Shift and Adjust
Dusty Oedekoven, DVM, DACVPM
USAHA Immediate Past President
National Pork Board
Service on the USAHA Executive Committee (EC) is traditionally a 6-year commitment starting at 3rd Vice President (VP) and advancing through 2nd and 1st VP, President Elect, President and finally Past President.
EC members are elected to the 3rd VP from the 4 regional districts and the district at large (DAL), rotating through the offices at the annual meeting. If carried out as designed, the 3rd VP and Past President represent the same district, and there is continuity in the institutional knowledge of our organization. Additionally, the treasurer is elected and traditionally serves 6 years.
The EC has been dynamic in my tenure, in more ways than one. First, there have been multiple career transitions along the way, moving some good people to exit too early. During my tenure, Paul McGraw, Charles Hatcher, Peter Mundschenk, Manoel Tamassia, and I have all changed employment. Dr. Paul McGraw, former state veterinarian from Wisconsin, had served a year as 3rd VP prior to making a career transition that created an opportunity for me to be elected as the North Central District (NCUSAHA) representative on the EC. I stepped directly into the 2nd VP position at the 2018 annual meeting in Kansas City, while fellow South Dakotan Steve Rommereim started as 3rd VP, elected by the District at Large (DAL). Dr. Charles Hatcher, long time state veterinarian of TN, served in the position ahead of mine. Just prior to his presidential year, Charlie was asked by his Governor to serve as the Commissioner of Agriculture, a busy job that could have reasonably caused his exit from the EC, yet he dutifully continued his service and provided excellent leadership. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Annette Jones (CA) finished well her term as treasurer, and Dr. Beth Thompson (SD) picked up the ledger in smooth transition. And just this past year, I switched careers from state government to industry association. The EC and NCUSAHA were kind to leave me in place as I finished my presidential year and remaining term. Dr. Manoel Tamassia, former state veterinarian from NJ and serving behind Steve Rommereim, would have been President Elect this year, but resigned that position last summer as he moved to Paris to take a job with the WOAH. The NEUSAHA district then pulled fellow past-president Steve Crawford, state veterinarian of NH, off the bench to finish the remainder of Manoel’s term. In addition to his prior service on the EC, Dr. Crawford has chaired several USAHA committees and brings great perspective to the team. This is the first time I can recall a cameo of a previously serving member on the EC.
Secondly, much of the discussion of the EC over the past three years has been reactive to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on our organization. The 2020 annual meeting was to be held in Nashville, TN, but was of course cancelled. Contract negotiations caused the EC to swap our planned meeting venue at the Gaylord Opryland in TN for a commitment to meet at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in 2023. Today we’ve all become accustomed to regular virtual meetings, but in 2020 it took some effort to coordinate committee meetings via Zoom ahead of our virtual annual meeting platform. Dr. Marty Zaluski presided over the business that year and we moved into 2021, thinking perhaps we could move “back to normal.”
Dr. Hatcher presided in 2021 and experienced the lingering effects of the pandemic on attendance at what became a hybrid annual meeting in Denver. Notably absent were our federal employees, who remained under travel restrictions. I’m very grateful that we had the opportunity to meet in person and in full force for our recent annual meeting in Minneapolis. After shaking hands and visiting with colleagues in the hallways, I’m content we will chop the tail off the dragon and dispense with the virtual meeting component next year.
Through all the turnover and tumult, Ben and Kelly have provided stability and tangible outcomes. I’m appreciative of their dedication to our organization and the work that we do. Service on the Executive Committee is rewarding in many ways, but our great staff also make it enjoyable.
Steve Rommereim has plans to advance our work through implementation of our strategic plan. Membership engagement through committee action, leadership development, and improving effectiveness of our resolution processes are a few of the important priorities of the EC in the coming years. Past presidents have played a critical role in the direction of our work. I’m pleased to join the ranks of the USAHA Past Presidents and I look forward to continued service to the organization.