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Meet the Candidates

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News April 2019

These executive board nominees are looking to help lead PVA in its mission to improve the lives of veterans and others with SCI/D.

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For close to 75 years, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has been dedicated to changing lives and building better futures for veterans and others with spinal-cord injury and disease (SCI/D). Whether it’s working to ensure seriously injured veterans receive the best possible health care, funding groundbreaking research or fighting for civil rights, PVA is a leading advocate for those with SCI/D. PVA needs talented leaders to continue that mission, and selecting that group is a key part of the organization’s annual convention. This year, the PVA Annual Convention takes place May 14–18 at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora, Colo. During the convention, the PVA Board of Directors will elect the national president, senior vice president, four vice presidents, a treasurer and a secretary. The following are statements from individuals who, as of press time in late February, have declared their willingness to continue on the path of changing lives and building futures. Not having a statement in this article doesn’t exclude someone from being eligible for election.

President

David Zurfluh

PVA national directors and members, I’m announcing my intention to run again for the position of national president. I made a promise to you that I would do my best to leave this organization better off than when I started and take on all challenges to help move this organization forward. You also asked for more transparency, and I believe the organization has made great strides with more to come. Two years ago, I saw this organization on a path towards failure and a culture more worried about self than PVA’s mission. I made sweeping changes in personnel I believed were necessary to change the mindset back to PVA’s mission of organization over self. I constantly remind people PVA is bigger than all of us, but everyone in PVA, including directors, members, staff, donors, partners, friends, caregivers and veterans are stakeholders.

Last year, while my focus was on all departments, three stood extra scrutiny. Veterans benefits, government/advocacy and sports, I believe, are on solid footing with new leaders in place running and constantly looking to improve their programs. Fundraising has undoubtedly been the hardest challenge, but our new chief development and marketing officer has done a phenomenal job of working with all departments and leaders in PVA to turn a significant corner and hopefully put us on a path to long-term fundraising success. Directors, if you’ll give me the opportunity to lead another year as president, there are four areas I want to focus on besides caring for the health, welfare and viability of our organization.

First is becoming the go-to organization for veterans with spinal-cord injury, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We have made strides, but further work is needed. Second is maintaining and enhancing our relationship with Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) leaders when it comes to our health care. The recent rollout of the VA Mission Act is riddled with pitfalls that could affect our system of care and if it does, we need to sound the alarm loud and clear for all to protect and improve what we have now. Third is transparency. I said earlier we’re making strides, but there’s more to be done, and hopefully, we can create an effort for chapters to focus on doing the same. Fourth is communication. We have to tell our story effectively to all media outlets — print, online, social and eventually on TV. The message must be the same from the national, chapter, member, partner, friend and caregiver levels. It must be clear to all what, how and why we do what we do. Wounded Warriors, Shriners Hospitals For Children, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other nonprofits have benefited from great communication and messaging, and we can do the same. I believe we are putting the staff in place to accomplish this, and they will accept all challenges.

Directors, I’ve never forgotten where I came from or the strength of humility. I hope I’ve gained your trust and confidence for another year as your president. I thank you for your time and humbly ask for your vote. 

Senior Vice President

Charles O. Brown

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It’s my honor to announce my candidacy for the office of PVA senior vice president. Since mid-July 2018, I’ve served in the role of senior vice president. I’ve learned a great deal more about our incredible organization and believe there’s still much to learn. I’ve been a member of PVA for almost 33 years now, and it’s still the best veterans service organization in the world. The impact we have on veterans’ health care, veterans’ benefits and the advocacy of the disabled community as a whole is immeasurable. 

This past year, PVA, along with our partners, has secured an improvement on the Air Carrier Access Act, and we can now start holding airlines more accountable for the damage they do to our equipment while flying. To know that PVA has been around and leading the charge for many of the groundbreaking events that have improved the lives of our members, veterans and disabled community is an unbelievable accomplishment. To know that we will keep leading the charge on more disability issues is something I’m dedicated to do for years to come. As senior vice president, I’m dedicated to continuing the work our founding fathers started. The communication with the four liaison vice presidents is improving, as I’m truly finding my groove with the help of leadership. My biggest weakness is communication with you. I’m dedicating myself to being more available for everyone to discuss your concerns about our great organization. I’ve learned much from National President David Zurfluh, and I’m starting to reach out to our past presidents for guidance. You cannot look into the future without knowing your past. 

As senior vice president, I will support the president with the tasks assigned, and I will help guide the newest members in accomplishing their goals. I’ve taken a serious look at how our chapters are running, and I fully believe they can be successful and growing. While everyone is afraid of potential changes, I’m excited by the possibility of new growth. There are veterans who can be members of PVA out there, and we’re steadily looking for them to join our organization. If we look back at how PVA grew, you can see the pattern for success. Unfortunately, we’re struggling to find the right footing to push up from, but I believe it’s only a matter of time and we will start growing again. This past year I’ve had some health issues, but I’m currently healthy. While no one can predict how our bodies will be from year to year, I can guarantee you that I’m doing everything I can to remain healthy. I will always remain ready for whatever call this organization has for me. I only ask that you consider my words and my lifetime commitment to you, the membership of the PVA.

Respectfully submitted, Charles O. Brown.

Vice President

Hack Albertson  

I’m Hack Albertson, and I’m asking for your support to be your national vice president for the upcoming year. I served honorably in the United States Marine Corps. I’ve been a PVA member since Jan. 17, 1994. I’m a T6 complete paraplegic. I want to thank you for the honor of working for you for the last five years. This is a very exciting period for PVA, as we continue to improve our organization to serve veterans better, ensure our growth and financial future. This executive committee and our national staff have been a good team to work with as we strive to complete our organization’s mission. This year, I’ve served you as chairman of the field advisory committee and serve on the ad hoc committee for our PVA Chapter Hospital Liaison Evaluation Program.

I’ve served as chairman of the resolution committee, vice president of administration, as a member on the field advisory committee, chairman of the spouses and caregivers committee and chairman of the awards committee. I participate in the finance and budget committee meetings when time allows. It has been an extreme honor to be the vice president liaison for the PVA Gateway, Puerto Rico, Mountain States, Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Oregon and Northwest chapters this year. I’m a past vice president liaison for the PVA Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia and Cal-Diego chapters.

I take my responsibility of being a resource as your vice president liaison to the PVA chapters very seriously. I want all of the PVA chapters to succeed in our mission, and I’m here 24/7 to assist in any way needed. I will have visited all eight of my liaison chapters of responsibility by the end of my June 30 term. This is done to ensure our governing documents are being followed and all veterans and mandated programs are being served as intended. I believe in continuous training and education to create improvement and communication. I encourage all of you to insist on the training and participate to help PVA stay focused on our mission of serving veterans. PVA only exists because each of you serve as volunteers for the organization. Your grassroots efforts of advocacy and finding veterans to help with their benefits is what makes our organization strong. It truly changes lives and builds futures when we all work to serve veterans and help them to recover from the catastrophic injuries we are all blessed with that make us eligible to be PVA members.

Our veterans benefits department and medical services department are so important to all veterans to guarantee they get the health care and benefits they deserve. Our PVA magazines and sports programs are an amazing inspiration and help so much in getting veterans out of the house and on the road to a full life. Our mission is possible due to our team in development as they find donors who believe in us. PVA is strong due to our veteran volunteers and chapter members, and they work to make us the very best veterans service organization. I want to thank you all for your consideration of allowing me to continue to serve you all.

Tammy Jones

Hello, ladies and gentlemen of PVA. I’m writing to inform you of my decision to run again for vice president of PVA. This past year has been an enlightening experience. As a board, we faced a few challenges and a few more changes. This has been a year of regrouping and refocusing, and I believe we’re headed into a more positive and productive future.

I’m a U.S. Air Force veteran and have been living with my spinal-cord injury (SCI) for more than 32 years. In 1986, at the age of 19, I had an automobile accident in which I sustained a C5/6 SCI. My rehabilitation was initially at Stoke Mandeville Spinal Injuries Centre in England and continued at James A. Haley SCI Center, in Tampa, Fla. My husband, Dale, aka “Mr. Tammy,” is a Marine, and we’ve been married nearly 20 years and believe in living each day to the best possible. My first year as vice president has shown me a bigger picture of our impact as an organization. Having served on the board of three chapters since 1997, I was familiar with the impact local chapters can have with the VA and the community. Seeing how we, as a national organization, are impactful was very illuminative and helped reignite the passion of why we have PVA. We’re the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, whether it’s veterans’ issues or the disabled community. In the VA hospitals or on Capitol Hill, we must continue to fight for the right of everyone to live life to his/her fullest. I kept thinking about the acronym I made for myself, PVA PRIDE (Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Determination and Enthusiasm). These are the characteristics I work by in my actions with PVA.


As vice president, I recognize the importance of communication with the membership, as well as the board members. Meeting with my chapters and watching their websites, social media and newsletters throughout the year, there are opportunities to get involved or re-engage members. We should re-evaluate how we promote locally and nationally. Conversations with members at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games informed me we need to work on our communication with members who are not in close proximity to a chapter. We need to reach out to the newer generation of veterans to grow our membership numbers and help them to realize the legacy of our PVA. Strengthening our social media voices and having a fully functioning communications department can help us achieve that growth and promote the positive impact we have as PVA. If a veteran or civilian asks “Why PVA?”, we can say because we have an impact. Our purpose is to help our members, veterans and people with disabilities live life to the fullest degree of happiness he/she wants. Outreach with other veterans service organizations is another way to have an impact. Joining forces with Women Veterans Interactive, PVA’s PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) program offered female veterans transition assistance in a three-day conference.

We’re in the developing stages of holding our own Women Veterans Retreat for our women veterans, as well as from other organizations, to empower and enlighten women veterans with disabilities to roll/step forward to a more rewarding life with adaptive sports, personal and leadership development. In closing, I ask for your support for my nomination to become a national vice president for PVA to continue moving our organization into a more positive and productive future.

Respectfully, Tammy Jones.


Robert Satterwhite

It’s my pleasure to announce my candidacy for the office of PVA national vice president for the 2020 fiscal year. I’m a U.S. Army veteran with 21 years of military service, a PVA national vice president and past president of the PVA Mid-Atlantic Chapter. My past year started differently from others on the executive committee. I was selected by the national president to fill a vacant position. This put me behind a little, but I hit the ground rolling. I’ve been working hard to attain knowledge and coming up to the level of the executive committee. Over the past years, I’ve been assigned as chairman of the ad hoc committee, chapter email marketing usage, chairman of the spouses/caregiver committee and chairman of the awards program. I wish to thank all the committee members and staff who helped PVA continue to grow. And finally, some of you may cite my inexperience as a reason why you shouldn’t vote for me. However, I’m a career professional who hasn’t lost touch with the everyday needs and concerns of day-to-day people. My work as a chapter past president and national vice president has given me a unique perspective on the pains and challenges you face.

If re-elected, I promise to give my all to my elected position and make sure your issues and concerns are fully addressed at the local and national level.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Robert L. Thomas Jr.

It’s with great pleasure that I announce to you my intent to run for a third consecutive term as national vice president. Prior to being elected to the executive committee, I had the opportunity to work alongside the executive committee as the national parliamentarian. This experience greatly enhanced the skills I developed while working at the chapter level. Over the past two years, I’ve learned a lot as chairman of the spousal committee, awards committee and resolution committee, and as the current vice president of administration. During the annual convention and fall board of directors meeting, decisions are made that have an effect on the governance of the organization. As the vice president of administration, it is my responsibility to ensure the governing documents are kept up to date.

In addition to chairing committees, I’ve been assigned eight chapters to work with as their liaison. As a liaison, it’s my job to be a source of information for chapters who need assistance in running the eight mandated programs. I’ve worked tirelessly to help those chapters in need while guiding the others with bits of encouragement, only offering advice when needed and helping them work through their issues. It’s my opinion that having successful programs shows the leadership an involvement of its chapters’ members. The executive committee has been trying to maintain its transparency from its promise made to the board of directors by providing more details within its reports. The executive committee has also been pondering ways to increase its ability to attract new members, donors and volunteers. One way in which we believe we have accomplished this is by bringing on a new chief financial officer, chief of development and communications director. With the addition of these individuals, we believe we’re better positioning the organization for the future.

If re-elected, I can promise you that I’ll continue the fight to help prevent the privatization of the Veterans Health Administration and that the VA continues to provide the best quality of care that not only our members deserve but for veterans all across this nation. Although there may still be issues of concern that arise, I hope that over the past year I have shown you my dedication and passion for the mission of PVA.

Treasurer

Tom Wheaton

I’m seeking to again serve as PVA’s national treasurer in fiscal year 2020. PVA has provided me many opportunities to serve in many capacities since I was injured in the Navy in 1988. This active involvement has enhanced my life tremendously, and I’m grateful for how leaders have placed confidence in my abilities to serve alongside many other dedicated members to make wise decisions for our organization. During the last two years, there were profound changes in senior staff. I enjoy working closely with our new professionals at the national office. Their expertise in guiding us in the ways we conduct business has proven quite beneficial in terms of expense reduction and stronger net income. We have seen great improvements in working relationships and establishing solid decision-making.  

Journeying with members of PVA’s Executive Committee has been a joy. They’re dedicated to working together to come up with the best solutions to benefit our membership. Members of the board of directors and those who serve on committees provide continued feedback on how we’re doing and are the voice and effective representation of our membership. The budget, audit and finance committees keep an eye on accountability, and I’m thankful for their continued wisdom and guidance. Leaders of PVA’s chapter offices around the country continue to identify new ways of maximizing opportunities of serving members within their communities. I hold all of these relationships close, and I’m confident we continue to thrive by working solidly together. In my years as treasurer, some seasons have been great, while others were a struggle, especially when there had been a factor or two that could derail our financial plans. I’ve learned to trust in the good work that we do.  When we sincerely focus on accomplishing our mission, great things happen.

It’s amazing to witness the depth of outreach in donations and well wishes that come our way daily. Ensuring that we properly account and report our financial well-being is of paramount concern to me. We continue to focus on how we’re sustained financially so that we balance funding the needs of today and ensure we’re also prepared for the future. As the chief steward of our resources, I’ve been excited about how our staff has responded to challenges and the implementation of policies that guide us into preserving a firm financial foundation to continue funding our essential programs. This support takes a balance of using donations wisely and effectively in every regard. Thank you for considering my request to continue serving as PVA’s national treasurer.

Secretary

No candidate statements for secretary were received by press time in late February.

 

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