MH profile: Judy Garber, OESP executive director

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As OESP—the National Association of Oil and Energy Service Professionals made up of about 1500 dedicated energy professionals who service the energy needs of the Northeast portion of the United States—revs up for its annual trade show and convention May 17-21 in Hershey, Pa., it will be the last under the directive eye of Judy Garber; however, she will be active in the association.


Recently, I had the chance to speak with Judy about her journey, OESP and the future.

MH: How did you get involved with NAOHSM/OESP?
Garber: Oddly, I was looking for a new job.  I was tired of traveling and I knew Bob Boltz, V.R. Boltz. Lebanon, Pa.,  who happened to be the president of the association at that time. I met with him and discussed ideas that I had. I thought that I would like to sell for a local contractor. He, being one of those, suggested that I just hold tight. He later told me to apply for the job as the director of NAOHSM. I had no idea what an association was but I “trusted” him.  I was a vendor at the show for many years so I at least was familiar with the group. Honestly, it was one of my favorite shows. My experience is/was in sales and marketing. I was a sales manager, and honestly these are two skill sets that really can work well for an association. And, because I didn’t come from the association world, I had no “bad habits.”  I was quite comfortable asking “why are we doing it like that” and didn’t hear the words, “because we always do it that way.” I learned quickly, and I truly  have made some wonderful friends.

MH: How has the association evolved over the years?
Garber:  I really don’t like to use clichés, but it sure isn’t a “good ol’ boys club” any more.  Our organization is really committed to our mission of education. They care so much about the oil heating industry but they also are aware of an evolving energy industry and many of them are part of that. I remember being at a meeting in Washington, DC a number of years ago and the speaker predicted that the future of energy would include a menu of energy choices. I have never forgotten that. It will be. Since I became the exec in 1999, this industry has really changed. At that time we had strictly oil companies involved. Now there are few of them. Most have added propane to their mix of offerings. They also rely more upon the service department for revenue.

MH: What have been some of your major challenges?
Garber: Keeping both vendors and members motivated, energized and happy. I see some areas in our market that are “pumped” and others, sadly, just don’t care. I have learned the benefits of an association and that means being part of something bigger than yourself. Strength is in numbers for sure. Members that are “active,” meaning don’t just pay dues but actually attend meeting and events, gain so much. True networking often times takes place at that happy hour that takes place before the meeting.

MH: What has been the most rewarding aspects of the job?
Garber: The most rewarding part of my job is probably the Awards Banquet. When I see five or six young people receive the acknowledgement of a scholarship—it is a delight.  Their parents are so proud of them. Since we started the scholarship in 1999, we have awarded well over $275,000 in awards. For a small association, that is pretty amazing to me. Oil Heat Cares, too, has been something of which I am proud. It is beautiful to see the pride that our members show when they have done something special for another individual.

I also enjoy the annual convention. Someone once told me that its like a family reunion.  I have to say, that is a good description of our event.

MH: Can you describe behind the scenes at OESP, including those that have worked their tails off?
Garber: This is a great question, John.  Any officer of our association works hard.  If they don’t  . . .  Our convention committee, comprised of Jay Moser, Harris Comfort; George McQueeney, East River Energy; Dave Bessette, MacFarlane Energy really help pull the show together, as well as the sitting president, which happens to be Al Breda, Sippin Energy.  These gentlemen really put in the time. Ralph Adams, Parker Fuel, is one that stands out because he puts so much into the education side of the association. I can’t miss two other my buddies: Bob Boltz who suggested I apply for this position and Dan Holohan who has become a great friend, as well. I know that I am missing others but these guys stand out.  They truly are awesome and you have to commend their bosses for encouraging them to be involved.

MH: As you relinquish your executive director duties, Who will be taking over?
Garber: We won’t start the search until very late fall.  We have a OESP 2-day Forum in August and that will be one of the topics. I am encouraging them to look toward the future. Maybe we should hire an individual with strengths in technical education vs. association management. We won’t know until it is discussed. But associations, in general, are evolving and we need to think “outside of the box,” as well.

MH: Are you confident in the direction of OESP?
Garber: I am because we have such quality volunteers. I will be around long enough to guide if needed.

MH: Just saw the release where OESP/AREE have partnered on trade show/convention for 2016. How that came about?
The simple answer is, its time. Something needed to happen. There are too many shows with too few people attending them. In my humble opinion, we need to build an outstanding product that attendees know they need to attend. The oil industry is shrinking but it sure isn’t going away. OESP is evolving but it will take time to attract those in other energy businesses. For example, those that specialize in alternatives, plumbing, AC.

Our focus is on service and installation and by partnering with AREE we are stronger and we can together be a very strong show in the Northeast when it comes to Oil and Energy. We’ll focus on the technical side of the business and their strength is on the management side.  So that combination is good. The job of the service manager has evolved, too, and they are more of a GM vs. someone who is solely the technical guy, so our members can take advantage of the additional management training that will be offering.

MH: I know that you will still be involved with OESP, but stepping down as ED makes you feel ______?
Garber: Why?  Until June of 2016 I really don’t know. I love working and enjoy the energy business so I don’t know.  But I don’t want to be one of those that just hangs around.

MH: Oil Heat Cares is always an important aspect of the organization. Any new projects?
Garber: 2015 was kind of a “quiet year” for Oil Heat Cares. I am certain it was because of the long cold winter here in the Northeast. I suspect we’ll be bombarded this summer. One of the better ones this year has to do with a World War II veteran and his daughter who is his caregiver. This family truly is why Oil Heat Cares exists. It is there for those that fall through the cracks. Mr. Bullis’s daughter worked for a local hospital and after years of service lost her job. Thus, when the heating appliance needed to be replaced they didn’t have the funds. Our guys from the Fairfield County Chapter came to the rescue under Oil Heat Cares.

The New York City Chapter, too, does a great job of identifying a project and invites the Saunders Technical School, Yonkers, New York to join them. The students learn how it feels to work side by side with energy professionals and also to give back to their communities.  It is a winning combination for all.

MH: Finally, the last time you said, “Today is a great day,” you were doing what?

Garber: Last Saturday when my husband, Larry and I went to our grandson’s confirmation in DC.  The weather was beautiful, the service was wonderful, and I couldn’t believe that I have a grandson 14 years of age. I also have a granddaughter who is 16. Life is precious and, as the years move forward, I am reminded of that each and every day.

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