Secretary-Treasurers Learn the Ropes

Urged to 'Be Mindful' Performing their Duties

By Kevin Cuddihy, Contributing Writer
Attendees of the Secretary-Treasurers Conference pose for a photo with Capt. Randy Helling, ALPA’s vice president-finance/treasurer, and Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA’s vice president-administration/secretary, at the Association’s Herndon, Va., offices.

Twenty-five pilots, both brand-new and experienced, attended ALPA’s annual Secretary-Treasurers Conference on March 6–8 at the Association’s Herndon, Va., Conference Center. Taking ALPA’s new “Trained for Life” motto to heart, the volunteers were presented with the tools and information they’ll need to perform their Master Executive Council (MEC) duties.

Capt. Randy Helling, ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer, and Capt. Bill Couette, ALPA’s vice president–administration/secretary, both welcomed the pilots, thanking them for stepping up to volunteer for their fellow pilots. “Your job entails maintaining the pilots’ trust,” explained Helling. “You’re spending your pilots’ money—always be mindful of that.” He promised attendees an ongoing education during their time in the position and in return asked for two-way communication—providing feedback on what they need and lending assistance to their fellow volunteers.

Couette impressed upon the pilots the importance of their position. “If we don’t have money—if we aren’t good stewards of our money,” he explained, “the Association doesn’t move forward.”

Throughout the conference, pilots heard from ALPA’s national officers, general manager, and staff who will support them through their term regarding their duties and the resources and assistance available to them. Lori Garver, ALPA’s general manager, reminded them that one of the Association’s strategic plan goals is to “ensure the highest level of stewardship of resources,” highlighting the significance of their work. And she promised them a high level of support in reaching that goal. “This organization is the pilots,” she said. “We as staff are here to provide you with tools, options, and anything else you need.”

Helling reiterated Garver’s message, noting, “We have a building full of people here to help you succeed and meet your goals. They’ll make you look good, trust me.” During the conference, the pilots had the opportunity to meet many of the staff members in the Membership and Finance Departments they’ll be able to lean on for help.

“I’ve never met any of the staff members before,” explained Capt. Sam Larson (Compass), who was installed as his MEC’s secretary-treasurer just five days prior to the start of the conference. “It’s good to get to know them and ask questions while I’m here. I can get one-on-one help now. And then when I go back to my MEC, I know who to call when I need help in the future.”

Presentations at the conference included administrative aspects of the job such as running an MEC meeting, preparing for the Board of Directors meeting, and keeping rosters up to date; finance aspects such as dues collection, living within a budget, expense policies, and ALPA’s available contingency funds; and other topics such as the duty of fair representation, a review of the airline industry, and the importance of ALPA-PAC.

Also highlighted were the vast tools ALPA provides, including a few brand-new ones. Pilot volunteers received initial training on the just-released online membership portal, plus a sneak peek and preliminary training on the forthcoming online finance dashboard. Both tools provide MECs with a wide variety of reports to assist them in their duties. Attendees also provided “from-the-field” feedback on other reports that would be helpful to them. In addition, they received detailed training on the new online flight pay loss (FPL) system.

For some, these new tools—part of the now-complete Project AMBER established to modernization ALPA’s aging software and data information-storage network—provided the impetus to attend the conference. Capt. James Hoder (Trans States) took part in the conference for a second time to learn about the new FPL system. “I came so that I could get more information on FPL and take what I learn back home,” he explained. “I need to find out how the new version and my company can work together so that I’m not putting an added burden on my volunteers.”

For first-time attendees, the extent of ALPA support and resources was the biggest takeaway. “The support ALPA can offer is incredible,” said Capt. Colin Head (Bearskin). “I knew that ALPA was a powerful organization, but I didn’t know the full depth of everything available.” Head praised the hands-on aspects of the conference. “Working with the new systems was invaluable,” he noted. “We were muddling around with them before, but now I have a better understanding of exactly what I can do with them.”

Capt. Ken Reinert (Air Wisconsin) had a unique perspective on the new tools and Project AMBER thanks to a career in information technology prior to becoming an airline pilot. “It’s been a huge project, clearly,” he said, “and a worthy effort. Things now seem absolutely seamless.” He applauded the new tools, praising them as “things that make what I do easier.” And though he’s been in the position since 2016, this was his first time attending the conference. “I still learned quite a bit about everything that’s available to us—a lot of tidbits that will help me out,” he said, “from the presentations, talking with staff, and interacting with the other secretary-treasurers.”

Couette reminded the pilots to take the opportunity to learn from their fellow volunteers and ALPA staff members, noting each other’s diverse experience. “Listen to what we have to say and listen to the staff during their presentations,” he said, “but make sure to listen to each other—network with the people in this room. Many of the veterans have faced the things you’re going to face and can be a valuable resource.” Multiple times during the event, longtime secretary-treasurers were able to provide answers to questions or point out where to find answers to first-time office holders—and these relationships will continue.

Helling closed the conference by reminding the pilots that they don’t have to go it alone. “The purpose of this conference is to give you the tools you need to do your job and introduce you to the staff members here to assist you,” he said. “We can’t do anything as an organization if our finances and our resources aren’t managed properly,” Helling reiterated, “and that doesn’t happen by accident, so thank you for your work in that regard.”

A First Look

The temporary Master Executive Council leaders of Kalitta Air, ALPA’s newest pilot group, attended the Association’s recent Secretary-Treasurers Conference. Capt. Doug Pearce, the temporary chair; F/O Muhammad Sayyed, the temporary vice chair; and Capt. Drew Kelley, the temporary secretary-treasurer, received their first in-depth exposure to the extensive resources ALPA has to offer.

F/O Muhammad Sayyed, Capt. Drew Kelley, and Capt. Doug Pearce, the three Master Executive Council temporary leaders of Kalitta Air, ALPA’s newest pilot group, learn about the resources available to them.

Regarding his introduction to ALPA, Pearce said, “It affirmed why we’re here.” He highlighted the financial reports available to the Kalitta pilots that will help them determine their budget, explaining that previously they had zero control over their spending. “What’s important now is going forward, and we’ve learned so much this week that will help us do that.”

Kelley was impressed as well. “It’s been a lot of information to take in,” he said. “We’re not used to having so many tools available. Previously we had two or three people who could help us out, total. The people I’ve met this week and the people available to support us when we need them are impressive.”

This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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