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As I sit down to write this final message, I am amazed that only 11 months ago I was hammering out a "game plan" for the coming year. I first want to thank all those individuals who said yes to serving some function or performing some task for the association this past year. I would try to list them individually, but I fear that because of the numbers, I might leave someone out of the list. Every activity that has taken place this year has helped the association to become even stronger as well as helped me through this busy year. A thank-you seems to be so little for all that you have accomplished this year. I also want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president. It has been an unforgettable year.

During this year I have been able to share some personal as well as professional thoughts in this column. In addition, I had an opportunity to address several affiliates and was shown great hospitality and comradeship during these visits. I thank all those affiliates. Because so many affiliate meetings take place at the same time, I had to decline some invitations. To those affiliates I apologize, but from the beginning, I indicated it would be on a first-come-first-serve basis, and I did accommodate, where it was physically possible, all who asked. In the end I never felt this year was about me, but rather a year to place NEHA in a strategic position to better serve its membership in order to advance the profession.

I hope that NEHA history will record this year as one of building new solid foundations for the next generation of environmental health professionals. Many changes were made in our organizational structure in the parent offices that would not be readily apparent to the casual observer. As a side note, growing up in Indiana, I refereed basketball games while I was in college to help make ends meet. Success in officiating comes when at the end of the game the crowd didn't know you were there. Some of these behind-the-scene changes are much the same. Although NEHA is not a game, an analogy holds: We make sure that the rules of the game are followed, moving toward the desired outcome of the whole team playing a good game.

I have to acknowledge the fact that all of the NEHA staff were very supportive and made this year very enjoyable. Not only were they supportive of me personally, but when members had inquiries that were made known to me, the affected members indicated that they were handled very professionally. The NEHA staff is one that we as an organization are indeed fortunate to have supporting our efforts.

I believe that we have the structure and support needed to move our organization into the 21st century and address the problems and challenges we will be facing. As Captain Rick Collins takes on the challenge of the presidency at the end of this month, I hope and know that you will continue the support that you have shown me over the past year. As I mentioned in a previous column, this year's vision for the future was not mine alone. The incoming presidents and the members of the board of directors had a big part in shaping our direction. I might add that the NEHA Council of Delegates, made up of representatives from all the affiliates, also provided insight into the direction they wanted to see NEHA heading.

As we gather at San Antonio for our 70th Annual Educational Conference, I am willing to go out on a limb and declare this year and our conference a great success, even without the final numbers. If the anticipation that has been expressed to me around the country in my travels materializes, this could be the conference that sets a new bar for all those to come. I hope you as a member will be part of this (maybe) historic event. Isn't it great to say, "I was there, and it was a great success"? It is much like winning a national title; you hold the record for one year.

I hope that each member can accept our vision for the NEHA organization as the premier voice for environmental health in this country and the world. Furthermore, each member is committed to advancing the profession by working to overcome each and every challenge put before us. To quote Harvey Firestone, Jr.: "Today is when everything that's going to happen from now on begins." As I stated in an earlier column, TEAM is an acronym for "Together Everyone Accomplishes More." We must keep our eye on the horizon, always looking for new ways to improve ourselves, our profession, and our association.

I hope that each member can and will make an ongoing commitment to participate and encourage positive change in our practice as well as our association. Failure to change will result in stagnation and a withering on the vine, with the ultimate outcome that the profession will die out. A new generation of environmental health professionals is about to emerge. We need to understand our past but fade into the future under the direction of this new leadership. As John Wayne put it, "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday." The "old guard" have given their best, like the generation before them.

We cannot rely on someone else to carry the ball for us while we merely go along for the ride. We must each give our best and continually be accountable for the actions and the outcomes within our own careers. It is no longer going to be the case that we can talk primarily among ourselves; rather, we must each continually educate our superiors, elected officials, and the citizens of this country about the value of an effective environmental health program.

If this year has achieved this beginning and put us collectively on the path that has been laid before us, we all will be successful and reap the benefits. The future looks bright, and we are in good hands. I will be leaving the presidency--not the NEHA organization or the profession--when I retire from my current position. I look forward to sharing with you the future work and successes that are inevitable. NEHA has evolved not just into a voice but also into the voice for environmental health. During my year as president, I have seen firsthand the respect we have gained. We as an organization cannot allow this respect to diminish.

I would like to leave you with two quotations: one from Abraham Lincoln and one from Thomas Edison. Perhaps they will provide you with guidance for the future of your career.

* Lincoln: "I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards."

* Edison: "My message to you is: Be Courageous! Have Faith! Go Forward!"

Ron Grimes R.S., M.P.H., D.A.A.S.

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Title Annotation:President's Message
Author:Grimes, Ron
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:The "branding" of NEHA.
Next Article:70th Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition.

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