Immediately after taking the office of NLBMDA chair at the Fall Summit last October in Indian Wells, Calif., I began traveling with the goal of trying to visit all 21 of our federated associations. I wanted to let all of our members know that we have an active national association in Washington, D.C., with an energetic staff representing our industry. I was the “dealer ambassador” for NLBMDA. I also wanted to help Shawn Conrad with his transition as our new president of the association. This was my easiest task, as Shawn needed very little help getting adjusted. In fact, after our fall conference, he was accepted by everyone with his fresh, new, enthusiastic manner. Shawn and his staff have diligently worked to improve and reshape NLBMDA.

As I tried to contact each of the federated associations to set up the best time to visit, logistical problems soon became apparent. I felt strongly that someone representing NLBMDA should attend at least one of each of the federated associations' meetings. Therefore, Shawn or another officer of the association filled in for me when a date conflict forced my absence. For example, chair elect Sam Dunn and vice chair Kevin Hancock each attended a state meeting. By the time we have our fall conference, the NLBMDA/ProSales Industry Summit in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Sept. 23–25, I will have visited at least 20 of the federated associations.

This has been a transitional year for NLBMDA. We have looked closely at the makeup of the association and seen some things that need improvement. In March, we had a strategic planning session in Washington, D.C., and we concluded that we need to get our “house in order” and concentrate on five areas: governance, membership, government affairs, training, and outreach. We appointed a committee to work on each area, set a proposal of changes, and establish an action plan.They then reported back to the NLBMDA executive committee, and we “tweaked” their work and presented it to our board of directors.

Our goal is for NLBMDA to evolve over the next two to three years into a much stronger and influential organization. If we accomplish nothing else, I hope we can begin a national training and education program that is affordable for all of our dealers. Thanks to the work of our education committee and with some initial funding from the Construction Suppliers Association, we should be well on our way to implementing a valuable program.

My term as chairman has been very rewarding. I have met many nice people in our industry and have many fond memories. These include helping install new officers at an annual state association meeting; attending a Christmas political reception at a governor's residence; visiting a very large product exhibition where both dealers and their builder customers attended; and sitting in on some excellent industry educational programs at several state meetings.

What still amazes me is that more people don't attend the state and national association meetings. There is a wealth of knowledge and expertise that is available just by mixing and visiting with your fellow dealers.

Supporting your national and state association is a self-rewarding experience. Get involved and volunteer to serve on different committees. Attend the meetings and you'll find that the more you give, the more you will receive! I know this firsthand—this has been the busiest and most rewarding year of my life.

Bill Stewart is chairman of NLBMDA and president of Stewart Lumber Co. in Dickson, Tenn. E-mail: