August 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - March 2008

As a member of this great organization, you play a key role in deciding who will direct the SH&E profession. You decide by casting your vote.

2007-2008 ASSE President Michael W. Thompson, CSP

Your Vote Matters

Consider the possibilities: One vote can make a difference in the outcome of an election. Edward Everett Hale once wrote, “I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything. But I can still do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” With that quote in mind, consider the annual ASSE election which begins March 1. When your ballot arrives, will you take notice and vote?
Like you, I have the opportunity to vote for chapter, region and Society leaders—and through that vote I voice my opinion on important issues affecting ASSE and the SH&E profession. Voting is a serious responsibility, yet last year only 16% of members participated in the ASSE election.

Why don’t more members vote? To better understand the election challenge, I read messages written by several recent past ASSE presidents. They spoke of low vote totals and member apathy—strikingly similar to our current situation. I also talked with several volunteer leaders at the national level to gain their insight. Jim Smith, Vice President, Council on Practices & Standards, points to a recent election in which the vocal minority set the direction for the majority. “Several weeks ago,” he explains, “a friend was running for commissioner in West Palm Beach, FL, a city with several hundred thousand voters. A total of 41,000 voted, ultimately affecting the citizenry’s quality of life and financial well being.”

To Darryl Hill, Vice President, Finance, the low participation doesn’t reflect member dissatisfaction—especially given our nearly 90% retention rate which shows that members truly value their association with ASSE. But in sharing his own experience, he reveals a possible cause. “Even though I was active with the local chapter from day one,” he explains, “until I was active at the practice specialty/Society level, I often relied on word of mouth if I didn’t know enough about either candidate. Many members likely do the same—or they simply don’t vote.”

So how do we increase member participation in elections? Region I Vice President Terrie Norris believes volunteer leaders need to take a more active role. “Each volunteer leader needs to initiate an organized ‘get out the vote’ campaign within his/her constituency. The only slogan needs to be ‘Remember to Vote: It’s Your Society.’ Cheerleaders get fans involved in the game. We, as volunteer leaders, are ASSE’s cheerleaders. It’s up to us to engage our members.”

This year’s candidates have impressive credentials, a fact we should “celebrate,” says Tom Lawrence, Vice President, Council on Professional Affairs. Adds Chris Patton, Senior Vice President, “These candidates should be thanked for volunteering to lead the Society.” I agree. ASSE is a volunteer organization and these individuals have stepped to the plate. Building and supporting this leadership pipeline is key to the Society’s future. As 2006-07 ASSE President Don Jones explains, “Future leaders don’t just happen. They are developed. We do this by recruiting qualified people to join. Then we put them in a position to succeed and continue to challenge them by giving them additional varied roles. When we do this right at the chapter, region and Society level, we should have an abundance of candidates.” A similar approach has worked for the Kuwait Chapter, which elects its officers well in advance of the next chapter year. “They work closely with the present Executive Committee to understand the process before taking over,” says Chapter President Ashok Garlapati.

As 2000-01 President Sam Gualardo wrote, “The elected officers of ASSE lead the Society and determine where to focus its collective energy. Through your vote, you validate this vision and give it strength.” He then urged us each to ask, “Why should I vote?” and offered these four reasons: 1) ensure that ASSE continues to represent the profession with integrity and vision; 2) voice an opinion on important issues and help provide direction for future initiatives; 3) support the Society’s leadership and provide it with a strong mandate for guiding the profession; and 4) acknowledge the hard work of the candidates and recognize their impact on the profession.

Each of us makes a decision about our membership engagement. By not voting, you essentially shift accountability to others to determine the future direction of our profession. Consider the difference your vote can make. Take an active interest in your Society’s governance. Read the candidates’ biographies and platform statements. Visit the election website at When your election ballot arrives, take the time to review the material, then vote. As a member of this great organization, you play a key role in deciding who will direct the SH&E profession. You decide by casting your vote.

Michael W. Thompson, CSP