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Top Association Leaders

Today kicks off the Trending 40 Association Leaders list: top-notch association execs growing and innovating within their organizations. We’ll celebrate their awesomeness at a networking reception July 9 in Crystal City. You're invited.

Matt Shay
CEO, National Retail Federation


Memorable initiatives: Doubled size of NRF in five years, built a new team and attracted new companies as members. Conferences have also increased threefold in revenue. 
Lesson learned: If you’re not transparent and effective at communicating your vision to the organization, then you’re not likely to be a successful leader.
Why this career: After law school and clerking for a judge, had offers to work for law firms, but found the intersection of law, politics and business an interesting fit. Has since earned an MBA and enjoys working with several constituents and shaping an entire industry. 
Grew up: Columbus, OH
Why DC: Came 20 years ago to work at the International Franchise Association doing state government affairs.
First job: Stock boy at a shoe store.
Free time: Chase or be chased by our three kids.  
Family: Married, kids ages 7, 8 and 9. 
Daily habit: Exercise—swimming, bike, running or gym. 
Startling fact: One career highlight was giving the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising commencement address last summer at the Staples Center in LA. With 22,000 attendees, got a taste of how Kobe Bryant feels when he walks onto the court. 

Michelle Korsmo
CEO, American Land Title Association


Memorable projects: Achieved record membership the past six years; created title and insurance industry standards over two years ago so consumers and lenders can better benchmark title and settlement companies. Also working on launching a homebuyer outreach program in October to help members communicate directly with homebuyers about title insurance using traditional marketing, social media and targeted web-based ads. 
Lesson learned: Listening is the skill to employ to get the best outcomes for the organization and staff. 
Why this career: Worked in the Bush administration and then a think tank. When offered a job in a trade association, it felt like an easy jump. 
Grew up: On a farm in eastern North Dakota.
Why DC: Came in 2001 to work for the Bush administration. Started on the parachute team at the Department of Labor.
First job: Picking mustard on dad and uncle’s farm.
Free time: Between a demanding job and three kids…always looking for the best under eye concealer. 
Family: Married 13 years; three daughters, ages 7, 5 and 3. 
Favorite vacation spot: North Dakota, where we spend a good part of the summer, and Key West in the winter. (Sorry, North Dakota.)
Bucket list: As a family, we read the Declaration of Independence at the home of a signer. Would like to read it at every existing home of a signer. 
Daily habit: News, herbal mint tea and Instagram.
Startling fact: I know how to drive a tractor and a combine.

Todd Hauptli
CEO, American Association of Airport Executives


Memorable projects: Took position as CEO of AAAE after predecessor had it for 30 years. Met with each employee, asked five questions on organization’s direction and got AAAE moving toward the future. Other projects: Created an airport innovation accelerator to help companies sell into the airport market and partnered with San Fran airport to develop software to track ride-share companies and increase airport revenue. 
Lessons learned: Culture is everything, and surround yourself with people who believe and own the mission.
Why this career: Came to associations as a lobbyist in ’91 and lobbied for an organization until late 2013. Loved the industry, believed in the mission  and wanted the opportunity to grow it further. 
Grew up: San Marino, CA
Why DC: Came in ’84 two days after graduating from college to work on the Hill for a year before going to law school. Got a job, liked it and never ended up in law school or leaving DC.
First job: Paper route and at 16, worked at Holiday Liquors delivering alcohol
Free time: I’m a semi-pro chef—love trying to emulate dishes at Per Se and French Laundry.
Family: Married 20 years; two sons, ages 13 and 18, and Australian Shepherd. 
Favorite vacation spots: BVI and Italy.
Bucket list: Hike Patagonia and cook dinner for Thomas Keller, chef from French Laundry and Per Se.
Daily habit: Morning exercise on elliptical while reading the newspaper. 
Startling fact: Can juggle any three objects; haven’t tried chain saws yet though.

Tom Stenzel
CEO, United Fresh Produce Association


Memorable projects: Founding partner of “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools,” to raise money and donate salad bars to schools that can’t afford them; secured legislation to save the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act—the regulatory framework for produce sales in the US.
Lessons learned: The power of community within an association can transform competitors into partners with common interests; good ideas are all around you; and hard work on the high road always beats shortcuts on the low road.
Why this career: Worked in the utility industry and former corporate boss had gone to the National Soft Drink Association, where US Rep. Norman Sisisky, a Pepsi bottler, served as chairman. Took job because of the people involved. 
Grew up: Portsmouth, VA
Why DC: Came (during Cherry Blossom season) for NSDA job. 
First job: Dominion Power—$10k annual salary.
Free time: Travel within produce industry 50% of time (there’s nothing better than hanging out with growers, distributors and retailers where they live). Also enjoy golf, and Nats and Caps games. 
Family: Married 13 years; blended family includes four adult children and 12-year-old daughter. 
Favorite vacation spot: Outer Banks
Daily habit: Nice scotch in the evening (almost daily).
Startling fact: Jumped out of an airplane to promote association’s convention.