If anybody needs proof positive that the next generation is starting to take the lead in the pool/spa industry, it’s this year’s Northeast Spa and Pool Association President, Julie Kazdin.

She’s held several titles with NESPA leading to her current role, beginning as her chapter’s delegate to the organization’s Board of Directors and eventually holding all titles on the executive committee of the Board, save for Past President. She chaired NESPA’s Education Committee, during which time it split in two so they could devote twice the amount of time to education.

Additionally, Kazdin was named Young Professional of the Year in 2020.

While hailing from her father’s half-century-old company, she chose this industry again after working away from it for a period.

New tradition

Kazdin keeps her family traditions alive on many levels.

Born and raised in New York, she continues to live in the town of her birth. She had her daughter in the same hospital, and sends her to the same schools she attended as a small child.

Now, she serves as vice president of Kazdin Pools & Spas of Southampton, N.Y. But she didn’t originally plan a career in the pool industry. She studied business at Rhode Island’s Bryant College (now Bryant University). “I expected to go the corporate, Fortune 500-type career path,” she says.

Her husband, Brian Boucher, whom she met at Bryant, had similar aspirations. Each graduated with a bachelor of science in business administration.

Kazdin actually had derived this picture of her future career from her father’s clients.

“Where we live, most of our clients were corporate-type people,” she says. “It seemed like they had the best life: They lived in New York City and commuted out here on weekends. So I always imagined that’s what I’d be — sitting in a corner office in New York City overlooking the river, then out to the Hamptons on weekends.”

After graduating, she did spend a few years in the corporate world. This included time implementing a management-training program for a car-rental company, then working in human resources and recruiting. “Both were very high-pressure, high-intensity, which I like and I thrive under,” Kazdin says.

But over time, she couldn’t let go of certain aspects of running a small business, including control in decision-making and the ethics her family company instilled. These things didn’t seem to mesh with the large corporations. For instance, she couldn’t decide how to do right by a customer if she or her company made a mistake.

“It was very hard to make a difference in such a big corporation,” Kazdin says. “It was very hard to ... change what I did wrong, because it wasn’t my money, it wasn’t my company.”

Her final job was for a nursing firm. Still in her early 20s, she found herself involved literal life-and-death situations. It made her appreciate the industry she grew up in. “You get to enjoy some of the best moments of people’s lives,” she says. “I wanted to go back to that.”

Eventually she rejoined Kazdin Pools as its assistant to the service director.

Through the years, she’s taken on a number of positions, managing inventory and assisting with retail, among other. “I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I’ve done every job in the building — you name it, I’ve done it.”

While she worked her way up to a title that’s higher on the company flow chart, that kind of tiering isn’t important to her or the company.

“We’re not really big on titles,” she says. “The person who just started can ask me to do something, and I’ll go do it, because it gets the job done. Asking to do things doesn’t always come from the top down, it can go from the bottom up, as long as we’re all heading in the same direction.”

Her husband, who worked in investments after graduation, also liked the idea of joining a small family business where he could have more control over his actions and his destiny. Now, he runs Kazdin Pools’ service department.

Looking ahead

Kazdin became involved with the Northeast Spa and Pool Association quickly after rejoining the industry.

“My dad always told me that you should protect what you love most,” she says. “That’s why I volunteer at NESPA, is to protect my business, make sure I’m helping make decisions for what keeps me in business.”

Since she became president in September, the organization is spending time updating policies and procedures and putting the board through training to make it as professional as possible.

“We have been going through board teachings about what a board does, how a board should be acting, what our duties and responsibilities are, so that we can act in the best, most responsible way a board can act,” she says.

NESPA also is adopting diversity and inclusion statements to broaden the board, and she hopes to find ways to better reach members who aren’t as active.

“We need to look like those of us who are working in the industry, not just like a handful of people,” Kazdin says.

“And we need to find ways to have everybody’s voices heard. That is part of the responsibility of what makes an organization whole. It’s not there to serve a select few people, it’s there to serve the good of everybody. We need to know what everybody’s looking for.”