Letter from Dave Westling | TASH Board President

Dear TASH Members,

I am writing this letter on the occasion of Barb Trader’s announcement of her retirement as the Executive Director (ED) of TASH. Barb has informed us that she will begin walking down a different life path in December of 2015.

Since 2006 Barb has been responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of our organization. As a Board member for nearly six years, and as president of the Board for almost three years, I have had the opportunity to interact closely with Barb, and I have watched with admiration as she has piloted TASH under the direction of the Board of Directors, and with the support of the TASH membership.

For many TASH members, our organization is best known for its values of equity, opportunity, and inclusion for people with disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities, and their families. Many members touch base with TASH at the annual conference, through our publications, and perhaps through our regional conferences and webinars. Everyone in TASH benefits in some way from these services, and many who are not members of TASH benefit because of its values-based advocacy.

But there are only a handful of people who know what TASH does on a day-to-day basis or what our ED is responsible for doing. So I would like to share what I believe are the most import functions of this job, all of which Barb has done with the greatest degree of sophistication and expertise.

Advocacy. Barb’s most important purpose is to serve as the face of TASH among national and state-level policy makers and other influential members of society. She interacts regularly with both the senior staffs of lawmakers and the administration, and is at the table when policies are being formed around issues such as restraint and seclusion, community living and employment, and inclusive education. Further, she allies with other advocacy and non-profit organizations, and with federally supported projects, to insure that TASH’s voice is heard and that policy positions reflect TASH values. Additionally, Barb has engaged with members of the corporate world to influence business practices relevant to people with disabilities and their families. Anyone involved with disability policy is aware of TASH’s position and respects Barb Trader for her knowledge and the unrelenting values she represents on key issues. TASH has achieved national visibility in the disability rights community and we have Barb to thank for this.

Management. Although we are best known as a values-based organization, our role in promoting advocacy and promoting key issues cannot occur unless we function as a committed and effective organization. The ED is responsible for overseeing the TASH staff so that the organization can continue to do what it was created to do almost 40 years ago. From organizing the national conference, to monitoring the delivery of TASH products and services, to seeking ways to communicate about TASH values and practices more effectively and efficiently, to interacting with the TASH Board, TASH members, and others interested in our activities and positions, the ED’s job requires the continued application of effective management strategies. Barb’s skills in this area have been exemplary and serve as another reason she has been so valuable to the TASH mission.

Fiscal Responsibility. The most salient lesson I have learned as a TASH Board member is that no one likes to talk about money. Most TASH members don’t have a lot of it, and many TASH Board members would rather discuss just about anything else at our Board meetings. But people can’t be expected to work for free, no one gives away office space or the equipment and materials necessary to operate an organization, and, as we all know, there is no end for the need to do more in the business we are in. During the recent recession, like other non-profits, TASH suffered financially through the loss of members and conference attendance and revenue. But under Barb’s stewardship, we have increased our membership, found new sources of revenue, and have a fiscally sound organization. This is not an easy accomplishment. It requires creating a viable budget, generating income from multiple sources, and making sure our expenses stay within our means. Since Barb’s tenure, TASH has established sound fiscal footing and we have undergone successful audits during each of her years with TASH. Finances may be the least interesting aspect of the organization, but without sufficient funds, we cannot operate and, literally, support the values we promote.

So as Barb begins thinking about her post-TASH life, I invite all TASH members, and others who value the important work that TASH does, to join me in thanking her and wishing her well. The skills she has employed in her service to TASH, and her untiring commitment to the organization (and to people with significant disabilities and their families), has served us extremely well, and we can only hope that our new ED, whomever it may be, will be able to continue in the same vein.

Thanks, Barb, for all you have done for TASH! You will be missed.

David L. Westling, Ed.D.

President, TASH Board of Directors