Michelle Kavanaugh, executive director of the Pool, Spa & Aquatics Alliance and the California Pool & Spa Association
Photo courtesy NSPF Michelle Kavanaugh, executive director of the Pool, Spa & Aquatics Alliance and the California Pool & Spa Association

The membership association started by the National Swimming Pool Foundation has named a new executive director.

In fall 2017, the California Pool & Spa Association joined with NSPF. This formed the Pool, Spa & Aquatics Alliance. Shorthanded as the Alliance, its intent was to eventually serve as a national trade organization for the pool, spa and aquatics industries, after plans to merge NSPF and the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals fell through. By absorbing CPSA, the Alliance would begin in California and spread throughout the country.

So far, CPSA has continued to operate under its long-held brand in California. It also has expanded its government-advocacy services into Arizona under the Alliance name. But the Alliance has faced challenges solidifying its top staff position, as the original executive director had to step down for health reasons months after she started, and her named replacement also bowed out for personal reasons shortly after his hiring.

After several months, the organization has named a permanent successor: NSPF’s long-time mission development director and the Alliance’s interim executive director, Michelle Kavanaugh.

“For an association to be successful, it needs someone who can build alliances,” said NSPF CEO Tom Lachocki. “Michelle’s strength is building relationships with people and organizations.”

Andrew Roberts, NSPF's new mission development manager
Photo courtesy NSPF Andrew Roberts, NSPF's new mission development manager

Replacing Kavanaugh as NSPF’s mission development manager is Andrew Roberts, a water-treatment specialist who most recently served as business development manager for Industrial Test Systems (ITS). In addition to his many trade-show presentations and publishings on the subject of water-quality testing, he is one of the patent holders for ITS’s photometer.

NSPF/Alliance officials expect Kavanaugh’s experience in the pool, spa and aquatics industries to give her a leg up in leading the organization. She began with the Foundation in 2005 as executive assistant to Lachocki, then was named mission development director in 2010. In that position, she directed the World Aquatic Health Conference, worked with companies looking to incorporate NSPF’s education and certification training programs into their own operations, and helped coordinate the instructors of these programs, including Certified Pool Operator, Advanced Service Technician, and Genesis courses.

“I’ve been in the industry 13 years, so I’ve built a lot of relationships ... that can really help grow the Alliance and CPSA,” Kavanaugh said.

She took over as interim executive director of the Alliance in spring.

“She has a history of being innovative, she is intimately familiar with NSPF education programs and has worked collaboratively with [Genesis] and understands their offerings,” Lachocki said. “It’s important for the Alliance to create value for its members through educational programs. She has close connections with the education program... and can promote those programs to the Alliance membership.”

Kavanaugh's experience and connections may carry particular weight in light of Lachocki’s departure, whose date has not been determined but which will take place in several months after he helps with the transition of his replacement.

“It makes me happy to take something that Tom finds important and make that dream become a realization,” Kavanaugh said.

The first order of business, she explained, will be to assess the organization’s systems to determine how to best deliver programs and value to members and how to create awareness of the organization and its offerings.

The Alliance also expects to take additional steps toward national status by expanding into four or five new states, including Arizona.

“We’ve already seen some growth [with Kavanaugh as interim ED],” Lachocki said. “Now that she can put 100% of her time and effort toward the Alliance, we expect substantial growth.”

Kavanaugh holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Colorado Denver. Before joining NSPF, she held various sales, marketing and management positions for companies specializing in markets ranging from technology to pet products.

“It has always been related to building relationships,” she said.

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