Happy New (Fiscal) Year and Auld Lang Syne

Photo of Susan Day.
NANPA keeps Susan Day on the go. Photo credit: Susan Day.

By Susan Day, NANPA Executive Director

It’s hard to believe that this fiscal year over! Today we welcome Dawn Wilson as NANPA’s next president as well as new board members Beth Huning, Trent Sizemore, and Kika Tuff. Lisa Langell will stay on for a second term and be a great mentor to the incoming members. I’m looking forward to working with and helping everyone achieve NANPA’s goals and dreams.

At the same time, it’s always sad when outgoing board members leave. Don Carter came on the board in 2015 to fill the 2nd term of Budd Titlow, who had to step down. Besides serving on the board all those years, Don also chaired the Summit College Photography Scholarship Program a couple of years, chaired the Regional Events Committee (of which he’s still a member), stepped in as a leader for the High School Scholarship Program at Tremont a couple of years (even sleeping in a group tent in the summer heat in the Smokies), served on the Executive Committee, was NANPA President in 2017-18, and Vice President in 2019-20 along with countless other tasks and favors. Thank you, Don, for sharing your knowledge and time. I know I twisted your arm a little to get involved, and I hope it’s been a great journey for you. I’ll miss talking to you every week, but I know you’ll still be wearing your NANPA hat, proudly.

Don Carter (back row, far left) with 2016 NANPA High School Scholarship Students at the Tremont Institute in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo credit: Karine Aigner.
Don Carter (back row, far left) with 2016 NANPA High School Scholarship Students at the Tremont Institute in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo credit: Karine Aigner.

Gordon Illg’s term on the board started in 2016, and he has also been involved in many NANPA committees and projects through the years. Gordon and I worked together on the Communications Committee in the early years and he’s been someone who doesn’t say much, but when he does, you should listen. He served as NANPA’s president in 2018-19 (which many will agree was a tough year to be a NANPA president) and has been a quiet and humble voice of reason at many, many meetings. He represents the true professional photographer because he and Cathy have made their living together leading photography workshops and licensing their work worldwide. It is admirable, in my opinion, to be able to get through the dips and climbs of this business—and do it in style for decades—and still devote time to helping others through NANPA. Gordon, I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know you, working with you, and being your friend. Please thank Cathy, too, for her service. I know she stood beside you and has been a silent board member and mentor for all of us. Our best to you in your new home.

Then outgoing president Gordon Illg receives a board thank-you gift for his term, from then incoming president Tom Haxby, August, 2019. Photo credit: John Nuhn.
Then outgoing president Gordon Illg receives a board thank-you gift for his term, from then incoming president Tom Haxby, August, 2019. Photo credit: John Nuhn.

Andrew Snyder was just a pup when he got involved in NANPA through the College Program. I didn’t know him then but Gabby Salazar had spoken so highly of him that I knew he was special and that I’d like him. She was right. Andrew brought a spark of youthful light to our board and, as most board members do, spent his first year listening and learning. Clay Bolt, Sean Fitzgerald, Jon Holloway, and a few other veteran members took him under their wings and they all learned from each other. Clay, Sean, Jaymi Heimbuch (a former board member), Dave Huth, and Andrew restructured the former Environment Committee into what is now the Conservation Committee. Andrew and Dave continue to co-chair this committee and I envision it growing significantly in a time when conservation needs help more than ever. Andrew is soft-spoken but his words are always meaningful and on target. He has the rare gift of thinking before he speaks. I will miss him and wish him the very best in his new career and as a new papa. Lily is a lucky lady!

And I saved Tom Haxby for the end because I’m not sure what to say without getting all mushy and teary. I don’t recall when I first met Tom even though I knew his name, but it was probably at his first board meeting in St Louis on 2017. What struck me about Tom was how prepared he was with sticky notes on his board packet and watching him during the meeting and hearing the questions he asked. He was obviously taking his job seriously. We shared a few meals together and learned we had common interests with our photography and conservation. We talked on the phone when he had questions and the more I got to know Tom the more I liked him and how solid he was as a person. When the board approached Tom about his interest in being president, he asked me if I thought he could do it. I didn’t hesitate in urging him to go for it. I knew he had the leadership skills and personality, and I was right. No president can say they had an easy year because there are always challenges and unexpected issues that arise – and that’s part of evolving as an organization. But none has ever had to deal with the uncertainties of a worldwide pandemic crisis that chewed up everything as we knew it and spit it out in pieces that are still floating and we don’t know where they’ll land. I know Tom dealt with some of the biggest issues that a NANPA president has ever encountered and had some tough choices to make. I also know he had some sleepless nights and we spent hours on the phone and email mapping and remapping goals, events, and strategies. But disruption can also be cleansing. Tom guided NANPA through the muck and we’re on our way to a fresher organization than before by eliminating programs that were no longer productive and adding new and improved ones. During that time, I got to know Tom and I’ve told him this as I tell all presidents, that one of the coolest parts of my job is getting to know presidents. We can’t help but get close and become friends, and Tom is way up there on my friend list now. Thank you, Tom, and enjoy your quiet time in your beloved Smokies next week. You definitely deserve a break! NANPA will be in good hands under Dawn’s leadership, and I know you’ll help her in your role as Past President.

As we enter a new fiscal year for NANPA, I’m optimistic. Despite weathering the pandemic, our membership numbers are higher than they’ve been since 2010, which tells me we’re doing something right. Don, Gordon, Andrew, Tom and others before them have literally built this organization from scratch—twice. And in some ways, we’re starting on our third major renovation since that first meeting at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, NY when 100 photographers and industry pros met to talk about nature and photography together. NANPA was conceived at that meeting and officially incorporated in 1994. Some of us have ridden the bus from the start and others are just hopping on. With our collective contributions and love of nature and photography, we’ll continue to grow and thrive.