By Shane Sweet, FON Columnist
FON: Congratulations on being tapped to run PMAA. I bet your head is spinning as you consider how your day-to-day life will change come day one. Tell us about that; what will be your primary concerns on day one?
Underwood: My first order of business will be working with outgoing President Dan Gilligan to learn the day to day administrative operations while thoroughly reviewing the budget to ensure PMAA is an efficient and effective association.
FON: You have been with PMAA for over seven years working on the government affairs side of things, working daily on The Hill. As you leave your current post to take the helm, do you foresee making any structural changes in the PMAA legislative and/or regulatory “machine” once you take over? Have any specific plans?
Underwood: Yes, I will eventually fill my spot as director of government affairs. It is likely that a congressional staffer who understands the petroleum industry will fill my spot and I will ensure PMAA complies with all Congressional ethics rules.
FON: Trade associations nationwide, regardless of sector, must compete daily for dollars, audience and relevance. Under your direction, any ideas on how PMAA will address those three concerns?
Underwood: Although PMAA’s budget is dwarfed in comparison to other petroleum and retail associations, our state associations are our core strength which gives PMAA an audience and relevance. When we need to be aggressive on a particular legislative or regulatory issue, we can leverage our state associations to be as effective as other associations with larger government affairs budgets.
FON: As one of the national fuel trade groups, PMAA is unique because its interests lay in both the heating oil and motor fuel camps. In the past friction between the two represented sectors, at least in terms of PMAA’s policy efforts, has shown its head. Given this, do you serve two masters, and what are your plans to find the appropriate balance such that PMAA grows?
Underwood: There’s always a balance and the glue that holds us together is liquid fuels. Protecting the liquid fuels marketer from onerous EPA regulations is a key initiative, so picking one over the other is not a real issue. If we leverage our resources effectively, it works best for both fuels. One way we have leveraged PMAA resources is reauthorizing the National Oilheat Research Alliance which strengthens PMAA Northeast tates while also indirectly strengthening all the PMAA state associations.
For instance, the Northeast states needed PMAA states in the South, West, and North Central regions of the country to leverage their political capital with their lawmakers who hold jurisdiction over energy issues. Without PMAA state associations, NORA reauthorization would not have been a reality.
FON: PMAA has had a pretty consistent budget level in recent years, and I know there continues to be pressure from your constituent associations as to how much each pays to support PMAA’s efforts. PMAA is somewhat fortunate as a substantial percentage of PMAA’s annual revenue comes from dues it assesses to its member associations. What about the other, non-dues portion? Do you plan to grow the non-dues revenue to take the pressure off the member associations, and if so, how?
Underwood: Growing non-dues revenue is an absolute must and I plan to grow our vendor relations as PMAA president. Also, in 2013, PMAA designed a new program where the best industry vendors and consultants could be identified and recognized. PMAA leaders decided the optimal method for identifying the “best in the U.S.” was to go directly to independent petroleum marketing executives and ask their opinion. The survey is truly a national survey representing marketers big and small from across the U.S.; which has strengthened our relationship with vendors and I plan to maintain this great program.
FON: Change can be a very scary thing. Are you concerned about those within that are, at best, resistant to change, or at worse, would work against necessary change?
Underwood: Every day brings change. I will embrace change and from change comes many good things for PMAA.