Every year is busy and eventful for the Distribution Contractors Association (DCA), one of the most visible and active trade associations representing the interests of its contractor members in the underground construction industry.
During 2009, DCA staff and members not only conducted business in the midst of a worldwide recession, but also made a significant transition in leadership with the retirement of longtime Executive Vice President Dennis Kennedy. Robert (Rob) Darden replaced Kennedy on December 31, 2009.
“Rob Darden was selected new executive vice president in mid-July,” said Kennedy. “The original plan was for me to remain active until my retirement, but because of Rob’s experience and enthusiasm, the executive committee of the board of directors, suggested I let Rob have more control of the day to day matters and since Nov. 1, he has been actively in charge. I continued to go into the office occasionally, but Rob has been handling most administrative matters and has been involved in planning and implementing the 49th DCA Annual Convention in February 2010.”
Darden brings to DCA more than 25 years of international meeting management and association experience, most recently as executive director of QuESt Forum, an international organization dedicated to telecommunications quality.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to succeed Dennis Kennedy as executive vice president of such a great organization,” says Darden. “The DCA members and staff have been very welcoming to me as we transitioned to new leadership. Dennis has been a great leader for the past 20 years and has built DCA into the vibrant and healthy organization that it is. I have big shoes to fill, but feel confident with the help of the great staff and the member leadership that operations will continue to go very smoothly.”
Kennedy says he will maintain semi active involvement with DCA as a consultant with plans to attend several industry events in 2010. He and his wife, Regan, have purchased a home in Hot Springs Village, AR, where they plan to make their permanent residence.
Kennedy has guided DCA through economic cycles and a period of rapid technological changes since he took over its leadership on Jan. 1, 1990. At the time, DCA was struggling financially and member involvement was marginal.
Reflecting on his time with the association, Kennedy said it is difficult to itemize the most satisfying achievements over a 20-year span.
“I am proud that the DCA is a much stronger organization now than when I started,” he said. “And I would expect it to continue to grow and prosper.”
Kennedy points to several key elements contributing to the association’s growth and success.
“Certainly getting the membership more enthused about their association and convincing a number of industry leaders to accept positions of responsibility in the DCA was a first step,” said Kennedy. “I would be remiss in not mentioning the early-on hard work and cooperation of Jack Gabrielse, InterCon Construction; Bob Meschi and Tom Poole, The Hallen Construction Co.; Royce Heebner, Henkels & McCoy; Joe Purpura, Midwestern Contractors; and Stewart Kniff, Sub Surface Construction for setting new standards and elevating the professionalism of our meetings and leadership.”
Kennedy said the DCA’s financial situation changed quickly due to the cooperation of the United Association, Laborers’ International Union of NA and the DCA Labor Committee, led by Dale Miller, Miller Pipeline Corp., that established Labor Management Cooperation Trusts as part of the association’s national distribution agreements. The International Union of Operating Engineers also contributed funds several years later to the national agreement.
“This funding has been critical to our growth,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy credits a 1991 idea of past president Rolland “Bob” Lyons of Michigan Trenching to hold a live auction as part of the annual convention. The auction proved to be vital to association finances and morale during critical early years. Ultimately the auctions have raised more than $1 million for the DCA.
“Other milestones over the years,” Kennedy said, “were major improvements in communications with the membership including a newsletter, updates to the newsletter, annual report, membership directory and improved communication with the board of directors. Taking advantage of new technologies such as the internet has enhanced our ability to be more helpful to our members, communicate our mission and to keep up to date with industry matters.”
Essential to the success of any association is involvement and commitment of members and associate members.
Kennedy said that in spite of the industry swings, including mergers during the 1990s, membership of contractors and supporting manufacturers has remained constant and, in fact, members now represent a much larger segment of the market.
“From the beginning,” Kennedy emphasized, “the associate members have been extraordinary in their support and loyalty to the DCA and to me. The trade press has been very kind to DCA and my relationship from the very beginning with Underground Construction Publisher Oliver Klinger has been vital to the growth of DCA and rewarding personally. Ollie has been an untiring advocate of the DCA and has given us stature on the national and global stage. His influence on our success cannot be over stated.”
The Kennedys are ready to enjoy retirement.
“Our new home,” Kennedy said, “will be in the Ouachita mountains of Arkansas in Hot Springs Village, a small city of 15,000 residents with nine championship golf courses, 11 recreational lakes, 26 miles of nature trails only 30 minutes from Little Rock and Hot Springs. I am hoping to enjoy the lifestyle, improve my golf game, catch a few fish and attend a local technical college to master a few hobbies and crafts that I have wanted to do for quite some time.”
Kennedy is confident the future of DCA is bright.
“I am pleased that I can pass the torch to the next generation of leaders and watch them grow and enjoy this wonderful organization,” Kennedy concluded.
New Executive Vice President Darden shares Kennedy’s expectations.
“As DCA approaches its 50th Anniversary there is a generational shift in the industry,” he said. “New, young leaders of our regular member contractors and the supplier associate members are becoming active in the committees and leadership of the association. For the past 20 years Dennis Kennedy has built a great foundation. I plan to build upon that legacy and help the association adapt to a new generation of members and a rapidly changing economy. I hope to increase the level of member value through more educational offerings and improved communications tools.
“Internally, we are reviewing the board and committee structure to more actively engage the members. The more member companies are engaged the more they will remain loyal members and help recruit new members. I am looking forward to 2010 as a year in which we set a new strategic plan and lay the groundwork for the next 50 years.”
Based in Richardson, TX, DCA serves as a link between its members and government agencies, organized labor and other industry organizations. The association tracks governmental issues affecting distribution contractors, and keeps members informed of the latest developments on the industry’s regulatory and legislative fronts with monthly and on line newsletters and updates.
The association provides members with a labor relations service, negotiating collective bargaining and national distribution agreements and maintains alliances with other industry groups to pool resources, ideas and information in order to help members operate their businesses more efficiently.
More Than A Job
Reflecting on his 20 years with DCA, recently retired Executive Vice President Dennis Kennedy makes clear his time at DCA was much more than a job.
“DCA has given me fulfillment both personally and professionally, and from my standpoint the fit was perfect,” said Kennedy. “When Dale Michels of Michels Pipeline Inc. called me in October 1989 to tell me that I been chosen as the successor to Jim Upton, DCA’s managing director the previous 28 years, I could never have imagined the positive impact it would have on my life. Being part of the DCA has been a true joy and a wonderful experience. DCA has been an extension of my family. My daughter, Sarah, grew up in the organization and has enjoyed the love and nurturing of the members for most of her life. My wife Regan embraced the DCA unequivocally and in return the members have admired and respected her incredible loyalty, hard work and loving nature. Needless to say, I would not have been successful without Regan’s support. I can be replaced, Regan will be a tough act to follow.
“I am very proud of the tremendous work and the professional quality of the staff. Not only the current staff members: Teri Korson, 16 years as administrative services manager; Melissa Leslie, meetings and membership manager for six years, Candace Green, one and a half years as our publication manager, but those who preceded them in my early years and made wonderful contributions. During my tenure, there is no doubt that the staff worked harder and more efficiently than any group that I have been associated with in over 30 years of association management.
“Now that our time is over at DCA, I am so grateful to know that I have had the opportunity to work with so many leaders in this industry and to have represented the DCA to the best of my abilities. Regan and I have made many lifelong friends that I hope to continue to see, so the DCA journey will not end for us.”
FOR MORE INFO:
Distribution Contractors Association, (972) 680-0261, www.dca-online.org