Chapter leaders gathered at AFSA headquarters in Dallas for the Mid-Year Chapter Leadership Conference to share ideas, learn best practices, and network.

Chapter Leaders Convene in Dallas

Attendees Share Ideas and Learn Best Practices at Mid-Year Conference 

Thirty-nine volunteer leaders of the American Fire Sprinkler Association’s (AFSA) 26 local chapters attended the 2019 Mid-Year Chapter Leadership Conference May 20-21, 2019, at the AFSA Headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The two-day conference, which educates newly elected leaders as well as established chapter executives on best practices in association governance and management, aims to strengthen the performance of local associations across the United States and Canada and to help raise public awareness about the importance and impact of fire sprinklers in the construction and fire-safety arenas. 

The conference kicked off with guided tours of the AFSA National offices, which also allowed local leaders to meet face-to-face with the AFSA National staff, and continued with networking events at TopGolf and the Iron Cactus Mexican Grill, which were generously sponsored by Globe Fire Sprinkler Corporation and Reliable. 

AFSA Membership & Chapter Development Committee Chair Linda Biernacki alongside AFSA President & CEO Debra McGuire, MBA, IOM, CAE, welcomed leaders Tuesday morning. “AFSA is deeply committed to cultivating and optimizing leadership in the fire sprinkler industry at the local level, and this Chapter Leadership Conference provides a hands-on way for us to do just that,” states Biernacki, president of Fire Tech Systems in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Through its biannual Leadership Conferences, AFSA National aims to partner with its growth-minded leaders throughout the United States and Canada to find ways to strengthen the organization and foster a more robust local presence. 

Speaking at the opening of the conference, former president of the Michigan Society of Association Executives Cheryl Ronk, CMP, CAE, who has 15 years’ experience leading professionals that operate association and advocacy groups, provided professional development training on “Developing Board Roles and Maximizing Chapter Efficiencies.” Her presentation emphasized the importance of having effective board governance and best practices in place as well as working together as a board to best oversee local committees and volunteers. 

Following board training, chapter leaders took part in an AFSA history lesson and continued with strategic discussions on AFSA National programming and proposed chapter policy changes. 

“The Leadership Conference has proven to be an excellent way for chapter leaders to get together to share ideas and for AFSA National staff to conduct best practices training with our chapter leaders,” says AFSA Manager of Chapter Relations Kevin Korenthal.“It is also a great opportunity to hear from chapters on how National can help them do what they are doing even better.” 

As one of two educational events held annually, AFSA’s Leadership Conference provides local chapter leaders with opportunities for growth through education, community service, and personal development. Traveling to the National Leadership Conference exposes leaders to a wide range of perspectives, gives them confidence in meeting new friends and opens their minds to a world of opportunities. Plus, learning “soft” skills such as teamwork, communication, leadership, problem-solving, and time management set these leaders apart to be game changers. 

AFSA, the nation’s largest merit-shop fire sprinkler organization, has hosted the Chapter Leadership Conference, which has taken place annually since 2008. AFSA is excited for its next Leadership Conference on October 2 during AFSA38: Convention, Exhibition & Apprentice Competition at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California. To get more involved locally or to find your chapter, visit  

What Makes a Great Leader? 

AFSA’s Leadership Conference was a perfect opportunity to ask AFSA chapter officers what makes a great leader. Here are some of their thoughts. 

Stacey Fantazzi, Upstate NY: Humility and accountability. 

Sandy Richter, Michigan: Be a mentor and lead by example. I always say, “I’ll do anything that’s legal, moral, and ethical!” Give those you supervise the opportunity to fly. 

Mark Winder, Utah: Lead by example. 

Bernie L. Parsons II, Carolinas: Communication, integrity, and lead by example. Don’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. Hold everyone accountable; follow up with them. 

Jon Lopez, Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas): Create a bond. Find their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Be accessible. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. 

Jay Strickland, At-Large Director: Integrity. Passion and excitement for what you’re doing. Have the skills to be a good teacher. 

Rhonda Gudger, San Diego: Someone who acts by example, and has passion and focus. 

Meaghen Wills, Schuylkill: Have a passion for the industry. 

Stewart Weeks, South Carolina: Inspire others to perform at something they’re talented at/driven toward and use that talent for the benefit of a group. 

Ellen Ballard, Louisiana: A desire and drive to want others to succeed. Communication skills, the ability to set goals, and possess motivational tools for mentees. 

Nikki Ray, South Carolina: Help others, lead by example, and set the pace for others. Good communication skills and a willingness to put yourself “out there.” 

CJ Bonczyk, Dallas/Fort Worth: Someone you can trust, a good decision maker who can work through conflict and problems with a good outcome for all. One who can train and guide the next generation. 

Derek Peterson, Minnesota-Dakotas: A good leader and decision maker, who has is the moral and ethical center point of company. Have patience, communication skills, and take constructive criticism.

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