In My Opinion: Who’s next? A call for our future industry leaders

By John Hedges

I can remember the good old days when I entered this industry. The year was 1985. I had been a drug and alcohol counselor for seven years, and Dave Hoff asked me to join the Hoffco team. The leaders of our industry were men like Fred Stratton, Warner Frazier, Mike Ariens, Tony Mazzila, Ken Melrose, and Dave and Steve Hoff, just to name a few. The up-and-coming leaders were Fred Whyte, Tom Bunch, David Zerfoss, Dan Ariens and others.

 Guys my age were eager to pick the brains of the leaders. We wanted to be the next leaders, the guys who the young guys looked up to, and the guys who answered questions and had experienced the answers. We had ways to meet the best distributors this business had seen. Thanks to the then Outdoor Power Equipment Distributors Association (OPEDA), which merged with the Engine Service Association (ESA) to form the Outdoor Power Equipment and Engine Service Association (OPEESA) in 2001, we got to know guys like Taylor Boyd, Marley Lloyd, Paul Schmidt, Bob Zucker, Steve Holloway, Dick DeShetler, Bill Parsley, Ray Weingartz and John Chapman. They all were happy to make us feel welcome and help us with any questions we had. We craved industry information because we poured our heart and soul into what we were doing. To just collect a paycheck wasn’t enough. We fought each other in the field, but we were best of friends at night. We were Jeff Wright, Greg Imus, Dave Navroth, John Ludeman, Steve Meriam and Rod Smith.

Now, fast forward to 2009. Who’s next? Who cares? Do we have the young people who crave industry history and knowledge? Do we have the people who care about this industry more than collecting a paycheck? If so, it’s time for you to step forward and identify yourselves. This industry and the bond we all share are so special. It is respectful, competitive and fun. We need it to continue on with people who love it like we did.

So, today I challenge all you new industry-loving, knowledge-craving, difference-making, young people to step forward and make yourselves be known. If you need old guys to fill you in, just ask. And don’t think you have to be a guy to be an industry leader. Ladies like Kelly Yunker, Virginia O’Neill, Bev DeVriendt and Mitzi Hedinger have all proven that.

Now before you rush to sign up, you need to know that being an industry leader requires a few rules. You have to care enough to try and make a difference. You are in an industry that is in the spotlight for fuel usage, pollution and noise. You have to want to fight against those people who try to make our industry look bad.

So, if you are up to the challenge, rise up, and make yourself known!

John Hedges is the director of sales & marketing for Central Power Distributors, Inc., Anoka, Minn. He may be reached at

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