomplished without his efforts. AFSA Board Chairman from 1997-1999, Jack has and continues to serve as a mentor, friend and source of encouragement to fellow contractor volunteers who gather throughout the year to deliver direct knowledge to AFSA’s professional staff so we can develop and provide the best benefits and services created by fire sprinkler contractors for contractors. Case in point: although serving on eight AFSA committees in 2016 (more than any other AFSA representative), Jack’s hand was always the first to shoot up in the air when the call for a special ad-hoc task force arose in meetings. A truly remarkable man indeed.
I affectionately refer to Willie Templin as “Ambassador” and to Jack Viola as “The Godfather.” AFSA volunteers have two pillars of inspiration to look toward when attempting to judge whether it’s worth the time and energy away from family, friends, business efforts, golf games or whatever else many people use as excuses to not give of their time. Not everyone has to emulate the efforts of Willie and Jack, but rather understand that any volunteerism one can give to the industry with which they are engaged strengthens an organization like AFSA that is striving to improve the conditions within their sphere of influence.
Please consider volunteering your efforts in 2017 to a worthy cause. For many, AFSA offers a local in-person chapter or virtual online committee/council/group to lend your grassroots perspective. For others, perhaps you could take my personal viewpoint and practice while working on behalf of volunteer leaders who represent an industry and take action to volunteer time to your church, philanthropic entity and/or charitable foundation. I’m so honored and humbled to follow in the footsteps of industry icon Steve Muncy as the new president of AFSA. Help me deliver the exceptional levels of service the members of our association deserve by lending your brilliance in the form of fire sprinkler industry volunteerism.
Frank Mortl III, CAE is president of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.