January 2019 President’s Message

President's Message
NWA President Paul Schlatter
          Pay it Forward

NWA 2019 President Paul Schlatter

Happy New Year National Weather Association! I am excited to be your president in 2019, and look forward to working for you to make 2019 another good year for the NWA. In my first installment of the President’s Message, I want to highlight the theme for the NWA in 2019, which will carry us through the year and be reflected at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, September 7-12. But first, I want to recognize our outgoing president, Alan Sealls. He’ll be the first to admit that accomplishments in 2018 were the result of a team effort. Nevertheless, Alan did a fantastic job leading the way on several important initiatives. The NWA has a new set of by-laws in place, which are a benefit to all of us because they help the NWA reduce risk, maximize resources, and operate much more effectively like a business. His theme from last year, “Diversity in People, Models, and Methods,” resulted in fantastic sessions and networking opportunities at the annual meeting in St. Louis. Alan, on behalf of the entire NWA, thank you! I have huge shoes to fill, but I am eager to get started! 

It’s been a year since I was elected, so hopefully you don’t mind a brief summary of who I am, especially since it directly ties in to how I chose the 2019 theme. Like many of you, I wanted to be a meteorologist since I was about 8 years old. My father is a retired Ph.D. meteorologist who worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and then NOAA in Boulder, Colorado, where I grew up. I was one lucky kid. My Dad has always been as much of a weather geek as I am, and we shared that passion throughout my school years. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a master's degree, I worked at the National Weather Service (NWS) Warning Decision Training Branch (WDTB, now Warning Decision Training Division, WDTD) in Norman, Oklahoma, starting in 2003. I specialized in dual-polarization radar and was the project manager and subject matter expert for the operations course in 2011-12. From there I moved my family to the Washington D.C. area to work at NWS and NOAA headquarters in a variety of roles, most of which did not involve much science. I was okay with that as I expanded my skillset and professional network immensely during those five years. In 2016 my dream job opened at the NWS office in Boulder, and since then I have been the Science and Operations Officer in the office I grew up following closely. The only place I have ever wanted to work is with the NWS, and now I am working in the office I’ve always wanted to work in. It’s cheesy but true: I am living the dream.

“But Paul,” you may be thinking, “How does any of this relate to the NWA and this year’s theme?” My career path was shaped by (heck, it was only possible because of) a few people in my life who were and are always there for me, every step of the way. One person in particular, Liz Quoetone, asked me to join the NWA, and she happened to be my mentor during the earliest parts of my career. Liz, as have my other mentors, inspired the NWA 2019 theme: “Pay it Forward.”

Why am I so passionate about this? It goes back to my first job at the WDTB, where Liz Queotone was in the right place and time to mentor me. Many of you knew Liz, she was the NWA president in 2012. She was someone who didn’t say much in meetings, but when she did everyone paid close attention because it was always the right thing to say or do. Her opinions carried enormous weight because she was universally respected, extremely wise, humble, and could communicate with anyone. Most of all it was obvious that she deeply cared for people, especially those she worked with. She always had the right advice for me when I was presented with a challenging problem. For example, when I made a mistake about a year into my career, I thought I would be fired—I was 27 years old and in my very first job. Instead, she delicately explained to me how to make it right and how to avoid ever doing it again. In 2006, Liz encouraged me to join the NWA noting how passionate I was about operational meteorology. Because it was Liz, my mentor, that suggestion carried a ton of weight, so I joined that year. It was Liz who took a chance on me by getting me on the 2011 ballot for the NWA Council (now called the Board of Directors). To this day, in the back of my head when faced with a challenging situation, I think to myself “What would Liz do?”

Many of you know that cancer took Liz’s life way too early in 2014. If Liz were still around today, she would ask us to think about who we should invite to join the NWA. I am sure you have someone in your life, whether at work or school, that you know would benefit greatly from joining our organization. You probably also have someone in mind that you could mentor, or that you wished was your mentor. Paying it forward means you are inspired to be the kind of person your mentor is, or was, to you. Every single one of us has unique talents and skills that can and should be shared with others. Every single one of us can be a mentor. It is my hope that in 2019 every one of you will serve as a mentor, find a mentor, or continue building those types of relationships. These things are the essence of "Pay It Forward."

In 2019, the NWA Board of Directors and I, along with the NWA staff and the NWA Annual Meeting Program Committee, will think outside the box on how to Pay It Forward. One of the key areas of focus will be introducing unique and interactive sessions at the next Annual Meeting and adding more networking opportunities, not just for students but for all attendees. Another way we plan to Pay It Forward will be via a formal Mentoring Program within the NWA—stay tuned for details. I hope you are inspired like I am to Pay It Forward in 2019, and let me know if you have any great ideas on how you, or the NWA, can do this.

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