Thursday, July 31, 2014

Composting Council boots another executive director

By Ken McEntee
Composting News

For the third time in about three years, the U.S. Composting Council has terminated its executive director. The council’s board of directors, on July 29, announced that it was “bidding farewell” to Lori Scozzafava, who had been hired as executive director 14 months earlier, in May 2013. The decision to let Scozzafava go actually had been made sometime during the previous week, sources said.

Lorrie Loder, president of the USCC, indicated that the board could hire an association management company instead of an individual executive director to manage the organization.

Loder, senior director of technical services at Synagro, said the board has been disappointed with the Washington lobbying efforts of past executive directors. She said the board is seeking a leader who “has connections in order to help facilitate some of the missions of the industry and our membership.”

Asked whether that is an area in which previous executive directors have fallen short, Loder said, “There were various reasons, but that is probably quite a bit of it. We moved our office to where we were close to Washington D.C. in the hope that we would have more legs on the ground on Capitol Hill.”

Asked whether there are any specific issues that require a better lobbying effort, Loder said, “Yes. It was the persistent herbicide issue and some of those yard waste bans and really the movement to recover organics from the waste stream. And then building healthy soils by putting compost back instead of shoving all of this great stuff in a landfill.”

The July 29 press release, in which Scozzafava’s departure was announced, was headlined, “USCC undertakes restructuring to prepare for surge of organics composting efforts.” Scozzafava’s termination was announced in the manner of an afterthought in the fifth paragraph of the press release: “With the restructuring process, the USCC board of directors bids farewell to Lori Scozzafava, who is moving on to other career opportunities, as executive director. The transition team is integrating the executive director search into the restructuring process.”

According to the announcement, “In a move set to position the U.S. Composting Council to continue its quarter-century as the foremost authority on composting, the USCC's board of directors announced a restructuring effort to prepare the organization for rapid growth. The vigorous restructuring process is being led by a transition team developing growth plans that are targeted toward sustainable diversified growth in a dynamic, growing organics industry.”

In just the past year, USCC said, the number of states taking legislative and administrative actions, such as food scraps diversion, requirements for compost in public and private projects, has multiplied.

"This will require states to quickly grow their public and private organics composting infrastructure, and the USCC is the best resource to help guide that," Loder said in the announcement.

As a result, USCC said, the organization is shifting more and more resources towards development of educational programs and outreach to membership.

Scozzafava's departure follows the April 2013 termination of Michael Virga, who had been in the position of executive director for 19 months, starting in September 2011. Before Virga, Stu Buckner served in the role for about nine years, from 2002 until the summer of 2011. Buckner had been under contract as executive director through the end of 2011. Earlier that year, the board told Buckner that it planned to conduct a search for an executive director, but invited him to re-apply for his job.

When Virga was hired, Frank Franciosi, then president of USCC, said the appointment was in line with USCC’s aim to heighten its role as an advocate for the industry to impact policy areas such as agriculture, energy and climate change. Franciosi said USCC membership had been surveyed two years earlier about the direction they wanted the organization to take. 
The survey suggested that members wanted a stronger effort to lobby for industry issues and a stronger market development effort, he said.

Shortly after Virga took the position, the council moved its headquarters from New York to Bethesda, Md.

In April 2013, the board announced Virga’s departure and the hiring of Scozzafava, who had previously been deputy director of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). 
The board, at the time, declined to confirm whether Virga was fired or quit. Loder described the parting as “a mutual agreement.” Loder, at that time, described Scozzafava as “a perfect fit” for the council, citing her 25 years of experience in the solid waste management industry.

Now, as the council looks for a new leader for the fourth time since 2011, Loder said she has no concerns about the stability of the organization.

“Not at all,” she said. “The organization is very stable financially. We’ve got a strong membership and a strong involvement by our board. There are no concerns about that. Can we find a one size fits all executive director? No. And that’s what this succession planning committee is going to bring to the board.”

When it was suggested that from a member’s standpoint, USCC members can’t be blamed for being uneasy about the volatility in the leadership position, Loder replied, “I have actually spoken a couple members and one of them said to me that Abe Lincoln went through a few people, too, to find the right person,” a reference to Lincoln’s appointment of Ulysses S. Grant as commander of the Union armies.

The succession planning committee, she said, will make a recommendation to the board regarding a replacement for Scozzafava. The committee, she said, is made of past board presidents and several other board members. No timetable has been set for a decision, Loder said.

“Whether it will be a position or we look to go a different route with a management company, it’s really up to the succession planning committee,” she said. “The sooner the better of course, but we want to make sure this is the change we make to take us into the future for a longer term and not have to make a change again for a while. I am willing to let them take their time to make the right recommendation.”

The ideal leader, she said, would be “somebody that has knowledge of the composting industry, knowledge of the issues and has connections in order to help facilitate some of the missions of the industry and our membership.”

Established in 1990, the USCC has nearly 1,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and other countries. In its most recent tax filing, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, the council reported revenue of just more than $1 million and expenses of about $1.16 million, with assets totaling $788,000. During that year, Virga earned about $155,000.

The council’s revenue was derived from several sources, as follows:
Conference Revenue    $408,000
Membership Dues    $284,000
Seal of Testing Assurance    $136,500
Training    $62,700
Publication sales    11,100
Other    $6,800

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