Tom Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, will leave the organization sometime next year.

“Tom has done an incredible job of providing a vision for the Foundation and taking it from a one-product [organization] to now a multi-faceted, multi-million dollar business that probably has the largest market share in the educational-services area, and is continuing to grow,” said NSPF’s newly elected chairman, Rob Butcher. “He’s brought real credibility and good will to NSPF, and he will be leaving the organization in such a better place than when he came in.”

Approaching his 15th anniversary, Lachocki, leader of one of the most ambitious organizations currently serving the pool, spa and aquatics industries, said he will take a sabbatical. The time will include bucket-list trips, such as the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in southern France and Spain, to gain some quiet and distance before he decides what to do for the next phase of his career.

“When you run a dynamic organization like NSPF, you can’t just walk away for a while,” Lachocki said. “I’m at a point in my life where I need to invest in my body, mind and soul, and the only way to make it work for our Foundation and for me is to help my team and board with a productive transition in leadership. It gives me a chance to step away, take some time, and really think through what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

A date has not been set for Lachocki’s departure. The NSPF Board of Directors is beginning a search to replace him. A search committee has been formed and is developing a formal job description and qualifications list. “I don’t think it necessarily has to be an inside or an outsider,” Butcher said. “It’s more about does this person have the right qualities and attributes to lead our foundation?”

Once the new CEO has been selected, Lachocki will continue on full-time and help with training and the transition as needed.

Historic turn

NSPF has evolved significantly since Lachocki took the helm in December, 2003. At the time, the organization was mostly known for one product – the Certified Pool Operator training and designation that has long dominated the commercial side of the industry. Under Lachocki’s leadership, the group has not only made significant, tangible moves to expand its scope, but also brought awareness of water safety and the joy of pools and spas into the culture and conversation. It also has grown about five-fold, Lachocki said.

“I’m really proud of the organization and all we’ve achieved,” Lachocki said. “We’ve taken a leadership role in education, made some great strides in promotion and creating growth, taken large steps in being engaged on policy and [best] practices, and organized internally to make the organization strong for the future.”

The year after Lachocki joined, NSPF rolled out the World Aquatic Health Conference, an event for which its board credits Lachocki. Like NSPF itself, the event started with somewhat niche appeal, attended by upper-echelon experts in safety and water quality. Since then, the WAHC has grown to also include programs about design, construction and service, in both the residential and commercial realms.

NSPF became an early proponent of the Model Aquatic Health Code, the comprehensive model language meant for states, cities and other jurisdictions to adopt for commercial venues. While the code is administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NSPF has collaborated not only by promoting it but also by providing input and sponsoring the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code.

In 2012, the organization began its Step Into Swim campaign, which set the goal of creating 1 million swimmers in 10 years to reduce drowning incidents and increase the health of the citizenry. As part of the program, NSPF provides yearly grants to organizations and swim schools, especially those dedicated to bringing swimming to underserved populations. NSPF says Step Into Swim has affected more than 36,000 families so far.

This campaign has had a side effect on the pool and spa industry as well. In seeking to fulfill its mission, NSPF has engaged more industry companies and organizations, which has injected the issue of swim instruction and safety more deeply into the industry’s awareness. Groups such as Master Pools Guild and a variety of manufacturers not only make donations, but help choose programs to fund.

Cross-over moves

After decades existing primarily in the commercial aquatics realm, Lachocki’s NSPF crossed over into the residential side of pools and spas. In 2015, it merged with the design and construction education organization Genesis, adding its schools and seminars to NSPF’s educational portfolio. This seems to have resulted in another cultural side effect, as the designers and builders who belong to Genesis themselves have become more prone to advocating the messages of health, safety and swimming education.

This move also positioned the organization to compete directly with the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals as another national trade group serving all sectors of the industry.

But in spring, 2016, the two organizations announced they would explore the possibility of merging. The following January, the groups decided against joining together.

Late in 2017, NSPF made its official entree into political advocacy and the membership-association world. It absorbed the California Pool & Spa Association, one of the most robust regional industry lobbyists. With the acquisition, NSPF formed its own membership association called The Pool, Spa & Aquatics Alliance.

This year, NSPF and Genesis provided training to more than 40,000 pool, spa and aquatics professionals, the organization said.

“It’s our staff and the people who are teaching and elevating the industry who are really fulfilling the mission,” Lachocki said. “I encourage the NSPF tribe, the Genesis tribe and the CPSA tribe to keep doing what they’re doing, because we’re better off as a result of their efforts.”

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