A Journey Through IAEI

From the Chairman
Michal Hofkin

How do you begin to describe the pinnacle of your IAEI experience? What words can convey the joy, the honor, the pride, and the gratitude that go along with being entrusted by your fellow members with a leadership role in the association that is the cornerstone of your professional success? That’s my task, and I must start at the beginning. For those of you who I neglect to mention, please forgive me. Your impact on my success at IAEI and in the electrical industry is not diminished for lack of my listing your name in this article.

I joined IAEI 25 years ago as the owner of a small electrical contracting firm. My inspector at that time, Marty Horn, suggested that the meetings were worth attending. He was right. Within ten years, I was on the board of directors of the Benjamin Franklin Chapter. A few years later, I advanced to the position of Chapter President. A few years after that, I became the Chapter Secretary, a position I still hold today.

Along the way, my mentor and friend John Whitney suggested that I should attend a section meeting. I didn’t know what a section meeting was, but I decided to go. We split a room, and I was introduced to the most amazing electrical educational and networking experience of my life! Here, at last, was a room full of “code weenies” (hat tip to Bob McCollough) who enjoyed the intricacy and nuance of the NEC as much as I did! I learned more in three days than I had in the year prior. I met all the players in the industry. I’m just an electrician from Philly, but there I was rubbing elbows with Jeff Sargent, Gil Moniz, Joe Ross, Fred Hartwell, John Cangemi, Leo Martin, Sr., and so many more. For the cost of admission, I was privy to the insider information about the NEC, the CMPs, and the testing labs. Laid bare before me was a plethora of behind-the-scenes knowledge from the entire industry. Oh, rapture!

I soon found myself elected to the section board of directors by my ever-present chapter support group: Ernie Davis, Rich Van Wert, Stan Altzman, Alan Kaitz, John Whitney, Rick Golashovsky, Bob Parissi, Gene McDonald, Bob Fitch, and so many more. My fellow chapter members encouraged me to seek higher office within IAEI and were always there to support my efforts. I was honored to be Eastern Section President in 2017. The Benjamin Franklin Chapter – my friends, mentors, and colleagues – raised $50K so that we could put on a second-to-none event. I will never forget that experience and the love I felt.

The section board of directors saw fit to elect me to the international board of directors. Again, the power of mentorship shines as I was championed by the likes of Jim Rogers, Mark Hilbert, John McGann, Bob McCollough, Jack Bannon, Paul Dobrowsky, and Charlie DeAngelis. I reveled in the safety of a support system, a mentorship program, and the friendship of the industry’s leaders as they propelled me toward the leadership stratosphere!

Now, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. The reason that I found so much support from my fellow members at all levels of the IAEI is that I worked very hard for the membership. Show up early. Stay late to clean up. Chair a committee. Support the officers. Be humble and appreciative. Be bold and decisive. Manage risks. Take risks. Speak your mind. Compromise. Always act in the interest of the membership.

On the International Board of Directors, I found myself breathing the rarified air of those chosen for the executive leadership positions. The members of the board are men and women and are no different than any other member. All humans, all electricians at heart, and all sharing the singular mission of acting in the best interest of the membership. I speak of them with such respect and admiration because out of ten thousand members; these eighteen electrical professionals are the selected and elected representatives of the heart and soul of the IAEI. From the chapter and division level, through the section level, and onto this leadership body, each of them has the trust of their colleagues to guide the success of IAEI.

Admittedly, I was at a loss. How did some guy from Philly end up on an international board of directors? Surely a mistake has occurred! As I took my seat in the boardroom for the first time, I was in awe of my situation. As the meeting progressed, the bilateral nature of the people I was serving with struck me. They were ordinary, yet special. They were humble yet bold. They listened intently and with an open mind, then spoke passionately in support of their ideas. They were audacious yet cautious. One could not have asked for a better guild of mentors. Most of us became friends and still are.

I met the staff and David Clements, our CEO at the time. I was introduced to levels of outside-the-box thinking that I had never thought possible. Learning from seventeen of the industry’s most respected and accomplished leaders was more than anyone could ask for. I watched as the IO staff proudly reported on their wins and honestly detailed the areas that needed improvement. We conducted the business of IAEI, socialized and bonded, and shared ideas and visions of a bright future for the IAEI.

For the last two years, I have had the privilege of serving as the Chairman of the IAEI Board of Directors. It has been my greatest honor to serve the membership in this role. I want to thank the Board of Directors for their confidence and the trust they placed in me. I will forever cherish this time in my life. These selfless champions donate untold hours to the IAEI, often working nights and weekends as the committee tasks are addressed. This is no surprise as these exceptional individuals are accustomed to putting in the extra effort for the association. Indeed, that’s how they earned their positions on the International Board.

Admittedly, my time here has been full of challenges. I was elected and then promptly faced the retirement of our CEO. We created a committee, parsed 140 applications, and selected Rudy Garza to take over the reins of our beloved little club. Then COVID struck the world. Our CEO selection committee was forced to work exclusively online, and we were given no choice but to hire the new CEO without having met him face-to-face.  The staff was working remotely. The Sections, Chapters, and Divisions were unable to hold meetings. Membership lagged. Sales lagged. Some staff changes had some wondering what was going on. The board is currently exploring options to ensure the continued strength of the voice of enforcement. Certainly not the perfect situation.

Leadership is about service. It is about elevating those around you to places they didn’t think they could go. Leadership is about having the courage to face the challenges and the humility to listen to those who want to aid the quest. With these maxims in mind, I sought to effectively navigate the waters and ensure that our ship came out of the storm as seaworthy as ever. With the Board of Directors and our CEO as shipmates, our success was all but guaranteed.

Despite the challenges of the last two years, there have been many successes. Our online training has been significantly expanded. The Keith Lofland IAEI Digital Studio was built and put into immediate use as we pivoted to offer training in an era when in-person seminars were not possible. The quantity and quality of the available material is a testament to the work done by Keith and Jody Wages. The modest fees that were charged helped to balance our budget during the pandemic.

Rudy successfully negotiated a win-win partnership with ICC. We are now offering our products directly to the ICC membership via their website. We are co-branding and reciprocally cross-promoting educational products and publications. IAEI training is being offered directly to the Code Council members.

Our financial position is strong, given the impact that COVID-19 could have had. Our 2019 finances were audited and found to be without error or omission. Our CEO renegotiated several business agreements and withdrew us from a collaboration that was not beneficial to IAEI. The staff and their roles were reorganized to maximize the efficacy of the work output while placing people into key positions best suited to their talents and abilities. New staff was added to ensure that the association delivers on its responsibility to serve the membership. The 2020 Analysis, Soares, Ferm’s, and the One- and Two-Family Dwelling Electrical Systems materials is also now available.

I am happy to share that our decision to hire Rudy was spot on. In the two years that we have worked together, we’ve gotten to know each other. He has a good heart. He’s bold and fearless, considerate, compassionate, and always open to my perspectives on our history and our path forward. Rudy relies on the board to set the policies that will chart our seas year to year. Ever open to new ideas and willing to challenge outdated thinking, he is the right person to be at the helm during these less-than-ideal times. The IAEI needed an association manager, and we got one. I’m very proud of our decision to bring Rudy onto the team. I have truly enjoyed my time working with him.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t take the time to thank David Williams, our vice-chairman. David has been a source of strength, rock steady, and stalwart. There was never a time when I felt alone. David’s dedication to the IAEI is unparalleled. I thank him for his council, his support, and his friendship.

I will close by telling anyone who is still reading this diatribe that I love the IAEI. This association is the cornerstone upon which I have built my career. When I needed knowledge, the IAEI provided. When I needed a network, the IAEI provided. When I wanted leadership opportunities, the IAEI provided. As I recount the milestones of my vocation, I see IAEI at every waypoint. I’m a better electrician, a better inspector, and a better instructor than I ever would have been without this coalition of industry experts. Members, friends, and mentors, I encourage you never to stop believing in and supporting the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. We are the industry’s voice for enforcement. We are relied upon to provide representation for that voice across myriad landscapes within the industry. We produce and deliver the best training materials, bar none. We are IAEI, THE ELECTRICAL SAFETY LEADER. I will always be a member, and I will always be grateful for the outstanding people in the association that continue to enrich my life.