I lost track of how many times people at Oshkosh asked me when EAA is going to select a new president. The answer is that nobody knows. And more importantly, the answer is the new leaders are already here. And have been since last October.
I don’t blame people for wondering when a single figurehead for the association will appear. After all, in its 60 year history there had always been one very high profile person at the helm.
Founder Paul Poberezny led EAA for decades until his son, Tom, moved into the president and chairman’s position. When it became time for Tom to contemplate retirement Rod Hightower was hired as president. There were no gaps as the president title moved from Paul, to Tom and then to Rod.
Given EAA history it’s natural for people to expect the past management structure to continue. But that isn’t going to happen because EAA’s Board of Directors has now fully assumed its statutory position as leader of the association.
EAA has always had directors, and the board has always had the authority under the articles of incorporation to make final decisions about how the association operates. But in the presence of strong and charismatic leadership—and a founding family—the directors seldom asserted themselves or took public positions on issues affecting the association.
When Rod was hired he had only one EAA management role model to follow, the trail blazed by the Pobereznys. Rod certainly had a different management style than Tom, but Rod was still the public face of EAA and the man everyone looked to for decisions.
With Rod’s departure the EAA management mold was broken. The directors decided to manage the association themselves. They created a new chairman position with a three-year term with the option of no more than one subsequent term. The chairman and board committee chairs now directly manage EAA and are the people members should look to for direction and decisions.
We are all very fortunate that Jack Pelton was available and so well qualified to be the first chairman in the new role. Jack is unquestionably EAA’s leader, but he is elected by the directors and is the leader of the board. When Jack speaks or reveals decisions and policies he has the support of the directors who made those decisions.
I tell people that to understand how EAA is going forward simply translate the name Poberezny into Board of Directors in your mind. What you expected from the Pobereznys during their long tenure now comes from the board. EAA is not awaiting the appearance of a new leader, the leader is here and it’s the board and the board’s chairman.
Dan Schwinn, who chairs the governance and human resources committee of the board, has said a senior manager may be added to the staff at sometime in the future. If that happens, whatever the title of that new position may be, I am certain it will not be a return to the past management style. The directors have been elected to lead, all are volunteers, and all are pilots and very involved in aviation. EAA will not be guided by a president or by group think, but by a consensus of very experienced people who are dedicated to helping EAA achieve its goal of helping aviation to grow.
In the celebrated play Waiting for Godot the characters are paralyzed into complete inactivity as they await the appearance of the man who can resolve all of their problems. EAA’s directors are not waiting for Godot, and in fact know that no such magical person exists. EAA is well along on its new course and has been since Rod left last October. Forget about a powerful president taking the stage and you’ll understand that the board is setting objectives, meeting goals and firmly guiding EAA forward.