In the past nine months, four well-known leaders in boating associations have retired or announced plans to do so. None is better known that Phil Keeter, MRAA president, who will retire at the end of this year following 23 years at the national association’s helm.

His plan to retire was made public in January. The MRAA board announced it would begin accepting resumes and applications until the end of March. The timetable, according to MRAA chairman Dave Foulkrod, is to begin interviews in April with a target of naming a successor by the end of June.

“We’re still on schedule,” Keeter told me recently. “We’re very pleased with the response so far, but we’re definitely continuing to accept resumes until the end of March. So, I encourage anyone with an interest, whether inside the industry or not, to respond by that deadline."

Truth is, Keeter has been the quintessential representative for the retail side of our industry. Finding a successor with his background is unlikely. After all, he was a dealer for 30 years before becoming MRAA’s president and was also one of the 12 founding members that saw the need for the industry’s dealers to be represented on the national stage. They birthed MRAA in 1972. Still, as Keeter, age 74, hastens to point out, it’s time for younger leadership to take over and keep the organization moving ahead.

Other notable leaders of associations that have passed the torch since last summer include Frank Herhold, Van Snider and Ruth Woods.

Frank Herhold retired as executive director last July after leading the Marine Industries Association of South Florida for 20 years and overseeing a doubling of the organization into one of the largest (800 members) trade association in the industry. He continues to serve in an emeritus position. Herhold actually succeeded Van Snider who left MIASF to take the top spot in Michigan.

Snider served as president of the Michigan Boating Industries Association, a statewide organization, for two decades and retired last November. He successfully consolidated all local marine trade groups in Michigan into one powerful organization, developed a strong legislative program and expanded the membership base along with MBIA’s stable of annual boat shows from one to three.

Finally, Ruth Woods, president of the BoatUS Foundation announced her retirement last month. Her 28-year career with the foundation is remarkable. Under her leadership, the foundation pioneered the first nationwide Life Jacket Loaner Program for Kids, an EPIRB rental program, a free online boating safety course, among other firsts. Notably, she also served as chair of the National Safe Boating Council, a member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary Board of Directors, as well as worked on the Underwriters Laboratories PFD Technical Panel and the US Coast Guard's Boating Safety Advisory Council.

Clearly, it’s a good thing that boating is seeing the wisdom of decades of industry experience now being passed on to younger leaders. They’re being handed solid foundations from which to bring boating to new levels of success.


The Calm Before the Storm?

Although key measures continued on an upward trajectory and unemployment numbers have fallen, the overall outlook for 2020 remains volatile.