From our President
My fellow members,
Greetings and Happy New Year to you all! I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season and successful hunting seasons. This will be my last message to you as NAHRA President. It has been seven years, but a new President will be confirmed by the clubs and a new boss installed by March 1st. I hope you all will support him or her as you did for me. This is not a farewell as I will remain invested in this program but at a more local level.
I have been on the Board of Directors for twelve years now if my math and memory are correct and it is time that someone else assumes the helm to provide new leadership and initiative. This does not mean that sweeping changes are in order but that new energy and ideas will help to promote the work we as a BOD have started and also to explore new initiatives.
When I first became a NAHRA member in 1992 as a novice dog handler I never dreamed I would become so invested in the program, but I knew I had to step up and do my part if this organization was to survive some hard times. It is no secret that NAHRA has had to survive several difficult periods in its history, but it has prevailed and we continue our mission to produce the world's finest retrievers.
This program was in decline when I took over and that momentum continued for several years for a number of reasons. Inheriting a serious deficit made options to promote growth, to say the least, difficult at first. The biggest economic free fall since the depression multiplied our troubles in conjunction with long time ties that were broken for reasons that seem unimportant now.
This decline did stop and we have been treading water for several years now as we worked out of our financial difficulties, but new growth eluded us until recently. While 2015 was not financial boom, we have managed to make ends meet. However, there are signs that the initiatives we have rolled out are starting to work as the membership grew to over 500 members mostly due to the Future Retriever Program which has had tremendous success in the Alaska and Central Regions. I am not sure why the East and West Regions have not followed up with as much recruitment but we hope the trend will expand in all regions in 2016.
While the Future Retriever Program offers a free membership to new puppy owners, it is an important way for NAHRA to get its program into the minds of prospective new paying members. It is incumbent upon the members and clubs to follow up in taking these people under their wing and fuel that interest forward. I started my own club over twenty years ago because of the need to create a training group to help me reach my goals with my dog. It eventually led to another test opportunity for me and my fellow members but I came to understand that mentoring was the secret to success! We must mentor the newbies to keep them interested and participating. This means taking a little of your time to help someone be successful as we all hope to be. Without mentoring, recruitment and growth will not take place. Think of these words when the new guy or gal shows up at your next training day and please take the time to hand out those Future Retriever Program Brochures!
At this time, I want to take the time to thank all of my BOD members that have sacrificed their time to help me and NAHRA get our feet back on the ground. While the job is not complete, I think we have set the table for the new BOD to be successful.
Dan Hove is a long time BOD member serving as an excellent Treasurer and particularly in the area of Sponsorship Relations and Procurement. Dan has been innovative in his managing of our funds to the point that we have retired all outstanding debt by developing a solid budget year after year. He has also been extremely active in opening the door of opportunity to NAHRA through sponsorship recruitment mostly through his connections to many contacts within the retriever world. Dan has done so much even while battling illness and trying to manage all the other activities he is involved in. Thanks big guy!
To Tom Johnston Jr., Member at Large and one of my best friends, thanks for all of your help in this endeavor. Thanks for your tireless support for so many years through all of this and for forgiving me for dragging you into this over twenty years ago. Tom has been innovative and relentless in his support and development for new initiatives, even some of my craziest ideas such as Hunter and the Upland Retriever Program. Tom took ideas and expanded upon them to the point where we can look at them now and say that they have helped grow the program. You have been a tremendous asset to the program and to this team.
To Kody Bull who has worked tirelessly to make Alaska a NAHRA stronghold and to the overall program serving as an RD and then Vice President. Kody has helped us all stay on track with numerous initiatives and managed the occasional infractions in a professional and timely manner. Kody has been a leader in developing new initiatives like the long awaited electronic entry system, and is the driving force behind the Future Retriever Program and has been a major proponent in keeping the NAHRA Website updated.
To Harry Williams who for at least a little while, single handedly kept the West Region up and running the game. For sharing all those years of experience in the retriever games to help us make careful and meaningful tweaks or changes to rule and policy. For providing your wisdom and input on issues that would produce solutions that were both practical and acceptable to the clubs and the members.
Sue Snow, thank you for your excellent and timely record keeping that is so important to an operation like this. Many of us are a bit long in the tooth and need the notes! Thanks for the constructive input on so many issues and especially for developing the 500 Point Club.
There are others who have served during my tenure as President and I do not wish to exclude them and thank them for their support and help: Bob Riggs, Sandy Zandlo, Kim Schiller, Ted Givens and probably a couple others I have forgotten (forgive me).
To all of the Regional Directors who have or currently serve, thanks for doing a thankless but necessary job. You all were a part of this and were extremely instrumental in having boots on the ground selling or explaining our actions to the members. Please know that I very much appreciate your efforts and sacrifice of your time as I have been in your shoes as well.
While I have only mentioned a few of the accomplishments that these people brought to the BOD and NAHRA, you should know that it is the tip of the iceberg in number to say nothing about the time and effort they invested to follow through. We should also keep in mind that these fine people have done all of this while trying to enjoy the program they were serving. In addition to serving the BOD, many of the folks I have mentioned are some of the most frequently drafted judges, Field Test Committee Members and or club leaders.
To the clubs and members, thank you for sticking with us through these past seven years by continuing to support the program. I know it has not been easy with so many other options out there and I know that you may not have always agreed with our actions or our direction, at least initially. I know many of you have had pressures from within your groups to go elsewhere so I hope our efforts have proven justified in the big picture in keeping this wonderful program going.
To Rosemary Haynes who I have come to know over these years and who I have depended upon throughout that time for timely answers to all Office and Program Operations. Rosemary you have been an outstanding Office Manager and one of the reasons the doors stay open. I thank you for all the assistance you have provided many times at a moment's notice. You have been prompt, professional, consistent, courteous and most of all, a joy to work with during this time. Thank you so much!
Lastly, to my wife Valerie who has put up with this "hobby" turned second job for all these years. For all of the nights of tending the pack while I sat on conference calls, evenings of writing correspondence, attending events that we otherwise may not have attended, thank so much for your support and patience!
In closing, I will say that it has been a roller coaster ride filled with some great moments and some times that were not so much fun but, in the long run, a necessary journey. In my mind, NAHRA is in better shape than what I inherited thanks to a lot of support from all of you. I guess history will judge me on the job that was done. I served so we all could have a place to play with our dogs in the future, let's keep it going. Now it's time for me to get back to my wife, dogs and my club (in that order) who have not always had my full attention for over a decade. See you all at the next Field Test.
Pick 'em up clean!