The Power of Your State Onsite Association

The Power of Your State Onsite Association

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If you are already an active member of your state onsite association, you already know the importance to yourself, your company and to your state’s onsite industry.

If you aren’t a member of your state’s onsite association, there is a way for you to grow professionally in a way you can’t without the association. 

Your state’s onsite association is representing your industry in your state. By default, that means your state association represents you because you are part of that industry. So if someone is representing you and what you do professionally, why wouldn’t you want to be part of that? Remember Jack Welch’s quote, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.”

I’m speaking from personal experience. Thirty-four years ago, when I was brand-new to the onsite industry, I heard rumors that our state had an association of onsite professionals. I thought, I need to be a part of that, how could I not be part of that? I joined the minute I found the contact info (which was not as fast as it is now with the internet, luckily my septic tank supplier happened to be one of the founding members). 

Why be an active part of your state’s association?

Typically, the education is in way more depth than just attending a vendor lunch. Our association in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association, not only has an annual three-day conference packed full of education, we have courses online throughout the year on most subjects pertaining to the onsite industry and are adding more all the time. All education comes with continuing education credits required for license renewal.

An association is not just about education

Education is just one of the obvious benefits of an association, but it is much more than that.

A state association is our industry’s voice and ears; it’s how we tap into what is going on legislatively.

Before I was a member, I would not have known the importance of legislative representation. Here’s an example to put this in perspective. A few years ago our legislative representative (lobbyist) brought to our association’s attention that well-meaning legislators had put into the budget that onsite systems did not have to be pumped, and if they failed, they did not have to be replaced as long as the surfacing effluent stayed within their lot lines. Why? Because they had received letters from elderly, retired constituents who were complaining that they wanted to ‘maintain’ their own systems because they couldn’t afford having systems pumped nor replaced. 

The legislators, not knowing any better, in an attempt to aid their constituents added in the state budget, which was about to be voted on, that onsite systems did not have to be pumped and failed systems did not have to be replaced. Without a legislative representative reading every nook and cranny of legislation being proposed we never would have known. Our lobbyist coordinated our efforts to go to the state Capitol and educate the legislators (one by one) on why these ideas were unsafe and potentially dangerous. It was removed from the budget. It would not have been removed from the budget if our association had not found out about it and acted accordingly.

We fought larger battles than this one for our industry, again with notification and coordination from our lobbyist. It’s not all fighting against legislation; sometimes the goal is to support legislation, to aid in getting bills passed that will benefit the industry, or our customers. Those who aren’t members of the association, most likely don’t even know these battles are going on. 

Associations are composed of onsite professionals just like you. These aren’t professional association boards and members, these are installers, operators and soil testers helping chart the course of our industry. If you are looking at onsite as your business, your career, your future — join your state association and be an active member.

In most cases even active members (those on boards and committees) are not required to spend a lot of time performing these tasks. Many meetings are now held virtually in online platforms so that members can attend from around the state.

Being a member of your state association shows you are serious about what you do and allows you to be part of building and maintaining a strong onsite industry in your state.

A few of the many things I’ve been part of by being an association member include:

- Not only was I on the code advisory council for changes to our plumbing code pertaining to onsite systems, I was the chair of that committee for eight years.

- I spent five years on a committee writing a peer-reviewed curriculum on how to teach a class on evaluating existing systems for home sales. This class is still taught in our state.

Being (an active) part of your state onsite association helps strengthen the industry and grows you professionally. Being one lone installer out there, it’s hard to guide and direct the industry on issues that pertain to what you do. Being part of a state association unites like-minded industry professionals and change can be directed by your combined efforts.

Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Joining and participating in your state onsite association is the easiest way for you to be part of that change in your state’s onsite industry.

Please know that joining a state association, or already being a member and deciding to become more active (joining the board or a committee), is not stepping on anyone’s toes. State associations are always eager for help, and are always seeking people to join the board and/or committees. I know you are a hard worker or you would not be reading this publication. Put a small slice of that effort toward your state’s onsite association and good things will happen.

About the author
Todd Stair is vice president of Herr Construction, Inc., with 34 years’ experience designing, installing, repairing, replacing and evaluating septic and mound systems in southeast Wisconsin. He is the author of The Book on Septics and Mounds and a former president of the Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association. 


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