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VP’s Corner


Thoughts from Mark Melickian,
VP-Communications, Sugar Felsenthal Grais & Hammer LLP

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the TMA

I had an occasion recently to think about my current and next roles in the TMA.  This occasion arose at a breakfast where the future of the TMA/Chicago Midwest chapter came up. Well, not “the future”–nothing so grand–rather, the discussion involved 2017. Which led me to thinking about 2016 and how I wound up writing the VP Corner piece for this newsletter, trying to think of a message that resonates with those of you who are reading this newsletter, which led me to thinking about the purpose of this newsletter. 

One purpose of this newsletter is messaging. This is the channel for the chapter’s leaders to speak to all members. There is no one event that all of you attend. Fact is, I know some of you get through the year without attending a single committee or chapter-wide event. I also know that some of you are new to the organization. So, for your benefit, I will aggregate and summarize the hopes, dreams, and guidance of our most recent leaders: We should energize our committees, be ambitious, and keep it going. 

When Dan Wikel declared 2014 the “Year of the Committee,” he wanted the chapter’s members to learn about and invigorate the chapter’s working groups. Dan’s message was not that everyone must or could join a committee, though joining a committee and actually doing some work is a worthwhile objective. There are only so many committee slots for a membership that totals around 900 from year to year. What we can do is support the committees’ work by paying attention to what they do, attending their events, and reading their materials. 

You, there, reading this article: Thank you for supporting the Communications Committee. 

Aaron Hammer decreed 2015 the year of ambition. Another way to say that is, just because you’ve paid your dues, doesn’t mean you’ve paid your dues. The TMA will gladly take your membership fee each year, and the Membership Committee works hard to make sure you keep on renewing. But if that has been the extent of your commitment, think about extending yourself. The balance of this year, get a little unbalanced about TMA. Get up early and forget to feed the kids or turn off the stove as you bomb downtown to a breakfast event. Stay after work, blow off the spouse, kids, and the still burning stove some more, go clink some TMA drinks and exchange some non-TMA cards. There is trouble to be brewed at and after sanctioned TMA events, particularly if the progenitor of the “Be Ambitious” campaign is involved. Go find it. Sometimes a little trouble leads to a little business. 

Mike Egan surveyed the landscape for 2016 and decided that, lo, he liked what he saw, and extolled us, and decreed “Keep it Going.” And so we do–energizing committees and brewing a little trouble and some business.  

Which leads me to 2017, seven months off as of this publication.John Kemp will be chapter president. What will his theme be? I have not asked him. He will tell us, when the time comes. For now, that messaging will await its turn in a future newsletter, leaving me stuck for a message to impart to you from this newsletter. For this, I will focus on those of you who are new or perhaps not so new but not much invested in the chapter (so far), beyond paying your annual dues. 

I am writing this article, which means I am a vice president, which means I followed a grand plan that led to this august position. 

Well … not exactly. There was no blueprint. I was a TMA member back in the day, and then for many years I was not. Early on, I paid my dues, but I did not pay my dues. I joined no committees and attended but a handful of events. After a professional sojourn in-house in the suburbs, I rejoined traditional private law practice in 2012 and concurrently rejoined the TMA at the behest of a colleague. This time, I attached myself to the continuing education committee, served there for three years (two as co-chair), then served as vice-president of education, and now as vice-president of communication. What next year holds, I do not know. I have been asked to think about it, and I am thinking about it. That is the plan. 

Not the most structured approach to TMA ambition, I confess, but it is what brought me to the dance. However, it did not occur in a vacuum. I now see a role for the TMA in my professional life that I did not see before. This organization is an incubator of relationships  that I would not otherwise have. That is its value. It is certainly worth the cost of TMA annual dues, though that is just the cover charge–the real value comes when you enter the joint and start dancing.  

Whatever the theme for 2017 will be, decisions will be made long before 2017 about the chapter’s personnel structure. Those of you who are regular participants in this process know all this, but the chapter’s membership numbers guaranty that the vast majority of our members–most of the readers of this newsletter –do not. Committee applications will be tendered and reviewed and committee leaders picked, officer and director roles will be discussed, negotiated, and offered. The wheels on these selections move in earnest by the fall, but they begin their creaky turn far earlier than that. If you are ambitious, if you want a different committee gig, if you just want to join a committee for the first time, if you think you want to do something in the chapter in 2017, the time to work on next year is now.