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Walking the Walk on Succession Planning:IAFC Completes Succession Plan Process in Bittersweet Transitions

In 2009, the IAFC undertook comprehensive staff reorganization aimed at building greater efficiency and aligning member needs with staff resources in a new economic environment. The plan took a long-range view and included the development of succession plans surrounding staff who were planning to retire in the years ahead.

The IAFC, like many fire departments facing the loss of seasoned leadership, had to make a plan to respect the needs of our retiring personnel, create a positive environment for the remaining personnel and ensure the work of the association continued without a hitch.

Michos, deputy executive director, and Plaugher, assistant executive director and director of national programs and consulting services, held key positions directly responsible for the day-to-day operations of the association and critical to nonmember revenue stream.

The time provided during the succession planning process allowed the IAFC to design a new executive search process that combines both traditional and groundbreaking approaches by tapping technology for the earlier phases and traditional panel interviews for finalists.

Final candidates' ability to work seamlessly with the multiple stakeholder communities—a critical element for both jobs—were challenged in interviews where they met with panels representing association management, fire department and IAFC leaders, and a cross-section of operations and program staff.

The process caught the attention of the staff of the ASAE: Center for Association Leadership and was featured in their magazine Associations Now, the leading publication in association-management best practices.

Mary Beth Michos, MS, CFOD

Michos retires as the chief administrative and operations officer at the IAFC, starting a new chapter in a nearly 40-year career in the fire service.

Throughout her career, Michos has been well known for her leadership in fostering new ideas in policy and operations, for helping her brothers and sisters succeed and for a passion for education and leadership development. She brought these ideals to the IAFC, challenging staff to think of new ways to serve IAFC members that were both practical and innovative.

During her tenure, Michos has been instrumental in revolutionizing the IAFC's professional-development program from traditional classroom education to mixed models that include traditional lectures, small-group discussion, relationship building and mentoring. Michos single-handedly took on the Chiefs in Crisis program, personally connecting with chiefs who called seeking advice and support. She challenged the IAFC to flip the model on its head by focusing more on crisis prevention rather than crisis management.

Michos will continue to work for the association on a part-time basis assigned to special projects, including the development of a new yearlong, cohort-based leadership program.

Edward (Ed) Plaugher, EFO

Plaugher retires from the IAFC as assistant executive director and director of National Programs and Consulting Services. While the IAFC had a few grants-funded programs before his arrival in 2006 he is widely and appropriately credited with taking the IAFC to the next level of program and services development.

Under his leadership, the IAFC grant-based programming has expanded exponentially. During his tenure, Plaugher has overseen the creation of more than 20 programs that provide no-cost resources to responders.

Plaugher's success is defined by his passion to provide tools and resources for the fire and emergency service that are both visionary and achievable. He's vigilant about envisioning the next great challenges and opportunities, and he's constantly thinking about how the IAFC can help position chiefs for success.

He has established the IAFC as a highly respected and highly effective service provider, shunning typical government-contractor stereotypes in favor of collaboration with other stakeholders, financial efficiencies and practical outcomes delivered quickly to the community.

Contributing to his legacy is his investment in his staff, cultivating young professionals from many industries into seasoned program managers and knowledgeable fire and emergency service champions.

New Faces

While we hate to see them go, the IAFC is excited to welcome their successors.

Karin Soyster Fitzgerald, CMP, CAE, is the new chief operations officer and deputy executive director. She has brought with her more than 25 years of experience in the association industry, most recently with the American Baker's Association in Washington, D.C.

Public-safety veteran Thomas (Tommy) Hicks is the new chief programs officer/assistant executive director. Having held both operational and officer positions within the career and combination fire/EMS structure over the course of 20 years, he has nurtured valuable interpersonal skills that allow him to bring entities together to meet operational goals and develop synergy for a common good.

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