Jim Kendzel: ASPE’s executive director is a man with a plan

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ASPE’s executive director/CEO, Jim Kendzel, feels a bit fortunate that his experiences led him to the position he is in today. With fields of study in Public Health and a focus on environmental health, Kendzel always had a strong interest in water, its use and the impact on public health that led him to focusing a large part of his career on the development of standards related to this area, and being involved in the testing of plumbing products. “It seemed like a natural fit based on my career experiences, interests along with the significant history and great opportunities that lie ahead for our Society. Thank goodness the ASPE Board of Directors agreed,” says Kendzel, who describes his position as a sort of “coming home” since it provided him the opportunity to reconnect with many of my friends in the plumbing community; especially in the codes and standards activities.

Recently, Mechanical Hub caught with Jim Kendzel to get his thoughts on ASPE and the industry in general. The following is Jim Kendzel in his own words.

MH: What have been some of your short/long-term goals for the Society? Have some of them been met? Explain the task at hand.
Kendzel: When I first came on board with ASPE I immediately began working on the development of a 3-year “strategic blueprint” for the Society.  This roadmap of our future was adopted and published in 2011 and can be found on the ASPE website – www.aspe.org. The key initiatives that were set include:

• Society culture built on trust and open dialogue among all stakeholders

• Build positive relationships within the plumbing community

• Enhance membership value, resulting in Society growth and long-term sustainability

• Provide professional growth opportunities for the plumbing engineer/designer

• Produce technical publications addressing the current and future needs of the industry

• Promote uniformity in plumbing codes and the use of sound engineering practices within the codes

• Enhance recognition of the plumbing engineering/design profession

I am pleased to note that ASPE, through the efforts of a forward thinking Board of Directors, committed staff, and tremendous dedicated member volunteers, has achieved or at least made significant progress in all of these initiatives.  We are in the beginning stages of working on the 3-year plan covering 2015-2018.

MH: I have heard through engineers/friends in the industry (and my general observations) that you are doing a tremendous job in your tenure as executive director. Can you describe the transition period from when you took over?
Kendzel: I look back over the last 2.5 years and I think the best way to describe the transition that I focused on most when I was offered the opportunity to lead ASPE was to create a higher level of collaboration and communication both within the Society and throughout the plumbing industry.  In today’s environment, a Society will not survive and prosper if it does not have a culture that fosters new ideas and the opportunities that lie in collaboration with others in seeing those ideas come to fruition.  There are many professional disciplines that are involved in the design, manufacturing, installation and maintenance of plumbing products and systems.  The ASPE member is part of a larger integrated system and it is critical that ASPE be a critical player in working with all of those professions in achieving our common goal.  I believe that we have made tremendous strides in evolving, learning and growing in our efforts of collaboration, which has been to a large extent the main driver for our recent successes.

MH: It seems from the outside looking in that you (ASPE) are involved in many industry engagements, activities, coalitions, prompting you to travel — a lot! How do you do it all? How do you keep the ship sailing forward?
Kendzel: By having a strong team of professionals back at the office and empowering them to make decisions and also to provide an environment where they feel comfortable in taking risks and failing every now and again.  It also helps that I have the support from the ASPE Board of Directors.  In my opinion, it is critical for an Executive Director/CEO of a Society such as ASPE to be out if the world promoting the profession and building relationships.

Also, technology provides significant opportunity to be more involved in operations and other activities even though I am on the road.  Having my office phone linked up to my I-pad, participating in conference calls while sitting in my hotel room, and constant access through e-mail and cell phone helps me to “keep in touch.”

Finally, I think it is critical that the ASPE Board and I initially focused on putting together a strategic blueprint with specific goals and objectives.  My activities and travel, although significant, are all based on achieving those strategic initiatives, which provides a focus and direction in how I choose to be involved.

And, probably most importantly, I simply love what I am doing.

MH: Tell me why ASPE is a great “place” to connect, learn, achieve credits, network with others, etc. What are the benefits of becoming a member?
Kendzel: There is no other Society that better serves the interest of the plumbing engineer and designer.  One of the most significant opportunities ASPE membership provides is the ability to network and learn at the monthly chapter meetings held around the country.  Each month our members gather for lunch or dinner and listen and learn from a technical presentation and then have opportunity to network with other engineers in the area. Our members often tell me how great it is to be able to pick up the phone and call another member in the area to bounce off ideas or help with design issues.

ASPE is focused on providing its members with the best available training to help them grow in their careers and keep up to date on new technology impacting plumbing system design.  These programs are offered through webinars, workshops, and annual conferences.  As an example, ASPE will be holding its Technical Symposium in Orlando, Fl. this year from September 20 – 22nd; to learn more you can go to https://aspe.org/2013tech.

ASPE members receive significant discounts to these programs.

A cornerstone of the ASPE value is the publication of the 4-volume set of the Plumbing Engineer Design Handbook.  The set of technical books provide the foundational principles critical for designing safe and efficient plumbing systems that ensure public health and safety.  Each volume is revised on a 4-year cycle to ensure the technical information is up to date and ASPE member receive the revised volume each year – at no additional charge!

MH: What are some pressing issues facing the industry, engineers or the Society in general?
Of course, the number one issue that our membership has been facing is the economy.  Our members, as many professions related to the construction industry, have been negatively impacted by the economic downturn.  The good news is we are slowly seeing a change and I hear from many of our members that they are very busy these days.

I think there are four key areas/issues that ASPE is focusing on to ensure the long-term growth of our profession and the sustainability of our Society:

• Understanding the changes in plumbing system design that are being driven by “green initiatives” and the need to conserve water usage and helping to ensure that those changes, while impacting water efficiency, do not inadvertently have a negative impact on public health and safety.

• Building the next generation of plumbing engineers and designers through K-12 outreach programs and increasing the number of post secondary education programs focusing on plumbing engineering and design.

• Increasing the “brand recognition” of the plumbing industry and reminding the consumer of the important role the plumbing profession plays in ensuring the public health and safety.

• Promoting the significant role of the plumbing engineer/designer on the building design team and to continue to raise the professionalism of the plumbing engineer/designer through the development of certification programs and licensing.

MH: Anything new and exciting that you can talk about as far as the future of ASPE is concerned?
Kendzel: Probably some of the most exciting opportunities for ASPE in the near future are the following:

• Increased activities in the development of American National Standards through collaborative efforts with other organizations.  We currently are in the final stages of publishing the first American National Standard for Rainwater Catchment Systems in collaboration with the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association with sponsorship from IAPMO and NSF International and we have begun a similar project with ARCSA for the development of a Stormwater Catchment System Standard.  Stay tuned for new areas of activities in collaboration with other organizations.

• ASPE will be increasing its presence on the global scale through increased support and participation in the World Plumbing Council and involvement in leading U.S. involvement in the development of international standards covering water re-use.

• The ASPE — RF is also working on research projects associated wit biofilm growth in manual and hands free faucets as well as new project that will be looking at the water efficiency benefits of hands free faucets and dual flush valves.

• ASPE is in the early stages of developing a network of young engineers just entering the profession to provide them with opportunities to receive increased networking among their peers and also take advantage of new and exciting mentoring programs that are in development.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that ASPE will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary throughout 2014 culminating in a celebration at the 2014 ASPE Convention/Exposition being held in Chicago. September 19-24th.  Exciting plans our under development!

MH: Finally, The last time you said, “Man, today is a great day,” you were doing what?
Kendzel: It is going to sound trite but there are three key reasons I wake up every day and say “today is a great day”:

• The spiritual relationship I have with my God

• The love I share with my wife, children and grandchildren

• The honor I have been given to lead the American Society of Plumbing Engineers and work with such great people.

Conducted by John Mesenbrink


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