By David S. Prescott, LICSW
Last week, the announcement came that Maia Christopher has resigned from her position as Executive Director of ATSA. It has long been one of my proudest accomplishments to have led the search committee that resulted in her hire during my year as President Elect. With this blog post, I hoped simply to offer some historical reflections on her accomplishments.
One can only imagine the challenges of being an Executive Director for ATSA. We wanted a person competent in administration, management, and organizing a conference while also needing someone with not just an understanding of the field, but a deep appreciation for it. Maia was clearly it. With the help of then-President Robin McGinnis and “Dream Team” member Jacque Page, Maia basically saved the 2007 ATSA conference in San Diego. That may seem long ago and far away, but the finances of each conference are naturally a major signpost of ATSA’s health and way forward. The next year, 2008, was the same: Maia and her team managed to pull off an excellent conference at a time (the beginning of the Great Recession in the US) when energy prices had gone through the roof, state agencies were prohibiting travel, and all sorts of things conspired to make it a difficult go. And so it went. Maia was the perfect choice at the perfect time.
Tyffani’s description of Maia’s leadership touches on important areas. At the same time, it is difficult to overestimate the amount of effort she has put into making sure that every detail of every conference has worked to our advantage. Some of us use the Hare PCL-R to assess psychopathic traits on a case-by-case basis; Maia was dealing with entire hotel chain managements that seemed to score above the cut-off for psychopathy. Beyond that, Maia has always taken excellent care of her staff. I personally sat in many meetings watching her put the office staff’s needs well ahead of her own. This has long been obvious to outsiders who have seen how well our office staff function as a team.
Before stepping into the Executive Director role, Maia co-chaired the committee that produced what were then called the ATSA Standards and Guidelines. That particular round of revisions faced many challenges, and Maia’s ability to thread the needle and get the document past an entire board of individuals who were all quite opinionated in how documents should be edited was impressive. That in itself would have been a remarkable accomplishment for any ATSA member. It seems worthwhile to mention all this today in considering the depth of Maia’s long-term commitment to ATSA.
Placed even further into context, Maia followed two other Executive Directors whose tenures were brief and perilous. Their departures left us all with the sense that we could actually hear the bullets that we had just dodged. And before that was another Executive Director who also gave her all to ATSA and, in an unforgettable board meeting, announced that after years of putting ATSA first she had simply run out of vision for the future. It was an amazing high-water mark in the concept of honesty.
Why say all of this?
· ATSA members have more reason to be grateful to Maia than we often realize. Being ATSA Executive Director is hard work in the best of times.
· ATSA has also been here before, survived, and emerged stronger thanks to the efforts of a diligent, competent, and effective board.
· This can’t possibly have been easy for anyone involved. Thank you, Maia Christopher, for your service and leadership through all the ups and downs of our organization.