ATPE is proud to bring you this series of posts from your board members. The ATPE Board of Directors is made up of 20 regional members, who are elected by their constituents; four state officers, who are elected annually by the entire House of Delegates at the ATPE Summit; and the most recent state past president. Board members were sent questions via email, and their responses will be posted to the ATPE Blog in the order they were received. Today’s blog post is from Region 4 Director Ron Fitzwater.
How and why did you get involved in a leadership role at ATPE?
I got involved as a leader because I get such personal satisfaction from helping our members. I know I’m doing something good.
Ten years ago, when my wife and I relocated to Texas from Missouri, MSTA’s executive director, Kent King, told me to look for ATPE when I got here. I found the ATPE table at our NTO, and asked those volunteers, “Are you a union?” When they told me, “no,” I joined on the spot. I have loved the people and the organization ever since.
What is your favorite part about serving on the board?
I enjoy everything about serving on the board—even the parts that might seem mundane, such as discussions about the finances. I’ve been saying for several years that we needed to make sure our budget was balanced, and this past year, the board and staff worked together and made that happen.
The whole process takes some time to truly understand, but I try to be a watchdog for our members, and I try to learn. What I truly enjoy most is getting to know more members of the ATPE family, which changes every year. People transition in and out, and our family grows.
What advice would you give to others who might be interested in serving on the board?
I would recommend that anyone who’s interested in serving on the board step out and volunteer on the local and region level. It gives you a good perspective of knowing who your region really is. As a board member, you’re literally coming to the table and representing your region, but along the way, you’re to represent all of ATPE.
I admit it took a little time for me to step back and focus on what’s best for all of ATPE. I had very strong opinions, but it’s not just about me, or my own region. Others make that shift easily, but it’s something I had to learn to accept. As a board, we may do things I don’t agree with, but I always know those decision are what’s best for the organization overall.
As a board, we are professionals, and we represent ATPE members at the local, region, and state level. When we do that, we’re no longer divided into regional silos. We become one. I enjoy serving, but I also believe that being a board member is a privilege. I’m one of 25 people who have the privilege (and awesome responsibility) of representing an organization of more than 100,000 members.
How has your being on the board helped your region?
I’ve had past experience in small and large, rural and urban, districts, and I bring that experience to the board role. Like other board members before me, I believe that I’ve been able to bring a clear representation of ideas, priorities, and concerns from Region 4 to the state level. I’m there to share my region’s perspectives with my fellow board members. But the communications go both ways. I’m also there to communicate the big picture perspectives to the officers, volunteers, and members in my region.
Can you share something fun about yourself that our members might not know?
While in high school, I was highly involved in our Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter and even then did not mind serving in a leadership role. My senior year, I was elected State FFA Reporter of Ohio. Yes, I’m a Buckeye by birth and a Texan at heart. But my agricultural roots have never gone away, as I love to garden and get my hands in the soil.