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AGA's Annual Meeting Marks 50th Year. (Mini-Forum: Celebrating Aga's 50th Year).

The association's growth from "an elite group of federal accountants" to a significant nationwide body of financial professionals in all levels of government is paralleled by the growth of its annual meeting.

Forum Editor's Note

We had intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Association for Government Accountants (AGA) last year. Having missed that boat, we are happy to celebrate AGA's 50th annual conference by featuring several presentations made at that conference. I must admit my bias in AGA's favor as a 29-year member and holder of AGA's designation as a certified government financial manager (CGFM).

The samples we chose from the conference are: Marie Force's description of the parallel growths of AGA and its annual professional development conference; Comptroller General David Walker's plenary presentation on imperatives for governmental accountability; a case study by HUD's D. J. LaVoy, which demonstrates--would you believe it--the value of accountants; and a closing commentary by GAO's Nancy Kingsbury, Stan Divorski, and Stephanie Shipman on information-based management.

Thomas W. Novotny

The Federal Government Accountants Association (FGAA), forerunner to the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) of today, was founded by an elite group of federal government accountants on September 14, 1950. That charter group had high hopes that FGAA's members could work together to improve government financial management.

Founding FGAA's Annual Meeting

One of their more remarkable accomplishments was the founding of the association's annual meeting, which began in January 1952 as a small symposium held for federal government officials, accountants, and auditors. What started out small--just 373 people attended the second annual symposium in November 1952--grew quickly into a must-attend event for the federal accounting and auditing community. In July of this year, AGA welcomed more than 1,300 federal, state, local, and private sector government financial managers to the 50th Annual Professional Development Conference and Exposition in Boston, MA, carrying on the tradition begun so long ago.

As the 1950s progressed, the conference continued to grow. In 1958, exhibitors were included for the first time, beginning a tradition that continues today as the association strives to provide its members with access to the latest and greatest in technology and services.

Around this same time, the symposium date changed from autumn to spring in accord with the governing committee's decision that "it's preferable to hold the symposium toward the end of the fiscal year, as a culmination of the year's activities, rather than at the beginning when a new group of officers has just commenced work."

Multiplying Chapters

The story of the FGAA/AGA annual meeting mirrors much of the history of the association itself. At a time when AGA chapters were cropping up around the country to support the federal accounting community working outside of the nation's capital, FGAA leaders were realizing that the federal government's reach extended far beyond the local Washington, DC area. As such, it was decided to hold the annual symposium in New York in 1960. This was a major move for the fledgling association and one that proved critical to its growth as a burgeoning national organization.

John A. Beckett, assistant director, Bureau of the Budget, who delivered the keynote address at the New York symposium, thrilled the big opening-day audience by reading a special message from President Eisenhower. The chief executive commended FGAA for staging the symposium and sent wishes for success in future activities of the association. This began a long tradition of messages of support to FGAA and AGA from American presidents.

After symposia in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, it was announced that the 13th Annual National FGAA Symposium, to be held in June 1964, would take place on the grounds of the World Fair, which opened in April 1964. By this time, federal agencies were showing a growing interest in the FGAA national symposium. James F. Kelly, comptroller, US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, noted that the theme of the 13th symposium, Financial Management Problems in Government Contracts and Regulations, "is certainly a timely topic and the exchange of ideas and concepts will be of immense benefit to all of us concerned with this aspect of government."

Widening the Association's Reach

In 1971, FGAA's executive committee voted to end the previous pattern of returning to Washington every other year for the annual meeting. This was an important decision in light of the other momentous event of 1971--the vote to open FGAA membership to state and local government financial managers.

Plans were begun for the Silver Anniversary Symposium to be held in 1975 at the Carillon Hotel in Miami Beach, FL. During the association's silver anniversary year, the name of the organization was changed to the Association of Government Accountants in a continuing effort to make new state and local members feel welcome in the previously all-federal organization.

In May 1976, there was a noticeable shift in symposium advertising from "Bring the Ladies" to "Family Events" as more and more women professionals joined the AGA ranks and the accounting profession.

Changing Perceptions

In 1979, the association unveiled a new plan for symposium site selection; it divided the country into three sections based on the AGA membership rolls, and systematically rotated the symposium around the sections in relation to the number of members in each section. The 1985 symposium was the first to fall under this plan. Again, this move was an effort to accommodate the growing numbers of members around the country and an attempt to change the perception of AGA as a Washington-based, federal organization.

As AGA approached its 30th anniversary, it was decided by the national governing body, that:

as we move into the '80s, the term 'symposium' just doesn't seem to convey the true spirit and objectives of these annual gatherings. So, to reflect this changing environment, our annual meeting will now be called the Professional Development Conference (PDC). The first PDC will be in Denver on June 14-16, 1982.

The 1987 PDC in New Orleans became the best-attended PDC held outside of Washington, DC. These numbers continued to grow with Nashville's attendance setting another record as the association celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1990.

Attracting Top Speakers

The PDC continued to attract top speakers including Dr. Joycelyn Elders, surgeon general of the United States; Charles A. Bowsher, comptroller general of the United States; and Sir John Bourn, comptroller and auditor general of the United Kingdom, all of whom addressed the 1994 conference in Washington, DC. Another new tradition was begun with the introduction of the Best Practices Program at the 1995 PDC in San Diego.

Attendees soaked up the knowledge and the sunshine at AGA's 47th Annual PDC in Phoenix, which marked the first time the PDC was a total "sell out." A highlight of the PDC was a rousing presentation on ethics by Marianne M. Jennings, director of the Lincoln School of Ethics at Arizona State University. Jennings has become a regular favorite of PDC attendees in the ensuing years.

Another tradition that has continued throughout the years at the PDC is AGA's commitment to community service. In 1998, PDC attendees donated more than $2,100 to the National Community Service Fund, all of which was donated to the Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. In 2000 and 2001, nearly $17,000 was raised by attendees for community service projects.

Then Came the 50th

AGA kicked off a 15-month celebration of its 50th Anniversary at the 1999 PDC in New Orleans. And, the 49th Annual PDC in San Francisco was judged, "simply the best," as the association continues its 50th anniversary year. A high point was the awarding of the Robert W. King Award to charter member and Past National President Raymond Einhorn, CGFM (certified government financial manager).

So as AGA marked the 50th anniversary of the PDC this year in Boston and looked ahead to the 2002 PDC in Atlanta, it was clear that the early tradition begun by FGAA's charter members is alive and well as the association they founded in 1950 begins its 52nd year.

Marie S. Force is director of communications, Association of Government Accountants.
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Author:Force, Marie S.
Publication:The Public Manager
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 22, 2001
Words:1341
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