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BY MARK FREEMAN
After I won the Newspaper Section category of the Excellence in Craft contests in 2010, the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s Board of Directors voted to no longer hold that contest, figuring it clearly had run its course.
Later that conference, I tossed my hat in the ring as a third vice president candidate and the board chose to disband that seat rather than risk me winning.
So when I won the second vice president seat in Alaska in 2012 to put me in line to be OWAA’s new president, everyone was concerned that the Mayans clearly must be right.
In the end, the Mayans were right. But they didn’t predict the end of the world just a month after my election. What they predicted was change.
We’ve had plenty of positive change within OWAA the past few years and I sought the presidency to ensure these positive steps keep this fabulous organization moving forward.
I’m a lifelong newspaper guy, breaking in as an environmental and crime reporter before moving to my paper in Medford, Oregon, as an outdoors/environmental reporter in 1989. I’m in my 26th year without ever seeking any kind of promotion.
Other than my local gym, OWAA is the only thing I belong to. We are the only ones who understand that fishing or hunting or skiing for work is enormously fun and gratifying — but it’s still work. We are the only ones who understand what it takes to be one of us-an outdoor communicator.
My first conference was in 1993 in Portland, Oregon, during the heyday of this organization. In the ensuing years, I’ve seen our industry and organization change immensely.
We’ve evolved from predominantly hook-and-bullet writing with a largely regional environmental presence to a big tent with all sorts of disciplines and media. I broke in writing on carbon paper and a manual typewriter. Now I’m writing, shooting video, tweeting and blogging.
As are many of the changes OWAA’s experienced during my seven years on the board and as an officer. While I’m not responsible for these changes, I ran for president because I support them and want to cultivate them to grow. They keep us relevant in the 21st century and help us adapt to changing needs of outdoor communicators in this news, faster-paced world.
One of the biggest changes is the hiring of our no-longer-new executive director, Tom Sadler. With marketing savvy, Sadler has helped address some of the major needs we asked him to when we hired him on, of all days, April 1, 2013. Sadler reversed some of the membership trends that have dogged us in recent years. Last year we saw the first net positive change in supporters and membership categories since 2002.
I want to see and help that continue. I helped Matt Miller lead the Strategic Plan Committee that created a living document to guide us by spelling out specific goals and concrete targets that measure our improvements and successes. I want to see that plan stay vibrant and relevant for OWAA through my time.
Colleen Miniuk-Sperry has launched a Membership Services Committee that is working to meet the needs of new and long-standing members. I want to ensure an OWAA environment that sees her young and vibrant committee continue its work to help you.
Katie McKalip is now the new Supporting Group Liaison, bringing supporters’ voices to the board at all levels. This is a long-needed addition and McKalip is the perfect person to set the tone for how this position interacts and influences the board for years to come.
Thanks to our revamped membership qualifications, we’ve got new portals into OWAA for bloggers, media representatives and others. I want to see these fledgling committees and groups keep enough board support to see just what they can accomplish when they spread their wings.
One of the gripes I’ve heard for years from past presidents is that one year isn’t long enough, that they need more time to usher ideas into reality.
We don’t need longer presidential terms. We need presidents to help shepherd the good ideas forward, not run full-speed with a competing agenda.
I want my tenure on this board to mean something. I want to see the efforts and ideas of our talented and committed OWAA members and supporters to continue to grow in the positive arc we all witnessed in McAllen, Texas.
Let’s prove the Mayans right about OWAA. We’re alive, well and improving every day. ♦
— OWAA President Mark Freeman