Water Well Journal Q&A with Terry Morse, incoming CEO of NGWA

By Thad Plumley

Terry Morse will become the fifth full-time chief executive officer of the National Ground Water Association when he takes over for the retiring Kevin McCray, CAE, on January 1, 2018.

It will be a whirlwind for Morse, though, long before that day. He will finish his responsibilities at RT Specialty LLC in Columbus, Ohio, where he is a regional vice president for sales and marketing, and then begin at NGWA on November 1 so he can work alongside McCray for two months.

He will also make his first trip to Groundwater Week and the Groundwater Summit when he takes in the events December 4-7 in Nashville, Tennessee.

In Nashville, Morse will meet the plethora of individuals who make up the groundwater market—water well system professionals, manufacturers, suppliers, scientists and engineers, consultants, academics, and more.

It will be nothing new for Morse, who has worked for a variety of nonprofit associations as a professional and volunteer. He also saw diverse approaches to doing things when he studied and received his Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Liverpool in Liverpool, England.

“It was a great experience learning alongside fellow students from around the globe,” he says. “It was great to learn and understand the differences and similarities between cultures and business strategies.”

Morse, 52, grew up in central Ohio and still calls the area home with his wife, Michelle, and five children, whose ages range from 2 to 14. When he has spare time, he likes to spend it with his family outdoors.

“I love just about any outdoor activity . . . hiking, biking, skiing—water and snow—and golf,” he adds.

Water Well Journal caught up with Morse to find out more before he heads to NGWA headquarters on November 1.

Water Well Journal: When you saw the position listed, what attracted you to it and the National Ground Water Association?

Terry Morse: I saw the opportunity to become part of a team, an organization, and to help make an impact on society, individuals, families, and businesses.

My father’s family owned several farms in Ohio, and we were taught groundwater was the life-source to our family’s economic stability and to the well-being of our community. My childhood home and two homes I have subsequently owned were also sourced with well water and septic systems. Hence, my personal life experiences coupled with my professional training and knowledge have made me cognizant of how important the need is to protect our groundwater system through advocacy, education, public awareness, and professional training.

WWJ: What do you think will be your biggest challenge personally as you begin your time at NGWA?

Terry: Succeeding Kevin as CEO. Kevin’s experience, expertise, and track record of leading NGWA

Incoming NGWA CEO Terry Morse, his wife, Michelle, and their children, May 2017.

is truly remarkable. Trying to fill his shoes while gaining the trust and confidence of the entire association, members, staff, and community will be a mountain to climb.

WWJ: You’ve worked at a variety of nonprofit associations representing a variety of markets. What are some of the things you’ll take from those positions to aid you at NGWA?

Terry: You must understand who the members are and ask, “Why is the individual or business a member of the association?” You can never forget the value of the members. You have to understand the trends of the members’ markets and how the association might adapt to continue bringing value to the members. Associations would not exist without the passion, drive, and commitment of the members.

WWJ: What are you looking forward to the most as you begin this new chapter in your career?

Terry: Leading the association as we begin a new chapter in its storied history. I’m looking forward to transitioning from a tenured CEO from the past 22 years, while building upon its accomplishments and creating new opportunities for many decades to come.

WWJ: You begin on November 1 and will work beside retiring CEO Kevin McCray, CAE, until his final day on December 31. Describe the impact it will have to work with someone who has been in the role for 22 years.

Terry: This time and impact will be immeasurable. The knowledge and information that lie within Kevin cannot be learned nor captured in two months. However, I plan on keeping in close contact with Kevin so I can continue the knowledge transfer for as long as possible.

WWJ: What do you see as your top priorities as you prepare to begin as CEO?

Terry: There are a number of initial initiatives, but I feel I need to take time to listen, learn, and absorb. Among the things I want to do are:

  • Learn the inter-dynamics of the association’s membership base
  • Learn the history and culture of the association
  • Understand what has been working and why
  • Learn the resources and abilities of the staff
  • Learn the time cycles, processes, and procedures of the association and member programs.

WWJ: You have an extensive background in sales and marketing. How do you see this aiding you with NGWA and the groundwater industry?

Terry: Any organization or company providing a product or service needs a successful marketing and sales plan. However, my background is much deeper than just sales and marketing; I have experience with all aspects of the association world.

Personally, I have been a committee volunteer for several nonprofit organizations, doing volunteer fundraising, and sitting on different association boards. This volunteer and board experience has given me a full understanding and appreciation for the time and commitment it takes to be an active association member and volunteer. My professional association employment entails staff management, committee oversight, membership sales, affinity partnerships, product development, sales and marketing, professional development and education sales, public speaking, and board management.

Additionally, I have owned and operated two different small businesses as well as senior management experience with both publicly traded and privately owned companies. I believe my experience as a small business owner-operator, sales, marketing, management within the association industry, and public and private sectors, gives me the unique perspective to understand the daily responsibilities of NGWA’s members while strategically incorporating the best practices of all three industries into NGWA.

WWJ: In the interview process, you met with board members representing all four of NGWA’s membership sections—contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, and scientists and engineers. From speaking with them and the research you have done on the association and the groundwater industry, what do you see as the critical issues facing industry professionals?

Terry: I saw and learned there is a deep passion and commitment to the industry and the association’s mission, vision, and values. But I have only scratched the surface. This is an area I need to take time to fully understand, one that will be on the top of my list to download and learn from Kevin, the board, staff, and members.

I am aware of the different membership sections and their common interests. Additionally, at times these different membership sectors may have competing interests. I need to take as much time as needed to dive deeper into understanding the issues facing each membership section while learning how we can leverage every aspect for the greater good of the industry.

WWJ: Lastly, NGWA’s Groundwater Week will take place a little more than one month after you begin. What are you most curious about for your first Groundwater Week?

Terry: I am looking forward to meeting members from all sectors of the industry and country while learning, watching, and observing how these professionals interact and work together to achieve a common goal and mission.


Thad PlumleyThad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.

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