Richard Gottwald
Richard Gottwald

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals has hired a replacement for outgoing President/CEO Bill Weber, who retires Dec. 31.

Richard Gottwald, a 26-year veteran in association management, starts in APSP’s Alexandria, Va., office Sept. 16. Weber will continue in an advisory capacity until the end of the year.

“The pool, spa and hot tub industry has such a great story to tell — who doesn’t enjoy the industry’s products?” Gottwald said. “But the industry has just come through some difficult economic times. I am excited by the challenge to use my previous experiences to focus APSP on the key issues that will not only create success for the industry, but create success for each and every one of our members.”

Gottwald leaves his post as executive vice president of the 2,300-member International Sign Association after six years with the group. He originally joined ISA as vice president, technical affairs and education.

He said he sees parallels between the ISA and his new employer. “The pool, spa and hot tub industry, like the sign industry, is made up of many businesses, [from] family-owned, entrepreneurial start-ups to major manufacturers and corporations,” he said. “These diverse businesses are a driving force in the economy, yet are often stymied by regulation at the local, state and federal level. I look forward to uniting the industry in a single voice to break down these regulatory burdens and position our members for success.”

For nearly 20 years, he participated in the plastics industry, first with the Society of the Plastics Industry for 12 years, then the Plastics Pipe Institute as its president for six. He was a product research engineer with the Dow Chemical Co. for three years and holds a Bachelor of Science in plastics engineering from University of Massachusetts Lowell.

APSP leadership sees the organization in a different phase than it was eight years ago, when Weber first began in his post. Where Weber is an attorney with a strong financial background, the search committee focused on two key attributes in his replacement — strength in consensus building and experience expanding industry visibility.

“It’s a different time and there are different needs,” said APSP Chairman Steve Gorlin. “When Bill came on, we had just emerged out of bankruptcy from NSPI to APSP. We had just sold the show, and we were spending a lot of money at that time. Bill was hired really to put a tourniquet on our spending and turn the ship around.”

Now, he said, with bankruptcy, litigation and, it is hoped, recession in the rearview mirror, the organization is set to focus on the next phase. This includes incorporating a new organizational structure that was announced earlier in the year. In November, the Board of Directors will be reduced from its current 24 positions to nine, with more of the work to be performed by task-specific committees, some of which will only exist until the job is completed. The group also documented its mission statement and core values, and increased outreach to other industry organizations.

“We now have a strategic planning process in place that engages a whole lot more people from all around the industry,” Gorlin said. “So that type of environment for Rich to walk into is going to be fertile ground for someone who has a vision and the experience that he has as a consensus builder. It’s just the perfect storm.”

He also expects Gottwald’s technical and regulatory experience to come into play for the association. He streamlined ISA’s advocacy efforts to focus on local code issues, and in his year with the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, helped elevate the organization’s standards program among standards organizations and regulatory agencies.

With the Plastics Pipe Institute, Gottwald led an industrywide public relations campaign to gain acceptance for plastic pipe in construction. “The sentiment is that we as an industry have done a poor job promoting ourselves out to the public,” Gorlin said. “Rich has experience in that regard. He believes he can help us and point us in the right direction.”

Gottwald pointed to this as one of his primary goals, not only to increase visibility of the products, but the association: “I want consumers to know that the APSP members provide the highest quality products available in the industry, and that installing a pool, hot tub or spa in their home is an affordable must-have.”

According to Gorlin, the new CEO has promised to develop a plan for the organization 90 days after the start of his tenure.

Weber said that Gottwald is the right choice to succeed him.

“I think he’s a great fit,” Weber said. “I think he’s going to have the support of everybody — volunteers, staff and myself — who will do anything we can to take this organization to the next level.”