IN GRATITUDE

BY Pat Cleary

President & CEO
NAPEO

November 2023

So, this is my penultimate column for PEO Insider. I’ve written 12 years of columns, ten per year – minus one, next month’s, my final one, which is already written. I don’t want to give away the ending just yet.

And so I decided to use this month to thank everyone who made this wonderful ride possible. At my wake at the Annual Conference, I was able to publicly thank all the former board chairs who have served during my tenure, and all the board members. It was a little choppy at first, but over time, the board became wonderfully constructive and collegial. What a concept, I know. They have developed into a cohesive and supportive group, and have guided this organization in stellar fashion.

I also thanked NAPEO staff, past and present. There were several alums in the audience – Daniel Harris of TriNet, Melissa Kelly of ADP TotalSource, Michael Kreiter of Insperity, and Melissa Viscovich who came back from her new gig to be with us. She was my right hand for 12 years and owns a piece of any success I had. I can’t say enough about the current staff, as they have been terrific. As I tell them, every email, every call, every member interaction adds up to a reputation of first-rate member service. They have delivered again and again.

Farrah Fielder has moved seamlessly into the COO role, Thom Stohler has put us on the government affairs map, Kerry Marshall has overseen explosive growth in our marketing and communications budget and has the results to show for it. Robin Schlesinger, well, there’s only one Robin, adored by all and and who delivers quality conferences every time. Nick Kapiotis was conscripted from the industry to guide our legal efforts, and he has. Hannah Walker, also an industry draftee, has hit the ground running, handling all of our state issues which proliferate with our growth. Nancy Benoudiz has overseen explosive growth in associate members and with it, non-dues revenue. It has been an honor to be part of this team. It was so gratifying to hear the thunderous applause from the crowd when they were introduced; it warmed my heart. You get it.

At the wake, we had a few “roasters,” folks who came to, uh, pay tribute (but not really). Mark Perlberg sandwiched a second trip to Orlando between business and family obligations. He has been a friend and mentor and I’m grateful for that. Midge Seltzer re-engaged with us, to our great benefit. Everyone was happy to see her. Daniel Harris almost stole the show – almost – and John Slavic, industry giant, kicked it off and didn’t disappoint. John Polson hilariously copped out by using a ChatGPT-generated poem. Lee Yarborough shed her sweet image to roast me all too well. And of course, Abram Finkelstein came through as only he could.

Finally, the roast ended with my pride and joy, my daughter Maggie, who struck everyone’s heartstrings. I know she struck mine. That girl is going places. What can I say? The apple fell far from the tree. And I thanked my wife Kathleen, who’s been with me through thick and thin, a 40-year career of demanding jobs and assignments that cost her nights, weekends, and a few vacations. Through it all, she persevered, she endured.

I think about the many friends I have made in this industry, and I am grateful. I tell everyone it’s like college – you don’t stay in touch with everyone, but you stay in touch with your friends, and I will. In the meantime, as I said, you are part of something special, and I am thankful to have shared that journey with you for the past 12 years.

Lest I spend this entire column looking back, allow me one important prospective observation: I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with Casey Clark, our incoming CEO, and I can tell you that he really is terrific. He had dinner with the senior staff in October and fit in seamlessly with this boisterous, irreverent group. The following day he met with the entire staff, and as he spoke, you could feel their comfort level rise. Again, he fit in seamlessly with the group. I am excited for his arrival and for everything that he will bring to this job.

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