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Board Candidate Profiles

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Six OWAA members are running for three seats on OWAA’s Board of Directors. All Active, Senior Active and Life members are encouraged to vote. This is the fourth year of online voting for OWAA’s annual election. An email with a link to the online ballot was sent on April 1. A paper ballot will be sent via postal mail to those members that don’t have an email address listed in OWAA’s database. All ballots must be returned by May 1. Three elected candidates will begin serving three-year terms on June 28, 2015, at OWAA’s board meeting. Results will be published in Outdoors Unlimited and on the OWAA website. Candidates are listed alphabetically. They were asked to submit a short biography and answers to the same five questions, which were drafted by OWAA’s Board Nominating Committee.
Questions: 
1. What are your qualifications for a position on the Board of Directors? Have you served in a decision-making
position before?
2. Why are you running for the Board and what do you hope to achieve if elected?
3. What do you think are the most important services OWAA offers to its members and how should we market
those benefits to potential members?
4. The annual conference is OWAA’s biggest outreach effort, yet many members rarely attend. How do we turn
conference into a “can’t miss” event and how do we ensure newer, younger members return after attending that
first conference?
5. What is your vision for OWAA?
CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Residence: Ohio
Years of OWAA membership: 22
Conferences attended: Six
Committees: Craft Improvement
Celeste Baumgartner lives on a small farm with her husband. They have four grown children. She has written for a Farm World, a weekly newspaper, for 26 years. She has also written articles about bicycling, birding, kayaking, fishing, astronomy, and travel. These were published in, besides Farm World, Ohio Outdoor News, the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperative’s Country Living magazine, Home & Away, Bird Watcher’s Digest and more.
1. What are your qualifications for a position on the Board of Directors? Have you served in a decision-making position before?
I have been a freelance writer for 30 years. I ran a small business for 25 years, and I am involved in the management of our farm. I served as president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio for two years and was a member of that board for six years. I’ve also been a mom to four kids — that’s decision making at the trickiest level.
2. Why are you running for the Board and what do you hope to achieve if elected?
I am running for the board because I have benefitted from and enjoyed being an OWAA member for 22 years, and I believe in paying it forward. If we all do our bit, the organization will flourish. As always, we need to find ways to attract new members of all ages and to make our organization vital to current members. I am in favor of finding incentives to encourage current members to bring in new members. If we have a board with a mix of wellintentioned and intelligent people, we can find creative ways of improving things. Our organization has always moved forward, maybe not always on the most straightforward path. We need to continue that and keep it as straightforward as possible.
3. What do you think are the most important services OWAA offers to its members and how should we market those benefits to potential members?
OWAA’s networking opportunities are beneficial — I have had a book published and sold articles because of editors and other people I met at conferences. I have contacted members across the country, looking for information and sources. Being in OWAA has encouraged me to learn about and keep up with technology. The conferences and Outdoors Unlimited are great ways to market those benefits. When I read Outdoors Unlimited or attend a conference, I want to be challenged by quality articles and seminars. Keeping a good web and social media presence is critical— if we’re out there, people will see us.
4. The annual conference is OWAA’s biggest outreach effort, yet many members rarely attend. How do we turn conference into a “can’t miss” event and how do we ensure newer, younger members return after attending that first conference?
I have enjoyed and benefitted from the conferences I attended. At the first conference I attended, I was made to feel welcome that meant a lot. Each conference needs a variety of craft improvement and other workshops as well as outdoor activities, offered at as reasonable rate as possible in the nicest location possible—that’s a constant challenge. Each conference needs to be different according to the location and venue—therein lies the fun.
5. What is your vision for OWAA?
My vision for OWAA is to see it continuing as a vital, professional organization, walking that tightrope between being on the forefront of new technologies and methods without losing sight of our roots. I am proud of OWAA and hope to see the organization continue to move forward in as efficient a way as possible.
TOM KEER
Residence: Massachusetts
Years of OWAA membership: Six
Conferences attended: Three
Committees: 2015 Conference Planning
Tom Keer owns The Keer Group, a full-service outdoor marketing and communications company. He is also an awardwinning, full-time freelance writer and columnist.
1. What are your qualifications for a position on the Board of Directors? Have you served in a decision-making position before?
I have previously served on the Board of Directors of Audubon International and am currently on the Board of Directors for Woodcock Limited. As a decision maker I am the president/CEO of The Keer Group, a marketing and communications company devoted to active outdoor companies, manufacturers and sporting venues. A past work experience that required decision making abilities and is outdoors related was running the wholesale channel for the Orvis Company. I oversaw all businesses involved in International and domestic sales, service and marketing for brick-and-mortar and box store, and OEM) for the Orvis Company. My contributions earned me the company’s top award, the Impact Award, in 2005 and that was for a $3MM net profit swing from -$2MM to +$1MM.
2. Why are you running for the Board and what do you hope to achieve if elected?
The field of outdoor communication has changed dramatically in the past decade, and those changes cause retraction not just in outlets but in communicators. Visionary stewardship and proactive leadership is essential to clarify and define our roles as communicators. Our creative production is disproportionate with compensation and benefits. My objective is to help OWAA to strengthen its position as a voice for outdoor communicators and to be a leader in the communication arts industry.
3. What do you think are the most important services OWAA offers to its members and how should we market those benefits to potential members?
OWAA connects communicators across several genres and creates a community. It offers some group/bundled discount programs (health insurance, office supplies, product discounts). Efforts are made to connect communication artists with buyers (i.e. editors, producers) at the conference. Networking for sales conversion is important as are sections devoted to improving craft (which changes constantly). All of those should be bundled in different media to be consumed by members according to their time/resources/aptitudes.
4. The annual conference is OWAA’s biggest outreach effort, yet many members rarely attend. How do we turn conference into a “can’t miss” event and how do we ensure newer, younger members return after attending that first conference?
Time and expense are two significant reasons members do not attend conferences. So to increase attendance OWAA should create a value proposition that takes into account a members’ needs and interests. Since the whole is the sum of the parts, here are a few options.
1. Create one main conference that is of a national level.
2. Offer a series of regional satellite conferences that would be at a time of year and in an area which offers more flexibility in time and reduced travel costs. Underwriting local/regional presentations may be possible on a state/regional basis.
3. For newer and younger members, add:
-skill enhancement workshops
-a mentoring program matching veteran and rookie members
-review of financial services offered: fee and/or contract negotiation, assistance with accounting, tax preparation or legal advice, qualifying family health insurance plans, etc.
4. Create a virtual meeting which live streams marquee events: opening address, keynote addresses and messages, certain presentations. If the conference is worth attending then the virtual presentation will show new members that the conference is worth attending.
5. What is your vision for OWAA?
The number of markets for outdoor content has consolidated on the higher-payment side (print, television, radio, newspaper) and has been replaced by markets that pay a fraction of previous costs. Combined with a higher-cost of living index it is a challenge to be a full time outdoor communicator. Part of my objectives is to focus on OWAA being a driving factor in strengthening our position of communicators. My second vision is to help OWAA set the standard for outdoor communication and for the organization to be recognized as a driving factor in the industry. I believe that there are branding initiatives that could be implemented that showcase OWAA members as industry-best.
VICKI MOUNTZ
Residence: Ohio
Years of OWAA membership: 31
Conferences attended: Six
Committees: Ethics, Membership Screening,
EIC contests
Vicki Mountz is a freelance writer/outdoor consultant living with husband Greg in Centerburg, Ohio. A 30-year member of OWAA, she has been a writer and seminar speaker, managing editor of two statewide and regional outdoor magazines, a fishing guide, past-president of Outdoor Writers of Ohio, executive editor of the state magazine Wild Ohio, and the information and education chief for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
1. What are your qualifications for a position on the Board of Directors? Have you served in a decision-making position before?
Served two terms on the board of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, one as VP and one as President. Currently on the board of a land conservancy. Spent 12 years as chief of information/education for the Ohio DNR’s Division of Wildlife, and eight years prior to that as their communications manager. Prior to the wildlife agency, I was managing editor of two fishing magazines which contained annual hunting sections. I retired from DNR in 2013 and returned to freelancing. I’ve worked in many areas of communications and have a good understanding of the needs of OWAA’s members, plus the experience necessary to contribute positively to the board.
2. Why are you running for the Board and what do you hope to achieve if elected?
Membership in OWAA has been truly beneficial to me over the years. I’ve watched the organization go through great times and tough times. Having retired from the state and having more time, I want to give back to a group that has been very helpful to me. My goals as a board member are to help OWAA evolve and flourish during a time of great change in the world of communications, help increase OWAA’s value to members, and help grow the membership.
3. What do you think are the most important services OWAA offers to its members and how should we market those benefits to potential members?
The newsletter and the annual conference are OWAA’s cornerstone services, along with the general benefit of networking with, and learning from, established professionals. Craft improvement is a primary focus of hungry-for-work younger/newer communicators so our marketing efforts should pinpoint, “how will this conference make me grow as a communicator?” Younger people want to receive information electronically and immediately so additional resources should be put into expanding our electronic marketing efforts.
4. The annual conference is OWAA’s biggest outreach effort, yet many members rarely attend. How do we turn conference into a “can’t miss” event and how do we ensure newer, younger members return after attending that first conference?
People come to the conference to network, to learn from other writers or to find sources of future work. At my first conference, I was mentored by Dave and Kay Richey, who never ceased to be excellent sources of sound advice, and providers of sale’s tools and new connections for me. Newer communicators want to know what skills are most important, where to get work, who’s hiring. They appreciate social media and electronic resources. They may not have too much money, so keeping the conference short but powerful, and keeping the cost low, is very important. An economic incentive might help – like half price conference registration for first timers. Give them tools to help them succeed so they want to come back for more. Webinars of conference craft improvement sessions, free or at a low cost, might entice newcomers to give conference a try.
5. What is your vision for OWAA?
I want OWAA to be an organization that seeks new and innovative ways to communicate with readers, viewers, listeners, etc., about the amazing outdoors while integrating the techniques that have brought tremendous success to some members in the past. A great partnership can be formed by using proven, successful efforts while also integrating the newest, most innovative methods of communication. I see us developing a “best practices” or perhaps a “10-year study of trends in communications” that can benefit our entire membership. I love change but I don’t want to ever lose the lessons learned by studying the history of what made our group successful in the past.
SHANE TOWNSEND
Residence: Texas
Years of OWAA membership: Four
Conferences attended: Three
Committees: Marketing committee
Shane Townsend, senior program advisor at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, is a strategist and writer who has worked in 20 countries on three continents. Since 2000, he has helped organizations identify and reach goals and communicate their successes to leverage resources. He has helped strengthen the efforts of organizations such as Virginia Department of Emergency Management, U.S. Peace Corps, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Wheat Associates, Save the Children, The Corporation for National & Community Service and others. As an outdoor writer, Shane contributes to publications such as Gaff Magazine, Field & Stream, Native Peoples Magazine, USA Today Hunt & Fish magazine, Quail Forever Journal, Americas Magazine and others. His first book “Paddling Texas” was released in November 2014.
1. What are your qualifications for a position on the Board of Directors? Have you served in a decision-making position before?
As a professional outdoor communicator, I lead strategic communications efforts at a water conservation organization and am a freelance writer for several publications. My first book was recently released as well. For the past two years, I’ve served as Treasurer of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. And, for much of my career I’ve worked as a consultant. In this capacity, I’ve helped many organizations identify opportunities, create strategic plans, and reach their goals. My decision-making positions include deputy director for U.S. Wheat Associates 20-country South Asia region, director for the U.S. Wheat Associates Philippine country office, senior program advisor for strategic communications at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, chief executive officer of The Red Paddle Group, contributing editor for GAFF Magazine, Treasurer of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association, radiological emergency response planner for the state of Virginia, director of external affairs at Campaign Consultation, and other positions in the response tothe 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, Hurricane Katrina, and other disaster deployments.
2. Why are you running for the Board and what do you hope to achieve if elected?
I see this as an opportunity to serve OWAA — an organization that not only gave me an opportunity and helped me get started, but that has continued to support me in many ways. I would hope to help OWAA envision its future and both plan and realize a path forward.
3. What do you think are the most important services OWAA offers to its members and how should we market those benefits to potential members?
The greatest benefit OWAA offers is the opportunity to build relationships with committed, capable, and successful professionals. These relationships yield friends, mentors, and collaborators. They yield business opportunities that would be hard to find elsewhere. (My first assignment came from an OWAA conference. And, I come home from each conference with new work.) How do we market this? No one in our field can be successful in a silo. We each need someone – an editor, a publisher or photographer, a writer or producer, someone. And, when it comes to the outdoors, OWAA is where the 6 degrees of separation shrinks. OWAA is where the outdoors comes together. Current and prospective members are looking for return on their investment of money and time. OWAA delivers that through relationships.
4. The annual conference is OWAA’s biggest outreach effort, yet many members rarely attend. How do we turn conference into a “can’t miss” event and how do we ensure newer, younger members return after attending that first conference?
Every attendee must leave each conference with something worthwhile and new (e.g. new work, new relationships, new skill, or new memories). If we deliver this, people will come back year after year. This is why I’ve not missed a conference since joining. The challenge is this: We must identify what people want from the conference, give it to them, capture the stories of how we gave it to them, and then share those stories with every member. This will compel people to come and come again.
5. What is your vision for OWAA?
My vision for OWAA is that it continues its tradition as the place where professional outdoor communicators come together to connect, to learn, to celebrate, and to support one another, the outdoors, and subsequent generations of communicators.
 
PAUL VANG
Residence: Montana
Years of OWAA membership: 18
Conferences attended: 14
Committees: Finance, Craft Improvement.
Paul Vang is a native of Minnesota and after graduating from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, he spent almost exactly one-third of the 20th Century in a career with the Social Security Administration, with over 21 of those years in supervision and management. After retiring from government service he reinvented himself as a freelance writer, landing a gig writing a weekly outdoors newspaper column. He’s expanded beyond that with credits with a lot of publications, though at age 75, he’s happy to continue doing that weekly column. He’s not making much money but he’s working about as hard as he wants to work. He became a member of OWAA in 1997, went to his first conference in 1999, and has been to 13 conferences since then. He’s served on several OWAA committees, including finance and craft improvement.
1. What are your qualifications for a position on the Board of Directors? Have you served in a decision-making position before?
Over the years I’ve been active in a number of organizations, including churches, United Way, Kiwanis, etc. I’ve been president of many of those organizations, including our church, Kiwanis club, symphony board, Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras, and, for my fanciest title: District Governor of the Montana District of Kiwanis International. I’m also a member of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association and served as president of NOWA in 2007. I’m currently serving on the Board of the Butte Tennis Association and the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library Foundation.
2. Why are you running for the Board and what do you hope to achieve if elected?
Frankly, I’m a candidate because the nominating committee asked me. I’m not seeking office, but if my peers in OWAA desire, I’m willing to serve, even if you have to drag me, kicking and screaming.
3. What do you think are the most important services OWAA offers to its members and how should we market those benefits to potential members?
I think OWAA’s most important service can be summed up as: helping outdoor communicators succeed in their career. We do this in numerous ways, such as annual conferences, Outdoors Unlimited, continuing education, mentoring, and giving people the opportunity to develop personal relationships with some of the best people in the business.
4. The annual conference is OWAA’s biggest outreach effort, yet many members rarely attend. How do we turn conference into a “can’t miss” event and how do we ensure newer, younger members return after attending that first conference?
As Yogi Berra said, “If the fans don’t come out to the ball park, you can’t stop them.” Still, it is too bad that some members rarely come to conferences. Certainly, attending our conferences costs time and money. Yet, the annual conference is where we, as outdoor communicators, really get a chance to improve our skills, meet our peers, meet newsmakers, and often land assignments. While we can’t drag new communicators to our conferences, we can make sure they have a great experience that they want to repeat.
5. What is your vision for OWAA?
Organizations face a lot of challenges, and we’re not unique in that respect. I know that community service organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary have similar issues, such as membership recruitment and retention, conference and convention attendance, etc. I believe we need to continually search out more new and more culturally diverse communicators out there and convincing them that OWAA is there to help them succeed. At the same time, we should make it clear that just joining an organization isn’t enough; you have to participate and invest some time and money in the process. The organization’s challenge, of course, is delivering on our promises, so that new members learn our ethics and values and to appreciate OWAA as much as I have and to become our future leaders.
MIKE ZLOTNICKI
Residence: North Carolina
Years of OWAA membership: 19
Conferences attended: Six
Committees: EIC Contests
Mike Zlotnicki is 50 years old. He lives in Garner, North Carolina, with his wife Renee and three daughter: Caroline, 15, Olivia 13 and Nicole, 11. He has a versatile German shorthaired pointer, Friedelsheim’s Tar Heel Annie. He hunts and fishes whenever he has time. He works as associate editor at Wildlife in North Carolina magazine, which placed first in the magazine category in the Association for Conservation Information in 2014.
1. What are your qualifications for a position on the Board of Directors? Have you served in a decision-making position before?
I have a BA in Journalism from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Since 1994 I have worked as an editor in both newspaper and magazines. In 2003 my newspaper section won first place in the OWAA EIC. Overall, I’ve won 15 Excellence in Craft awards in my career in both Newspaper and Magazine divisions. I am a member of five local outdoors clubs in North Carolina and serve as an officer in several of those.
2. Why are you running for the Board and what do you hope to achieve if elected?
I’m running because I’ve been asked to run by a member I respect very much. I want a robust organization that caters to and supports both consumptive and nonconsumptive members. I hunt and fish, but respect those who cover the nonconsumptive side and believe our biggest avenue for growth lies there – without forgetting the “old school” hook and bullet people who built this organization.
3. What do you think are the most important services OWAA offers to its members and how should we market those benefits to potential members?
I think networking for the freelance set and craft improvement for everyone are paramount. This may not be popular, but I also think writer discounts on goods and services are attractive to potential members. As for marketing, we need to identify new and potential communicators, perhaps in college, and communicate directly to them. Smaller newspapers and niche publications, blogs and ezines are other venues to target.
4. The annual conference is OWAA’s biggest outreach effort, yet many members rarely attend. How do we turn conference into a “can’t miss” event and how do we ensure newer, younger members return after attending that first conference?
This may sound simplistic, but “big name” speakers and interactive events like Break Out Day need to be on the agenda, and video clips of such that can be sent to prospects would help market the conference.
5. What is your vision for OWAA?
My “vision” is a must-join organization for all outdoor communicators, both consumptive and nonconsumptive. Some birds are for watching, and some birds are for eating. We need to appeal to folks who cover both.

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