BY MARK TAYLOR
“Sometimes you have to take one for the team.”
I kept telling myself during a recent flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City, while smushed in a middle seat between a portly woman who looked like Dame Edna and a man who smelled of cave-aged Gruyere cheese.
Some of my friends thought this journey to Montana was a junket. If they only knew.
The mid-March trip, which would include late flights, missed connections, a surprise snowstorm and a vat of corned beef and cabbage, was the next-to-final — at least we hoped next-to-final — step in a four-month long journey to find OWAA’s new executive director.
Several members of the search committee were gathering in Missoula to meet with two finalists for the job. If all went well we hoped to have a new director in place by April 1.
As you know, we accomplished our goal.
Tom Sadler’s first day at the helm was April 1. Tom introduces himself, and offers some insight into his vision for OWAA, in a column in this edition of Outdoors Unlimited. If you haven’t read it already, please do.
Many of you personally reached out to Tom after the announcement of his hiring became public. He was so busy responding to the well-wishes that he couldn’t dig in to the actual work of the job for a couple of days, but that’s OK. He’s got time.
Tom’s experience and philosophy are impressive. Most recently he has been running his own consulting firm, the Middle River Group. He’s worked in program development for the Trust for Public Land, been the conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America and been president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
He’s currently on the board of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, and just so happened to recently be involved in that group’s hiring of an executive director.
On the side, he does some fly-fishing guiding.
So, in short, he’s been there and he’s still there.
Again, bringing Tom aboard was accomplished through the efforts of a team of OWAA members who believe in the work we do, and the importance of our organization.
The wheels started turning in late November when previous executive director Robin Giner let me know that she planned to step away on Jan. 1.
The executive committee immediately huddled. We would form the core of the search committee, with assistance from members Chris Madson and Kevin Rhoades, himself a former OWAA executive director.
While OWAA has, in the past, hired a professional recruiter for executive director searches, our budget didn’t allow for that. Furthermore, we gambled a bit and decided to rely on press releases to help spread the word that we were looking. We got some nice help on that front from groups such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which passed the notice along.
The approach worked. We got several dozen applications, and a high percentage were from excellent candidates.
Interestingly, Sadler learned of the job through an avenue that represents one of the ways people are connected these days: He saw a Facebook post.
OWAA secretary Katie McKalip and I took the first crack at the applications, forwarding the keepers to the balance of the committee, which then ranked the applications.
Relying on a script of predetermined questions, Katie and I teamed up for conference call interviews with several of the top candidates, who then spoke with OWAA vice presidents Bill Graham and Mark Freeman on a round of second calls.
After more discussion and rankings, two semi-finalists emerged.
With Missoula home to several board and executive committee members, as well as our headquarters, it made sense to hold the final in-person interviews here.
New supporter IL2000, a logistics company owned by my longtime friend Kraig Cesar, helped out with the trip costs by donating airline tickets.
Graham and I flew out, connecting with Missoulians McKalip and Rhoades, as well as board member Chris Hunt, who drove up from Idaho. Treasurer Jack Ballard, legal counsel Bill Powell, and board members Tim Mead and Paul Queneau participated in interviews by phone and webinar.
The short-notice plane ticket purchase is what caused me to get stuck in that middle seat, but it was weather that caused a delay that had me stuck in Salt Lake City on St. Patrick’s Day on the way to Missoula.
Lucky for me, OWAA board member Brett Prettyman had me over that evening for a feast prepared by his wife, Brooke, hence the above reference to corned beef and cabbage.
That snowstorm? It delayed the arrival of the two candidates by a couple of hours, but eventually they got to Missoula.
The search team spent the next day-and-a-half getting to know the candidates, concluding that Sadler was our top choice.
Reaching that point was a satisfying reward after the hours upon hours the team had dedicated to the effort.
Sadler will work from his home office in Virginia, but that arrangement should be largely transparent to the membership thanks to the wonders of modern technology that help keep us connected.
In short, he will be as reachable as if he worked in the office in Missoula. Need proof? Tom made sure his cell phone number was included in the press release announcing his hiring. If you haven’t already extended a welcome to Tom, please do.
Also, keep in mind that he works for the board of directors, which works for you. So feel free to offer suggestions to Tom on what you believe OWAA needs to be doing to best serve its members moving forward. ◊
— OWAA President Mark Taylor,
BY MARK TAYLOR