AOPA's New Man

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When I heard that Mark Baker was tapped as the new AOPA president, my first thought was...could he be the son of that other Baker, the one whose name almost always appeared appended to the word ďcolorful?Ē But no, no apparent relation.

By now, you will have perused Bakerís resume and formed your own opinions. Since the AOPA board never favors its membership with anything vaguely resembling a statement of intent, we can only surmise that when shuffling resumes, it was looking first for high-level executive experience from someone with lots of GA experience, both of which Baker seems to have. From his vitae, he seems to spring from that corps of professional executives, often peripatetic, that run the countryís thousands of small and mid-sized companies. Most recently it was Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corp., a debt-ridden Sears spinoff that was supposed to compete in the Home Depot and Loweís realm. But it went bankrupt trying, thanks to the debt load.†Its sale to Lowes was just approved a day ago. (AOPAís Baker bio didnít mention this and should have. Itís a basic fact readers are entitled to. They should have also been told Baker will continue to consult with his previous employer.)

So Baker brings to AOPA a strong background in management of shelter and lawn retail businesses, which, according to the associationís release, it considers a key asset. Iím not quite sure I see the connection, but in the name of give-the-guy-a-chance, Iím willing to indulge. If I were pawing resumes, I guess Iíd look for marketing and management experience in general aviation businesses and/or political experience in Washington, which is what got the outgoing Craig Fuller a chair in the corner office. Retail experience implies a customer service tilt, but Iím not so sure AOPA has a membership service problem so much as it has a general direction problem.

As I noted in this blog last March, when Fuller announced his departure, I donít think the association is irretrievably broken, although our surveys revealed significant membership dissatisfaction with AOPAís direction and emphasis. Thatís not a customer service issue, itís a product issue, if you will.††

Thereís no reason to believe that a competent, dynamic executive with good GA knowledge and involvementóBaker has thatócanít get things back on track, if heís working with a cooperative, like-minded board. And that we donít know, since the board lives behind the black wall. Thereís also no reason that the exec has to be someone whoís well known in aviation, which Baker is not. Leadership is all about knowing the right direction to go and making the decisions to get there.

And thatís Mark Bakerís new job. We should all wish him every success at it and stand by to see the results.

Join the conversation. †Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (18)

So let me get this straight AOPA just hired a guy to run the organization who could run his own company without it going into bankruptcy and will still be being paid as a consultant by Lowes who bought out his bankrupt company which he will be doing while being paid wages and benefits from AOPA funds to run it but will not be available full time because of his paid obligation to Lowes. He is however really in tune with GA as he flies a super-cub(anyone can fly a super-cub) and has 7500 hours of flight time(probably not all in super-cubs and probably inflated along with his other qualifications). No wonder this organization has no clue what is needed in a president, This choice is another example of why I dropped my membership in this organization about 5 years ago. R.C. Wecker ---Wyoming flyer

Posted by: richard wecker | August 21, 2013 11:00 PM    Report this comment

The invisible, unaccountable, and all-powerful have spoken: What AOPA needs is a guy who was unsuccessful in his last three jobs. That should take care of the cash hoard problem.

Posted by: GEORGE ANDERSON | August 22, 2013 7:43 AM    Report this comment

I am not optimistic, though I truly want to be.

Posted by: Rob Finfrock | August 22, 2013 9:29 AM    Report this comment

I really wonder how many people the board of trustees actually interviewed and if Mr. Baker has a relationship with any of the board members. It seems like AOPA keeps getting Presidents which have little to no experience running a membership-based, not-for-profit company. You can have a million hours, but if you can't manage a membership-based company then AOPA will continue heading the direction is has headed in the past 5 years or so.

Mr. Baker does have a Super Cub so that's a plus, but I'll be waiting to hear him speak on his vision for the organization to see if he "walks the walk".

One piece of advice...PLEASE stop competiting with other organizations for apps, etc. AOPA shoud support, not develop.

Good Luck Mr.'re going to need it.

Posted by: R. Doe | August 22, 2013 10:17 AM    Report this comment

AOPA's Trimble and others had the opportunity to choose from one of the many very talented, better known, better trained, in-house staff or others in the GA industry. A known and GA industry related leader who would instill new trust. Going from drug stores to leaky faucets does not project much confidence to the disgruntled AOPA membership. It just does not look like a clean decision. In December of 2010, during a much discussed AOPA review, AVweb asked; Do we get our money's worth? Does the association spend the money wisely? And has it trimmed its balance sheet and expenses to reflect the severe contraction in the industry it advocates? These and other questions were not answered. The loss of trust in the AOPA board and disappointments continue.

Mark Baker appears to have a nuts-and-bolts excutive background, being presented with the public facade that he would work at the grass roots level, a common aviator. A financial wizard that flies. He also appears to have done very well, just ask the 5400 Orchard Hardware employees in California.

They just don't get it!

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 22, 2013 10:52 AM    Report this comment

I looked up "peripatetic" on my trusty iPhone dictionary app. It says, "traveling especially on foot" or "a person who walks from place to place". I'm wondering if this is the word you meant to use? Or am I missing something obvious.

Posted by: JOHN EWALD | August 22, 2013 3:14 PM    Report this comment

John, the word peripatetic is a word used in a nonliteral sense to add rhetorical force to a spoken or written passage. It means that the sucker has ants up his butt and can't stay in one place for long.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 22, 2013 5:32 PM    Report this comment

I got a grin from that one, Rafael. Wasn't thinking of the ants!

Here's the definition I had in mind: "traveling from place to place, esp. working or based in various places for relatively short periods."

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 22, 2013 7:08 PM    Report this comment

"It means that the sucker has ants up his butt" No, in this case it means that he left his last two jobs involuntarily because he was unsuccessful. A little research into Gander Mountain would probably show that he left there under similar circumstances. The company has been a poor performer relative to Its peers for a decade or more.

Posted by: GEORGE ANDERSON | August 22, 2013 10:11 PM    Report this comment

Like all but a few AOPA members, I am passive about the organization. However, I would like to vote on the board of directors selection, but we can't. It's a closed club, just like USAA and so many others. That is a real shame and should be illegal. If you don't trust your members, who do you trust?
Incidentally, USAA informed me that if I revoked my proxy, USAA would terminate my insurance policy, so much for transparency.

Posted by: Louis Simons | August 23, 2013 6:31 AM    Report this comment

It seems the AOPA BOD is trying to run a business. It's not a business, it's a society, a club.
Phil Boyer was an enthusiastic cheerleader for aviation and AOPA. He had good financial people behind him. It seemed to work. Craig Fuller is a man with talent and connections, and his task was lead AOPA through some challenging years of government intrusion.
I hope Mark is watching Pelton's turn around at EAA and learning.

Posted by: M Ratcliff | August 23, 2013 7:48 AM    Report this comment

Nice article. I know that the best surgeons often have worse stats because they attempt the harder jobs. Maybe this guy took a few hospital passes and was seen to conduct himself well, despite the outcome. AOPA wouldn't hire a complete numpty.

Some people manage the numbers and then see what can be achieved. Others focus on the outcomes and then make the numbers fit. Unless there is serious financial trouble already, I prefer the second approach, especially for charities and organisations like whatever AOPA actually is. More gets done.

Congratulations and good luck Mr Baker.

I'm going to try to use peripatetic in a sentence this week :-)

Posted by: John Hogan | August 24, 2013 8:06 PM    Report this comment

Well at least the "lawn retail" skillset should help in advocating for more grass strips!

I don't know anything about Mr. Baker, but I hope he has the right stuff to stand up for GA.
Every time I see Craig Fuller's name I remember his introductory blog where he got all gushy over the presidential inauguration. If that's what we are getting again, heaven help us...

Posted by: A Richie | August 26, 2013 8:53 AM    Report this comment

To peripatetic you could add vampiric.
The ants are in AOPA's sugar jar. AOPA - a member financed, lucrative merchandise marketing business for the top brass, while paying lip service to it's primary mission - lobbying(If AOPA were serious, they would hire a lobbyist to head the org.).
Maybe I'm wrong and AOPA hasn't a become home to scheming, overpaid, underachievers but then they are hiring someone who apparently majored in sinking, sinking ships. Alas, if the past is an indicator of the future, this is going to be a handsomely payed exec offering the membership the duplicitous guarantees of telemarketers and the nebulous hopes of tele-evangelists. I bet he can speak Stengelese.
Dropped my membership in this once terrific organization three years ago.

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