Put That ARRL CEO to Work, Would Ya?

In a recent episode of the ICQ Podcast, I had Howard Michel WB2ITX as my interview guest. He’s the CEO of the American Radio Relay League as of late last year. It was important that Howard get interviewed about League matters as he was hired after a brief misfire to replace the legendary CEO David Sumner K1ZZ. As I told ARRL President Rick Roderick in the Q&A session with him a year or so ago at the Mississippi Section Convention in Jackson, MS, “You guys made a mistake in hiring someone from Wall Street to be CEO of a membership non-profit organization. Don’t make one again.” My Division Director, David Norris K5UZ, was seated in the row in front of me, nodded his head and turned to give me a knowing look. From my interview with Howard Michel, and from what else I’ve seen coming from him, they did not make a mistake.

One of the strategic matters that this new CEO faces is the common perception that Chief Executives are walled-off from the organization’s customers or just come out of their catacombs to glad-hand, smile, and ask for something.

Indeed, if you listen to my interview with him here, I think you’ll find that he has a clear but not tight-fisted vision for making the Headquarters more customer service oriented, inclusive, and modern in it’s business operations. This should yield better service experiences for members. Perhaps equally important, it may attract new members to the League as the 150,000 or so current members pale by comparison to the 750,000 licensed hams in the U.S.

One of the strategic matters that this new CEO faces is the common perception that Chief Executives are walled-off from the organization’s customers or just come out of their catacombs to glad-hand, smile, and ask for something. As error prone as this perception is, there is enough of an everyday reality that validates it to the rank-and-file customer base to make it the default mental setting, so to speak. In addition, there’s the “We’re the ARRL. And You’re Not!” barrier (apologies to the comedian Chevy Chase of Saturday Night Live fame).

As I was listening to Howard respond to my questions, I was pondering these matters. It hit me that it might be informative for all involved if there were opportunities to interact with Howard as just another ham operator so as to “see” him that way as opposed to a mostly a face with a monthly column in QST or on the pages of the ARRL’s website. An idea was formulated on the spot: get him on the air in a mini-event so as to work Howard on the air at W1AW!

Howard WB2ITX at W1AW
(original photo courtesy of ARRL. Graphic rendering by Frank K4FMH

So I sprang this on him without any real sense of how he would respond by asking a one of my final questions: How’d you like to make some news? I proposed that we set up a date and time to appear on W1AW’s station on 20 meters and let the ICQ Podcast team promote it as a joint mini-event where hams could “put the CEO to work” by working WB2ITX on the air. He immediately caught the humorous pun in this and agreed enthusiastically.

Please put May 13, 2019 at 2:00pm Eastern Time on your calendars. Tune your antennas, rigs, and amplifiers (if you have them) to 14.254+/- and put that CEO to work! Howard promises a special QSL card from the League HQ for worked contacts.

Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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