This is a guest post by my colleague, Bob Minter. Bob is one of 7 Regional Managers at AOPA and oversees localized issues in the southeastern region. You can read more about each of the Regions and each of the Regional Managers, here.
In 2012 AOPA upgraded its former program of 12 Regional Representatives to 7 Regional Managers. All of the association’s former Representatives had been operating under individual contracts. The new Regional Managers were all hired as full-time employees.
The Regional Representatives program was begun under former Association President John Baker in the early 80’s and most of those who comprised the “Rep. Corps” had formerly served at state government aeronautics departments. All lived in and worked from their respective regions and the Rep. Program then came under the Communications Division at AOPA headquarters. It was later moved into the Government & Technical Affairs Division. The core mission was to serve as AOPA’s eyes and ears, to become the face of AOPA in their respective regions, to work closely with members and pilot groups, to identify and resolve issues before they became larger problems and to take AOPA’s governmental affairs advocacy and expertise to the state and local level. During those days, the Reps worked lots of airport related issues until AOPA’s 3rd President, Phil Boyer, established the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) and began utilizing volunteers(ASNVs), at what is now more than 2,500 local airports nation wide. Boyer then refocused the Reps mission to working primarily with state legislatures and local governments.
When the full-time Regional Managers program was established in January, 2012 under AOPA President Craig Fuller, the Managers’ responsibilities were expanded to include membership development and territories were redefined to conform with the FAA regions .AOPA Regional Managers continue to live and work in their assigned territories.
The legacy of AOPA’s regional outreach over the past 30 years is truly extraordinary – hundreds of legislative and regulatory victories at the state and local levels have saved members money in the form of sales & property taxes, airports charges & fees and more helping to fulfill our promise to keep the cost of flying down and protect our freedom to fly. General aviation airports and funding have been saved… the successes of AOPA’s Regional Reps and now Managers as well as those of the Airports Support Network Volunteers are far too numerous to mention; all made possible because of close and collaborative support from AOPA headquarters staff who frequently are the real experts on a given technical issue.
Members often wonder how Regional Managers handle their various responsibilities in regions with a large number of states. The key is a team effort connecting members, alliances in each state, and headquarters staff. Managers must be skilled strategists. Networking and establishing relationships with state and local governments, federal agencies, airports, pilot/user groups, and a variety of centers of influence that impact aviation and air transportation policy are vitally important. AOPA utilizes a broad spectrum of the latest in technology in its work for our membership. For example, Regional Managers utilize legislative and regulatory monitoring software and services to stay abreast of lawmaking and regulation that may impact our members. It is common to see an AOPA Regional Manager in the halls of state legislatures initiating a measure that will benefit general aviation or opposing those that threaten to increase the cost of flying, our airports, or our freedom to fly.
At the end of the day, our work is all about connecting with AOPA members. Members consistently provide our most valuable advanced link to issues and opportunities. Our new President, Mark Baker, understands the importance of connecting with our members and is re-focusing and re-dedicating AOPA toward more one-on-one service. In 2014, we expect AOPA Regional Managers to be even more involved in helping fulfill President Baker’s mission.