Wendy Parker Barsell, executive director of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, left last month after 20 years.
“I was thrilled to celebrate 20 years in February ...” she said. “I think that, at this point, it is a great opportunity for me to do something a little different but still continue to always support FSPA.”
After two decades of shepherding the group through several foundational changes, she moves to a company in the midst of its own monumental shifts. Beginning July 6, she joined Pool Troopers as business development manager, charged with helping the service roll-out advance its aggressive campaign to acquire service firms and expand its footprint throughout the Sunbelt.
Parker Barsell’s tenure with FSPA outlines an important era in its history. She joined in 2001, when the group sought to evolve its operations. She started in the brand-new position of communication manager, bringing newsletter production in-house from freelance contractors, managing communication for the tradeshow, and launching the group’s website.
In fairly short order, Parker Barsell was given the added responsibility of managing the group’s event, then called the Florida Pool and Spa Show. In 2007, she was named operations manager to temporarily lead the team as it struggled to find an executive director. The following year, she was promoted to the top post.
During her tenure, FSPA changed its very structure. In days past, it served as a regional arm of the National Spa & Pool Institute (now known as Pool & Hot Tub Alliance), known as NSPI Region 7. In 2003, it became known as the Florida Swimming Pool Association. Parker Barsell led the marketing committee and focus groups to help the group land on its new name. Finally, in 2008, after a stint as a semi-autonomous affiliate, FSPA became completely independent.
“The board felt that what Florida members needed was very specific to our state, especially when it came to education, building codes and regulations and that ... we could provide that best on our own, still working closely with [the national group],” Parker Barsell explained.
After her tenure as executive director officially began, FSPA expanded its staff from a couple part-timers to its current roster of eight full-time employees, including an in-house government relations manager and a digital media specialist. The organization also upgraded its education by, for one thing, developing and offering a certification course.
“I feel like we have really done a great job of raising the level of professionalism in the industry,” Parker Barsell said.
During her time, the organization also rebranded its tradeshow to the Everything Under the Sun Expo.
A search committee has formed to search for Parker Barsell’s replacement. In the interim, Charis Tyson, a 14-year employee who had been serving as senior director of marketing and communications, will assume the operations manager role.
“I have full confidence that ... the staff will keep things on task and moving forward and supporting the association as they always have, which is with all their hearts,” Parker Barsell said.
She doesn’t expect her connection with FSPA to end. “This association has been part of my life since high school,” as she was the child of a pool builder, she said. “I volunteered in the days with Gus and Goldie doing safety events, and I got a college scholarship from NSPI Florida when I went to college. It’s always going to be part of what I do.