Evan Gaddis took office as president of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, Va., Sept. 19, 2005. Gaddis, a former Army general, came to NEMA after serving as president of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) for several years.

Gaddis recently took time out from his daily duties at NEMA to talk with Electrical Marketing and Electrical Wholesaling. In the Q-and-A that follows, Gaddis talks about what he sees as NEMA's biggest accomplishments since he took office and the association's future challenges.

Q: WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE SINCE YOU TOOK OFFICE AS NEMA PRESIDENT?

A: I'm pleasantly surprised how environmentally focused the electric industry is, at least in the manufacturing sectors NEMA represents. I find that I like being a “tree hugger.” It seems our companies are always pushing for more efficient and environmentally friendly products. They balk only when performance or safety are threatened. A good example is our recent Environmental Design Initiative, which deals with the reduction or elimination of hazardous materials. The NEMA Board of Governors has decided to address this issue, provide guidance to the industry and, in effect, lead by example. They set two milestones: 2010 for meeting thresholds for the reduction or removal of six hazardous substances in electrical products (mercury, lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and two flame retardants — polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and polybrominated biphenyls — and 2014 for the reduction or removal of hazardous substances in all NEMA products.

Q: NEMA WAS VERY INVOLVED WITH EPACT 2005. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR NEXT MAJOR LOBBYING EFFORT?

A: NEMA was very effective with EPAct 2005 (a comprehensive package of energy legislation setting rules for everything from oil exploration to energy consumption in commercial buildings) and we thank our legislators and fellow associations for their support. EPAct 2005 was a win-win for everyone, consumer, legislator, DOE and manufacturer.

Next, we need to extend the provisions of EPAct 2005. Additionally, you will see NEMA working with Congress, the Department of Education (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that the public knows that energy-efficient technology is available today and is a smarter choice, despite the “first costs” of new technology.

Counterfeit or substandard electrical equipment such as electrical cords, electrical safety devices and other popular consumer products, such as AFCIs and GFCIs, are putting the public safety at risk. Stopping counterfeiting in the electric industry is a matter of life and death. We plan to make sure we do everything within our power to eliminate counterfeiting of electrical products.

Q: WHAT ARE THE TOP THREE CHALLENGES YOU WILL BE WORKING ON IN THE NEAR-TERM?

A: Near term, the biggest challenges we face are represented in the three strategic initiatives recently approved by the NEMA Board of Governors:

  • Promoting the acceptance and use of energy-efficient products.
  • Making electrical products environmentally sound.
  • Stopping the wave of counterfeiting in the marketplace.

The board has authorized a special fund so that we can make meaningful progress toward our goals in these areas.

Q: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS NEMA PRESIDENT?

A: The biggest challenge addresses the need for common direction in areas that affect the majority of our membership. The key is strong leadership and communication. Our Board of Governors has been most helpful by assigning CEOs as “Project Champions” in the critical areas requiring common direction. We have also been upgrading publications and modernizing our electronic communications to be more efficient, to provide more meaningful information and reduce the volume. We will stay focused on our message and how we communicate that message to the industry and beyond.

Q: WHAT HAVE BEEN NEMA'S BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS SINCE YOU TOOK OFFICE?

A: Listening to the membership and empowering the staff. The expertise of our industry is within the member companies. We're making more contact with and more visits to the member companies. We then are giving the NEMA staff the resources and authority to run NEMA programs, while holding them accountable for results. So far, it has been an effective mix.