Joe Cusack is getting used to winning awards. In April, the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association's Young Lumber Execs (NYLE) bestowed upon Cusack the Robert J. Horne Jr. Chips Award, an honor presented by NYLE each year to a person who has been instrumental in promoting the professional and/or personal development of young people within the building materials industry (see “Hall of Famer,” page 48). No stranger to NYLE, Cusack helped found the organization, which is dedicated to the development of young industry professionals, in 1991. In 2002,he received with NYLE's first “Redwood Award,”awarded to an individual who has made a significant difference in the lives of its members. According to Cusack, the awards are great, but the work behind them—mentoring young sales leaders into the industry and supporting NLBMDA and its regional associations—are where he's found the greatest rewards in his 46 years in the industry.

“I've always been very involved, it's just been my passion,” says Cusack, who has been president of both the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA) and the Massachusetts Retail Lumber Dealers Association (MRLDA), in addition to serving on numerous boards and executive appointments in both associations. “My mentor in this business was Ed Doherty, who owned Doherty, Black and Shepard in Boston. He was an incredible individual who gave his time and money to associations and believed heavily that it was our responsibility to give back to our industry that has given us so much. That had an incredible influence on me getting involved, and when I did get involved I found that I had a calling for it.”

After climbing up the ranks at Doherty, Black and Shepard to work as vice president of marketing and sales for 15 years, Cusack owned and ran his own retail lumberyard in Weymouth, Mass., for 10 years. For the past decade, he has been a territory sales manager for Avon, Mass.–based Boston Cedar and Millwork. But wherever his office has been, Cusack has made a point of giving back. “Fortunately, I've been with employers who are spectacular people and believe in the same thing that I do, and allow me to spend the time, the effort, the money, whatever it takes to help the associations,” Cusack explains.

Although Cusack's current demands selling for Boston Cedar and Millwork largely keep him on the road, he remains active in his associations, serving as social chair for the MRLDA (who named him Lumberperson of the Year in 1994) and as a NRLA convention planning board member for the past 25 years. “Joe's leadership, advice, and counsel make him one of the most revered and respected people in the industry today,” says NRLA conventions and meetings director Heidi Longton. “He has a lifetime of dedication to promoting our industry.”

Cusack, however, would rather keep his eyes firmly trained on the future, especially when it comes to developing new industry talent. “Most of the young people in this industry are very serious. They are very bright, they know what they want, and they are not afraid to reach for it,” he says. “Investing in the future [is important]. Programs like NYLE are where the leaders are going to come from and form the relationships that will make them stick with us [as an industry].”

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