Don Burns, the California pool industry’s legislative advocate for more than three decades, will retire in a year.

The founding CEO of the California Spa and Pool Industry Education Council (SPEC) has sold his Sacramento, Calif.-based advocacy firm, OMI Government Relations. He will remain with the acquiring company, Norwood & Associates, until June 30, 2009.

The SPEC Board approved Norwood & Associates as its new advocate, with company principal John Norwood to serve as the new SPEC CEO.

“It’s a positive move,” Burns said. “Everybody’s upbeat about the fact that we’ve taken two years to survey the entire lobby corps to find out who we wanted, what firm could do the best job. We’re just going to keep rolling.”

Norwood & Associates, also based in the state’s capital, was established in 1977 and serves various business sectors, particularly those in the insurance and financial service industries. In 1980 John Norwood, an attorney, was named a “rising star” among lobbyists by The CaliforniaJournal. He founded and managed a national law and lobbying firm before starting his own.

“We had to have someone with the right contacts in Sacramento in order for the pool industry to be represented properly in California,” said SPEC Chairman Bruce Dunn, also president of Mission Pools in Escondido, Calif.

Burns will spend the upcoming months briefing Norwood & Associates about the industry and its government relations needs. “Don’s been everything from cook and bottle washer to man on the Hill,” Dunn said. So we needed somebody who was willing to dedicate a year of information downloading so we will have a seamless transition.”

Attorney Peter Conlin also is expected to work closely with SPEC, as will Erin Norwood, a legislative analyst and staff lobbyist.

Burns, 79, first became involved with the pool industry in the 1960s, when he took charge of the Northern California Chapter of the National Spa & Pool Institute.

He, along with a dozen industry members, formed SPEC in 1973 to fight emergency regulations banning gas pool heaters. Originally, the group was intended to be temporary, but it quickly became clear that the California industry would have an ongoing need for a government relations specialist.

In the years since, Burns has made his mark on state legislation affecting the pool and spa industry. He helped write current safety laws in response to increased pressure to mandate four-sided fencing and, later, safety vacuum release systems.

This decade, he has made it a priority to nurture a cooperative relationship with the Contractors State License Board in an effort to address the growing problem of unlicensed contractors. SPEC has worked with the CSLB on stings as well as pending bills that would tighten penalties for firms operating outside the law.

After his retirement, Burns plans to seek an appointment of chief of protocol from the California governor to be elected in 2010.

As it transitions toward new leadership, SPEC plans to continue making unlicensed contractors a priority. The group also intends to address recent confusion about new entrapment-prevention requirements, brought on by changes to the state’s building code and passage of the federal Pool & Spa Safety Act.