Richard GottwaldIn case you haven’t heard, APSP has a new top executive.

Richard Gottwald took over the reigns from outgoing president and CEO Bill Weber on September 16. Gottwald, 53, is a native Bostonian and graduate of The University of Lowell (now known as the University of Massachusetts Lowell) where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Plastics Engineering. Prior to entering association management, he worked as a researcher for Dow Chemical.

A self-described “people person,” he brings more than 26 years of association experience including tenure as executive vice president of the International Sign Association.

We caught up with Rich for a brief chat after only one week on the job.

What attracted you to the pool and spa industry?

The organizational needs of APSP and the challenges it’s facing are things that I’ve dealt with before. I could see that while APSP is a terrific organization, it’s also not meeting its full potential. With my background and skill set, I believe I can help the association and industry as a whole. My goal is to help people in the industry recognize the value of APSP. I know that’s not the case across the board right now. I was drawn to the challenge of helping the association become more relevant and responsive to its members needs.

Secondly, I was attracted by the need to raise awareness about the industry’s products with the consumer. Pool and spa ownership is declining, but I believe that working together, we can put together a powerful plan that captures the fun, health and beauty of our products.

Do you have childhood memories associated with swimming pools and swimming?

Absolutely. I grew up with a swimming pool. I come from a big family and our pool was a center of all sorts of fun activities, barbecues, pool parties, etc. It was a place to enjoy family and friends. There is nothing that compares to a backyard with a pool, spa or hot tub to bring people together.

Do you have an agenda here in the early going?

My immediate goal is to understand the industry better, understand the major players, and get out and introduce myself to people. I want to present the message that we have our arms and minds open as to how we can work together. Right now, my focus is really to listen and to learn.

Has there been anything about the industry you’ve discovered so far that is surprising?

I’m not sure it’s surprising, but one thing that really stands out is the passion, it’s a very passionate group of people. From the day my appointment to this job was announced, I have been receiving calls and email from members giving me advice and telling me about the issues they care about. Our members care about this association and about this industry, and I find that incredibly uplifting. Another surprising thing is the amount of fragmentation in the industry. It seems we spend a lot of time talking to one another and not focused on the larger, more important issue of being top-of-mind with consumers.

Where do you see APSP five years from now?

I see it being the established center of the pool, spa and hot tub industry. As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of splinter groups. We need to bring those groups together, whether it’s formally or informally. Consumer research shows us that consumers are bypassing our products for other items. There seems to be some soul searching within the industry already about how to reverse this trend, and that’s good. The only way to win is for everyone to be playing on the same team. Other industries that compete for the same discretionary dollars have been quite successful. It’s our turn now.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but if we pull together we can achieve great things that benefits people in our industry and our consumers. In the coming months I’ll be asking people to look forward. And to step forward. APSP is moving forward. We need everyone on the team if we are to be successful. It’s a challenge that I’m confident this industry can meet. Together.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail editors@aquamagazine.com.

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.