School Bus Contractors

An open letter to my successor

Dale N. Krapf
Posted on June 1, 2005
On July 20, Dale Krapf will hand over the presidency of the National School Transportation Association to John Corr. Dear John:

It’s time for me to hand over the leadership of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), and I do it with mixed feelings. This is an awesome responsibility, more so because of the many changes occurring in NSTA and in the school bus industry. We have made important, even historic, accomplishments during the two years of my tenure, but so much of what we have done is still unfinished. It is your inheritance, and I am confident you will handle it with the intelligence, care and dedication that you have always brought to your own business, to NSTA and to the school bus community.

You will find strength in the folks who are working with you — not only the staff, but our colleagues who are committed to the association and are extraordinarily generous with their time, their energy and their resources.

During much of my tenure, NSTA has been in transition, and I have depended on you and the rest of the Executive Committee to help me keep us on an even keel and moving forward. We have been more successful than I dared to imagine — with major legislative accomplishments, improved communications, new member benefits and a remarkable forward momentum — thanks to exceptional teamwork from my first-class team.

New level of cooperation
If I had to characterize my presidency and pick the one thing I am most proud of, it would be teamwork. Not only did the Executive Committee and others in NSTA come together to run the association when we needed to, but teamwork is at the heart of some of those historic changes I mentioned. For the first time in the history of the industry, the three national associations are cooperating in a systematic, effective way to advance our common interests. It started with a group of eight who, through a series of meetings over 18 months, became a team responsible for finding ways to work harmoniously on industry issues. Pete Japikse, Steve Kalmes and I have become another team, conferring almost weekly on policy matters, and we have together spawned the School Bus Security Task Force, a third team working to develop resources to improve security. Never before have the three associations committed so much time and talent in a combined effort directed specifically at scaling the barriers of the past so we can move together toward a better future. It hasn’t been easy and it’s still a work in progress, but I am proud to have been an instrumental part of this movement.

Teamwork is also the force behind NSTA’s historic partnership with the United Motorcoach Association. When we looked at how we could best leverage our resources, we saw an opportunity to team with a group that has similar interests, shared members and complementary needs. By combining our strengths while maintaining our separate identities, both associations can flourish. It was an extraordinary and courageous step for us. This, too, is a work in progress that I leave in your capable hands.

Fresh commitments needed
I move on with some trepidation. I have learned firsthand how demanding it is to assume a leadership role in a national organization, and I am concerned that we are not grooming a younger generation to take on that task. In NSTA, as in most private-sector associations, we have depended on entrepreneurs to propel the organization. As family businesses disappear, fewer business owners are available to take an active role in associations. And in a changing society, where family priorities take precedence over business activities, fewer people are willing to give the time necessary to lead an association — or an industry. While I remain optimistic about our future, I wonder who will succeed our generation when we finally step aside.

For now, though, I feel secure in knowing that you will carry on as you see fit, with NSTA’s and the school bus industry’s best interests firmly in your heart. I’ll be there to support you, offer advice and tell you once in a while how much better it is to be past president.

Dale Krapf is the president of the National School Transportation Association and co-owner of Krapf Bus Companies in Exton, Pa.

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