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Realignment of staff will permit TEI to better serve the membership.

When Rick Skippon, TEI's Publications Manager and Webmaster, told me in late February that he would be leaving TEI's staff, my feelings were definitely mixed. On the one hand, it is always gratifying to see someone you've work closely with for many years move on to "bigger and better things." On the other hand, Rick's departure after nearly six years at the helm of TEI's print and electronic publications had the potential for disrupting a full range of TEI's projects. Practically everything people see from and about TEI goes through Rick's office--the brochures for our educational programs, our Membership Roster, The Tax Executive magazine, and virtually everything you see on our website. To be sure, life and work at TEI will go on without Rick Skippon on the staff, but it would be an understatement to say he won't be missed, both professionally and personally. We wish him well.

A confession: The first thing I said when Rick approached me was "Oh, sure, we finally get the magazine back on schedule, and you leave!" This issue--Rick's last project--should hit your desks by the end of April, not as good as we'd like but better than several issues last year. (One measure of Rick's professionalism is that he extended his time with TEI to finish this issue.)

Every challenge, however, should also be viewed as an opportunity, and that's what we are endeavoring to do with Rick's departure, as well as the resignation earlier this year of Cathy Morris after almost four years as the administrative assistant to the legal staff. Rick's and Cathy's leave taking prompted a review of TEI's staffing needs (including our ongoing commitment to better internal controls), and led to creation of a new position, a promotion, and the shift of duties among several employees. The intention of the changes is not to "shift the deck chairs," but to enable us to do a better job at delivering core services to TEI members. Ultimately, of course, the membership will be the judge of how well we do.

Realignment of Administrative Staff

TEI's Director of Administration is Debbie Giesey, a 22-year veteran of TEI's staff, whose duties range from running the office (including the HR function) and serving as our controller and CFO (handling our books and managing our investments), to overseeing our membership function and keeping our chapter and regional leaders apprised of the multitudinous deadlines that confront them on an ongoing basis. In these efforts, Debbie is assisted by virtually everyone on the staff, but her direct reports include a General Office Assistant (Joe Brooks, with 8 years on the staff), a Bookkeeper/Administrative Assistant (Sherice Brown, 2 years), a Receptionist (Ruth Robinson, 18 years), and a Membership Coordinator (DaKeia Williamson, 1 year), plus the Administrative Assistant position vacated by Cathy Brown.

Among the changes we've made is to realign the duties previously performed by the Cathy Morris and Sherice Brown. Cathy's successor (a search is underway) will now provide administrative support to the Executive Director as well as the Legal staff (including managing our library), and will remain the Subscription Coordinator for The Tax Executive. Sherice's responsibilities (which had previously included providing administrative support to me) will be almost exclusively bookkeeping and working with the Director of Administration on financial matters, including invoicing advertisers for the magazine and Membership Roster, managing our accounts receivable, and performing our bank reconciliations. These changes will permit Debbie to focus more attention on working with the Institute's money manager and, for the time being, coordinating our Membership function. They also better position TEI to ensure compliance with its own internal controls.

Publications/Website Services

We are making more dramatic changes in our Publications and Information Technology functions. When TEI launched its website about a decade ago, it did not add to its staff. This made sense at the time because first Coopers & Lybrand and then PricewaterhouseCoopers provided considerable expertise and guidance to the Institute. (Our original website was part of Tax News Network.) To be sure, there were in-house design and content management responsibilities, even at the outset, but we decided to handle them without hiring anyone new. Rick Skippon (who ultimately became our Webmaster) and Tax Counsel Jeff Rasmussen (who was Project Manager for the development of our current website and its predecessor) performed admirably, as did everyone else on the staff--not only on website tasks but their other responsibilities. (A related comment: There's no doubt a special level in Hades reserved for consultants who insisted that the Internet would reduce workload and make things easier!)

Over time, however, as we worked with PwC to "leave the nest" and first build our own site (with e-commerce capabilities) and then redesign it, our needs grew significantly. In the summer of 2004 (shortly before we launched the new site), Lars DeSalvio was hired as our first IT manager. (Lars had worked on TaxNews Network while at PwC.) A few months later, we hired a Communications Specialist whose primary jobs were to work with chapter website administrators and members themselves in how to optimize their use of the website. Following the departure of our first Communications Specialist, we were fortunate to recruit Lisa Cowley (a native of the Washington area who received her B.A. in history from Smith College), whose creativity and sense of flair are already visible on our website. (Demonstrating her communications skills, Lisa suggested that her title be changed to reflect what she does--Web Support Specialist.

That brings us to changes wrought by Rick Skippon's departure. Surveying the landscape of our needs and skills, we determined that duties relating to print publications and the website should be split (to ensure that we can better fulfill our responsibilities to the members in both areas), with a new position added. We also decided that the staff should be further realigned to ensure both authority to act and accountability. Accordingly, TEI's Executive Committee authorized the hiring of an additional staff member (Website/IT Manager) to oversee not only website design (working with Lisa) but also the resolution of issues relating to the integration of our website with our association membership system (a frustrating time-sucker for both staff and the affected members). The growth of our website and IT staff also made it prudent to adjust our management structure. Effective April 1, Lars DeSalvio was promoted to the director level (Director of IT and Web Services), with both the Website/IT Manager (currently an open position) and the Web Support Specialist (Lisa) reporting to him. (Previously, the Web Support Specialist (nee Communications Specialist) reported to the Publications Manager.) The Publications Manager will continue to report to the Executive Director.

Welcome, Lisa, and congratulations, Lars.

Conference Planning and Legal Staffs Remain Intact

With the changes in the admin and IT/web parts of TEI's house, it is comforting to know that two of our departments (meeting planning and legal) remain intact. Ably led by Deborah Gaffney (Director of Conference Planning, 21 years), Kate Dancy (Assistant Director, 1 year in March), and Jason Fraser (Conference Planning Coordinator, 8 months) keep TEI on track in respect of the conferences, courses, and seminars that we hold each year. A more qualified, well-respected group of meeting planners you cannot find.

TEI's legal staff is also a source of both energy and stability. Eli Dicker, Chief Tax Counsel, crossed the 1 year mark shortly before the Midyear Conference, and he has brought renewed focus (as well as a dynamism that is infectious) to the Institute's advocacy efforts. With oversight and helpful input from TEI's committees, Eli works with Mary Lou Fahey (General Counsel, 18 years), Jeff Rasmussen (Tax Counsel, 15 years), and Greg Matson (Tax Counsel, 5 years) to develop and represent the Institute's views on the tax issues of the day ... throughout the world. In my book, TEI's legal staff is second to none.

By the time you read this column, we hope to have filled our three open positions. (Please check our website for updates.) Even with three openings, TEI's current staff has more than 140 years of experience with the Institute. That's a testament to TEI's being a good employer. People often ask me why I've stayed with TEI for more than two decades, and my answers are consistent with those you hear from long-time employees in other enterprises: the work is good and the people I work with (on the staff as well as in the membership) are great. Oh, and I occasionally get to travel to nice places.

Timothy J. McCormally TEI Executive Director
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Title Annotation:Tax Executives Institute
Author:McCormally, Timothy J.
Publication:Tax Executive
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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