Will History Show We Made the Right Decisions?

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How well do you know the history of IAEI? Who were our founding fathers? How did we get from where we were, to where we are today, 86 years later?

Well, in order for me to answer those questions, I first needed a history lesson. There was no better way to brush up on my history than to read, A Passion for Safety – The IAEI Story, which was published by IAEI for our 75th-Anniversary meeting, held in 2003.

Back in the early 1900s there were a number of inspectors’ organizations throughout the United States and Canada. These associations functioned as separate organizations; although working independently, all had the same mission of providing education and promoting electrical safety. Through the wisdom of several key individuals, they saw the need to form one association. Having those independent associations amalgamate would make the association stronger, and would give the members of the association the ability to speak with one voice, with greater ability to influence change in the electrical industry.

In 1928, IAEI was established and was overseen by an Executive Council. One of the founding fathers Joseph C. Forsyth became our first president in 1929. Our records show that the International Association maintained an executive office at room 705, 612 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in which the office of the secretary-treasurer was located. The office telephone number was Superior 0704. It appears this may have been the only paid employee at that time. In March 1929, the charter members of the association stood at 1,989.

In order to function as an association, it was necessary to become a legal entity. On March 1, 1930, IAEI became incorporated, to wit, to advance the profession of electrical inspectors, to advance the common business interest of its members, and to enhance the knowledge and to improve the skills of its members, among other things.

States and territories of the United States and the provinces of Canada where assigned to geographical divisions know as sections. Within those sections, chapters were established, and as the association grew, divisions grew out of the chapters.

When IAEI was first established, work was carried out by a number of volunteers at the Section levels. As time passed and the association grew, and as more services were being offered, it was clear that a headquarters office needed to be established and appropriately staffed.

This is a very short synopsis of how we arrived where we are today. So what is our next step in the journey to make our association stronger and more relevant in an ever-changing electrical industry?

In 20 years, will history show that we made the right decisions and made changes in order to stay current and relevant?

Our founding fathers saw the importance and necessity of forming one organization — one with a common mission and clear objectives, one with a strong presence in the electrical industry, and one with the ability to speak with one voice. Its structure would be overseen by a Board of Directors, elected from each Section, which has the responsibility to establish policy and set direction for the betterment of the entire association. An International Office staff would carry out objectives approved by the board and handle the day-to-day business required for an organization our size.

Belonging to an association carries the responsibility of complying with the Association Articles of Incorporation, by-laws and operating procedures. Our members, sections, chapters and divisions cannot operate in isolation or as silos.

As an association, we have invested in our brand. This investment means we must remain consistent in the way we look, the way we operate, the quality of our products and services. Everything we do, positive or negative, can affect our brand. We cannot allow the association to become fragmented or to be perceived as individual groups, independent from the parent association.

Over the next several months, in addition to establishing guidelines for the usage of the IAEI logo, we will be standardizing an IAEI letterhead for communications, and standardizing templates for promoting meetings and training sessions.

The vision and the hard work of our founding fathers to form one association enabled the association to grow, to have a stronger influence as we speak with one voice, and to be recognized as the keystone of the electrical industry.

If anyone is interested in knowing the history of IAEI, A Passion for Safety — The IAEI Story is available. Call the international office to purchase your book today.