In early 1991, I approached the Association of Wisconsin Cleaning Contractors (AWCC) and told them about the IICRC. I had been to a couple of classes and thought the organization was going places. After attending the classes, I learned about the associations that owned the IICRC and thought it was time for the AWCC to step up to the plate and get involved at an international level. Soon after, I became the first AWCC representative to the IICRC Board of Directors. The first meeting was held in conjunction with the UCCI Convention in Toledo, Ohio. I will never forget the jitters and feeling of nervousness sitting in the meeting room, waiting for our turn to be accepted into the group. I remember looking around the room and seeing all the industry leaders I had read about in the trade magazines and had listened to during conventions, sitting around a table and talking with ME.
I also remember how proud I felt as the discussions around the board table centered on the registrants of the IICRC. Each board member listened intently to discussion with the idea in mind that the most important person to this organization was the cleaner, inspector or restorer who was out in the field everyday. I was very impressed and realized right then that this was a calling like no other.
Being accepted into the fold at the Certification Board meeting intensified my wanting to be active in the Water Damage Restoration Technical Advisory Committee. When I approached the table where the meeting was being held, a place was made for me. I thought all I had to do was be active in the discussions, but Claude Blackburn, (current chair of the WDT TAC) taught me that everyone needs to pull the load. So I was put right to work taking minutes of the discussion. That is the one concept of IICRC that many do not understand…there is always work to be done.
From that TAC, the Water Damage Restoration Standard Task Force was born. I consider my participation in those discussions to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I recall a meeting in Idaho that lasted until the wee hours of the morning, with about 20 people crammed into a small conference room debating several issues over pizza bought by Larry Cooper because we would not have time to go out for dinner. I have seen the dedication that these people have provided to the IICRC and I am still amazed by what we have accomplished.
From that experience, I was asked to be involved in the revision of the S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration. My involvement would be at a higher level than the first standard. I not only sat on the task force, but recall being goaded by Barry Costa to “volunteer” to chair the sub-committee on Microbiological Issues, of which I knew virtually nothing. No, Barry, I have not forgotten your role in that. Even though I knew nothing, I learned a great deal about the issues involving microorganism growth as a whole and specifically as it relates to water damage. Also, I learned just how many professionals are pulling for the success of the IICRC. Many people like Dr. Michael Berry and Dr. Gene Cole are world-renowned experts in the fields of microbiology and public health and have given support and advice to IICRC beyond more than just the S500 Standard. It is wonderful to have this kind of support and I feel truly blessed to have collaborated with these fine individuals. Several years into my tenure as an association representative, I was asked if I had any interest in serving in a leadership position within the IICRC. After several nano-seconds of careful consideration, I said I would. Life has been a blur since that time, with a stint as 2nd Vice President, Chairman of the Marketing and Public Relations Committee, a great two years as Vice President and now completing my second term as President.
It is hard to imagine the years going by so fast. When I look back on some of the great leaders I have had the pleasure of serving with—Tom Hill, Larry Cooper, Lee Pemberton, Kenway Mead, Cy Gantt and many others—I still get goose bumps. Association representatives I have served with include Dan Bernazzani, Claudia Ramirez, Neil Atkinson, Peter Masi and numerous others. I know I have left out hundreds of volunteers, but you know who you are and I thank you for your efforts.
The time spent with the IICRC has been both rewarding and difficult. Anything worthwhile usually is, but depending on how you choose to view the challenges is what makes the difference. While on one hand, it has taken time away from my business and family, it has given me a measure of confidence that I believe no other activity could have done. I never thought that I would have had the opportunities, both personally and professionally, to meet so many wonderful people from the cleaning, restoration and inspection industries. My family has been understanding of the time sacrificed and has been supportive. Without that support, none of this learning opportunity would have been possible or worthwhile and I want to thank them for that support and love.
I would also like to challenge everyone that reads this column to go out and get involved in this great industry. Become active in your local or regional association, with a retail group or in your local chamber of commerce. Talk about what professional cleaning and restoration means to the consuming public. Become a cheerleader for your profession. Time spent volunteering is paid back in ways you cannot imagine.