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In step with Stommel.

IN STEP WITH STOMMEL

I HAVE A PHILOSOPHY THAT THE SOCIETY should do what the member cannot do individually. Otherwise there's no reason for our existence. If our membership can do all these things as individuals or in groups of two or three, why do we need 25,000 all gathering together? I think that should be our main thrust - that we as a group of professionals coming together in this Society can accomplish what we could not accomplish if we did not have this organization." So says 1991 ASIS President Raymond R. Stommel, CPP.

Involvement has been a theme in Stommel's life. To say he likes to keep busy is an understatement. During college he held down four jobs at once. He was a bellhop in a first-class hotel in Madison, WI. He also unloaded lumber from boxcars on weekends. It was a high-paying job that could be done quickly. Then there was the navy research project at the University of Wisconsin, with 1,500 white mice, four goats, eight monkeys, and assorted chickens and guinea pigs. He fed them all on weekends. Stommel's fourth job was the one that nearly became his profession.

"I worked at a radio station as a disc jockey, and I actually thought that was what I wanted to do. I was pretty well set on following radio as a career. It was a call-in station, and working there was fascinating. On weekends I worked all night - 10 pm to 6 am. All kinds of people would call in. You learn a lot. You get a sense of what people are thinking out there."

Keeping busy could easily be Stommel's motto. Even today, "When we retire . . ." is a joke around his house.

"It's a standing joke in the family because we're all kind of nuts, including my kids. We have this built-in need to be doing something all the time. I have to be involved in something."

So how did this man who would have been a disc jockey go from a sociology major to a security manager? Stommel was born in Milwaukee, WI, and went to college at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he earned a BS in sociology. From there he traveled the world during his 21 years in the army.

"I spent two years as an infantry officer and the rest of the time in the military police. I think that probably built the base for my security interest because most of the assignments I had in one way or another related to security. I just carried that over."

While on active duty, Stommel also earned a graduate degree in criminology from Florida State University. After the army, he worked for Burroughs Corporation as director of corporate security and safety and then moved on to his current job as director of corporate security and safety for Stroh Brewery Company.

The following are Stommel's reflections on the Society.

On joining ASIS:

I became a member of the Society when I was stationed in Washington, DC. I frankly didn't do much when I first joined ASIS. I was like many members. I retired from the military while I was on assignment in Washington and ultimately went to Detroit because of a job opportunity.

I became a member of the Detroit chapter, and that was the beginning of a real sense of involvement. I knew absolutely no one in Detroit - zero. I took over a brand new job with a relatively large corporation, Burroughs, and I thought I needed to know someone. I thought I would need help, no question about it. ASIS gave me the opportunity to make contacts with people I would never have had the chance to meet any other way. When people ask me about the value of this organization, that chance to make contacts has got to be near the top. My involvement with ASIS helped me recognize opportunities to do some things that I felt were important.

On holding office:

The first real job I had was program committee chairman, and we had fun. It was a good group of people. That developed into the opportunity to become a chapter officer. There is a requirement in the Detroit chapter, as in many chapters, to move sequentially through the chapter officer jobs. You don't run for office every year, you move your way up. It would take four or five years before I ever became a chapter chairman. I thought I wouldn't even be in Detroit that long. Well, I was, and I did become chapter chairman. That was probably the most fun job - that and regional vice president.

As chapter chairman, you get to the essence of what's going on in ASIS. You get a sense of the real gut issues, and you see things getting results in short-term time frames. The great fun of this organization is being chapter chairman, not to detract from the challenging part of that job. We rely heavily on chapter chairmen, and they're the people who make the Society work.

From there I became a regional vice president, which was also fun. It again was an opportunity to broaden my horizons a little bit and get beyond those immediate concerns of a chapter chairman. You start to relate a little bit more to what's happening on a national basis and maybe not quite as much on an international basis at that point. From there I decided to run for the ASIS Board of Directors. Actually, it took a little nudging from a few people.

I had the opportunity to know some past presidents very well. I suppose Carl Carter and Wayne Hall are the two people I talked to most frequently about the Society, which is natural because they're from Detroit. The Detroit chapter has turned out five ASIS presidents now, I think. (See accompanying box.) Maybe it's something in the water or the air - I'm not sure.

On being president:

The Society has an impeccable reputation. No matter where I've gone inside or outside the security community, ASIS is looked on as one of the leading professional organizations in the country - in the world for that matter. The opportunity to be the president of this kind of organization comes once in a lifetime, literally. You hope you can have some kind of impact on what's going on - maybe, if you're lucky, to make one small change for the better in the year that you have.

I never thought I'd be president - absolutely not. As I attended seminars and exhibits early on, even as a chapter officer, I did not have the slightest inkling that I would ever be president of this Society. Nor did I have great aspirations at that point. My aspirations in the chapter were to be chairman. I thought that would be great, not because I just wanted to be chairman, but because I had ideas on how we ought to do things.

But once you're in office you find out that doing all those things you thought were simple, overnight sensations is not so easy and that there's a lot more to the office than appears on the surface. The other part of the secret is that the person who has that job, whatever it may be, never really tells you everything you have to do. You step into these jobs thinking it's going to be great because you can accomplish all these objectives and that it really doesn't look like there's too much to do. Well, you quickly learn that there's a lot to do in every one of these jobs.

On Stroh:

Stroh has been extremely supportive of my being president. It recognizes this is a professional organization. The company knows the office is going to take a considerable amount of time and effort and some financial support, obviously. But it feels very strongly about having the opportunity to have someone from Stroh participate in this kind of structure.

The decision was not made whimsically or without a lot of consideration. There was a considerable amount of discussion with my boss, and he recognized that it would take some time on my part, but ultimately his decision was to support me totally.

On ASIS members:

I avoid the word membership. I don't like it because the membership becomes this wobbly, definitionless mass. It's the member, the individual, who's the key. I don't want people to lose themselves in the "membership," and that's what's happening. I want individual members to identify with their part in the Society, an identification that goes all the way through chapter members, regional vice presidents, into the committees, and ultimately to the board.

I never cease to be amazed at the tremendous talent in ASIS. Some of it just never surfaces. I'd really like to tap into that talent. Some great ideas are sitting out there, and I hear about them third and fourth hand. I'd like to hear about them firsthand by getting those people to accept volunteer positions, carry those ideas with them, and see them develop to their ultimate potential. No one has cornered the market on unique ideas in the Society.

Members should understand that running for the board is not so mysterious, first of all. And secondly that we are looking for a broad base of people to take that challenge. I think one of the problems we face today is that not enough people are available, for whatever reason, to run for the board. It's a problem we have to come to grips with through education, information, or one-on-one discussion with current board members.

On the importance of communication:

I have always sensed that a communication gap exists between the board and the members, and I've been trying to define precisely where that gap is. I'd like to see communications open up so that every member in the Society understands that board members are really chapter members. That's where we all began. We have the same concerns about our chapters that we have always had.

I also hope board members will remember when they were new chapter members and do whatever they can to talk with and listen to what members have to say - open up as much opportunity as possible for members to talk to them one on one.

Some members feel that board members are always busy scurrying about and doing things, and members hate to interrupt. Well, if I were a member with an idea, knowing what I know now, I would interrupt. I'd go up, introduce myself if necessary, and explain that I had an idea I'd like to talk about.

Another thing I'd like to get across to members is that all of us are volunteers: board members, officers - we all are volunteering on an equal basis. We all have to respond to our full-time jobs and responsibilities. Board members give their time just as chapter chairmen and committee members do, so we're all in this together.

The board does not represent itself. It represents the members - each person in the Society. Members can take a great deal of pride and satisfaction in knowing that their message is being carried. That's why it's so important for them to let board members know what they're thinking.

Ideas are generated from the members. Members cannot sit back and expect the Society to do anything for them unless they participate. The Society's success is due to individuals who for so many years have devoted so much time, energy, effort, and talent to getting us where we are today. It's incumbent on each member also to do his or her part to keep ASIS alive.

And let's not forget the ASIS Foundation. I'm convinced that the Foundation is at the earliest stages of developing into one of the best educational entities you'll ever see. We have to get members to realize the Foundation is really the future of the Society.

Again, it's part of this communication gap we've got to bridge. We can explain the Foundation to one person in about five minutes and get him or her to understand, but that's not going to solve the problem. We have to explain it to that member, who will then explain it to two more members, who will explain it to two more. That's not happening. I would like to see every member of the Society understand what the Foundation is and what it's doing.

The Foundation has planted some seeds that are going to grow, and I think by the year 2000 it all will have come to fruition. The Foundation will have established a financial base and hopefully self-sustaining funds for scholarships and research grants, and people outside ASIS will know about it. We have these great things going on and we don't tell anybody. We've got to carry the message.

On ASIS's growth:

I don't agree with the soothsayers who tell me we have plateaued. I think growth will continue in our international community - it's inevitable. We cannot possibly work in this profession without recognizing that the world shrinks a little bit more every day. Our growth may not be as rapid as it has been in the past, but it will continue.

Also, I'm amazed that there are still people in the security community who have not heard about ASIS. I'd like to see individual members spread the word. We get very comfortable within the Society. We can always talk to other ASIS members because we understand the language, we understand what each of us is doing, and we don't have to explain our job. I'd like to get us out of the comfort zone.

We should talk about security and its implications and challenges to our colleagues and acquaintances wherever the opportunity arises. Let those people understand what security professionals are doing. I also belong to the American Society for Safety Engineers, so I have an opportunity to talk to safety people frequently. There is a great misunderstanding about what security is doing. And I think that if we would begin to educate our colleagues and other professionals, it would help both us and them.

On the Annual ASIS Seminar and Exhibits:

If I could get a message to a new member, I would say that the first opportunity you have to get to an annual seminar, go. I can say this because as a new member I didn't attend the first couple. You will leave with your batteries recharged. You will leave with a greater appreciation of this whole profession. You will walk away with increased pride in what you're doing. And you will quickly recognize that your problems are not unique - solutions are out there.

Our annual seminar has got to be one of the best going. We have by far a higher level of professionalism than anything I've seen. That says something for our standing committees and the people putting the seminar and exhibits together. We have fun doing these things. The opportunity to work with outstanding people just doesn't happen every day. ASIS gives you that opportunity.

On computers:

The computer age is moving in on us quickly. If we don't come to grips with it and incorporate it into the security profession, we are making a major mistake. Security professionals at every stage in their careers must learn to use computers to their advantage in management positions.

The whole computer age has tremendous potential, but there's no middle ground. We either have to join it or it's going to run us over. On the safety side of the house, where I spend about half my time, we do infinite analysis on accidents, injuries, and workers' compensation costs. A few years ago safety professionals were way ahead of security in terms of analysis. They could present statistical analyses, graphs, charts, and spreadsheets, while we in security are just beginning to recognize the PC's tremendous capability.

You can be a hero quickly if you understand how computers work, and that's the way we have to go. We would be remiss as a profession not to recognize that and keep up with computers. Again, I think that's why ASIS is so vital to the individual member, because the educational offerings we present keep members up to speed and give them the opportunity to stay abreast of what's happening.

On security's growth:

Projections from the security community to the year 2000 indicate that security is going to be needed even more than it is today. Taxpayers are not going to support law enforcement at the rate they have in the past. The only alternative to law enforcement for protecting society is the professional security community - we're it.

We're already beginning to see a broadening of security responsibilities. Instead of looking at that reluctantly, we should view it positively. It's important to accept those challenges and be willing to learn something about other responsibilities, because if we don't, we're not going to be challenged to use the potential we have.

Security professionals make good managers. We have seen the worst that goes on in our organizations. We've met challenges that some of our colleagues will never face. If we can manage those situations, surely we can manage others. We have people with a lot of talent that can be applied outside of security.

We also have to use every opportunity we can to bring a knowledge of security to others. We turn out the best security magazine in the world, bar none. So why not let other people look at it? Why not circulate it to people who are not in security? I consistently get things on my desk from people outside my sphere of influence. I'm inundated with insurance information. Why? Because that individual in my company likes to circulate information. I'm beginning to realize now that everyone knows something about insurance. Well, I'm going to teach them all something about security also.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:American Society for Industrial Security president Raymond R. Stommel
Author:Haines, Kimberly A.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:interview
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:2986
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