It is hard to believe that after writing more than 250 CEO columns, this will be my last. Over the past 12 months, I have been filled with nostalgia, anticipation and hope — in addition to a gnawing feeling that when I wake up on July 1, 2022, I will have shed a professional identity that I have held so dear for 33 years, including 24 as your CEO.
In addition to closing out my career with ACA, we are coming to the conclusion of our program year. I want to thank those who have served in leadership these past 12 months. Led by ACA President Kent Butler, the association has continued to record more milestones and victories on behalf of the counseling profession. Our current Governing Council has approved a newly revised strategic plan for the coming years; we have reached our goal of at least 10 states joining our Counseling Compact (well ahead of schedule so that we can now form a national commission to begin implementation of the program that will allow counselors the privilege of practicing across state lines); and, as of next month, ACA will be operating with its largest budget in history (more than $15 million).
President Butler was both diligent and focused on the need to increase the diversity of our leadership pipeline. He brought awareness to ongoing systemic racism and worked tirelessly to ensure that professional counselors take pride in the advocacy work they do for clients, students and communities.
Some people talk about creating opportunity; Kent opened doors. Some talk about the importance of communication and transparency; Kent practiced it every day. Others look at how to aspire to issues around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Kent’s passion for this issue has resulted in tangible actions and results.
Among this year’s milestones, the ACA Anti-Racism Commission, which was formed last year, took very specific actions to address issues of discrimination that impact counselors of color. I am also appreciative of this year’s Governing Council for the work its members undertook to oversee our first in-person ACA Conference in three years, hire a governance consultant to explore our leadership structure, bring on a diversity consultant and launch a search for the person who will take my position. It has been a busy year.
As for me, my appreciation for this year’s staff, as well as the hundreds I have worked with over the years, cannot be overstated. As I have said a number of times this year, the staff has made me a better CEO and, frankly, a better and more understanding person. I am deeply indebted to them for always going beyond what was expected in service to our members, to our volunteer leaders and to me. I am indebted to my workplace colleagues.
As I look forward to creating my own new chapter, I will remain interested in what the coming years hold for ACA. I anticipate hearing about the great success that I know President-elect Kim Frazier is capable of, along with the Governing Council and our other volunteer leaders at the branch, region, division and national levels.
When I compare who I am today with the person who walked through the doors of ACA in the mid-1980s, I realize that I have “matured” (in more ways than one). Starting my ACA journey in my late 20s and emerging in my mid-60s, there were bound to be some changes!
I don’t really believe that you separate your work life from your personal life because, well, your life is your life. What I did outside of work ran parallel to what I was accomplishing at work. During my more than three decades with ACA, I became a husband and a father. I saw our kid graduate from college and get a real job. I even officiated a wedding. Many new family members were born, and some who were so important in my life were lost. It’s been … a life.
I also want to thank so many of you who became part of my life. I have been the beneficiary of a great deal of wisdom and support. I am hopeful that you know who you are.
I do want to express my gratitude to all of you on behalf of your clients, students and communities that benefit from your work and your advocacy. You make the world better. Don’t ever forget the impact that you have made on your communities, on those with whom you work and, of course, on me.
Let me share a very important thank you to two people who were instrumental in my work at ACA. One was here for the entire ride of 33 years — my wife, Mona. She kept the proverbial home fires burning even as she managed her own career. Her willingness to take on so much allowed me to visit with many of you, attend countless board meetings, and staff various ACA events over the years. She kept everything humming along, often taking on what should have been my responsibility at home. She also listened to me all year long about what the impending transition will be like for me. My son, Dylan, wasn’t here for all 33 years of my ACA journey, but he brought an incredible dimension and great happiness to Mona and me. He also put up with the good, the bad and the not so great that I experienced at ACA, but I think he knows there were many more good days than challenging ones. These two have been my light, my joy and my rock.
At the end of my columns, I have traditionally signed off with “As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to call me at 800-347-6647 ext. 231 or to email me at email@example.com. You can also follow me on Twitter: @Richyep.” Well, that won’t exactly work this time because as of July 1, I will no longer be at that phone number or that email address (although you can still follow me on Twitter: @Richyep).
So, what I will share instead is that my working for ACA has been way more than just a job. It has been one of the greatest experiences and honors of my lifetime. I am indebted to all who walked with me on this journey, and I hope that as I exit, I am leaving ACA and the counseling profession just a little better than when I started.
My best to you, with deep gratitude for the opportunity to serve ACA and its members.