A steady hand, a world of opportunities

Even if you have been a member of NCRA for a long time, it is possible that our paths may not have crossed. My name is Wendel Stewart, and I have been serving as NCRA’s senior director of finance and administration for a total of seven years. For the most part, my role with NCRA takes place behind the scenes, making sure the proverbial trains are leaving the station on time when it comes to the association’s finance and administrative functions. It is not the most glamorous job, not the kind of work you read about in the pages of the JCR on a regular basis — but it is essential in order for the association to run in an efficient, transparent, and compliant manner. On some levels, it reminds me of the work performed by stenographic reporters, somewhat inconspicuous but a vital part of the judicial system.

Recently, your Board of Directors appointed me to serve as Interim CEO and Executive Director while it engages in a thorough search process to replace Jim Cudahy, NCRA’s former CEO and executive director, who departed in late February to serve as an executive director with another association. I am humbled by the board’s vote of confidence in me to temporarily take the reins through this critical time of transition for NCRA.

I would like to assure you that I am fully engaged in and committed to helping NCRA in whatever capacity necessary. While we await the appointment of our permanent CEO and executive director, the NCRA staff is diligently  working on the deliverables of our five-year strategic plan, dubbed Vision 2018. We are doing everything possible to stay on  course when it comes to education, professional development, advocacy, outreach, and member services. We are working without disruption on supporting the future of the profession, which includes a wide range of initiatives. From the Take Note student recruitment and public awareness campaign to online testing, from revamping our live events to making significant progress on Capitol Hill on the issues that matter the most to our membership, NCRA is maintaining its laser-like focus on serving the needs of the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions.

Nowhere was this “business as usual” focus more apparent than during the 2015 Court Reporting & Captioning Week. Designed to create an annual buzz around the court reporting and captioning professions, this year’s awareness week, hosted in mid-February, was our most successful venture yet. We received legislative recognition commemorating the week, including at the national level, and media outlets across the country joined us in celebrating the role stenographers play in society. We hosted publicity events to highlight our Take Note student recruitment campaign (crTakeNote.com) and state leaders, school administrators, and professionals across the country took the time to celebrate what makes the court reporting and captioning realm so great. This type of engagement is not only needed during Court Reporting & Captioning Week, but throughout the year. My hope is that we could bottle this positive energy and draw on it all year long.

By the time we recognize Court Reporting & Captioning Week in 2016, we will have a long list of things to celebrate. I can assure you that our permanent executive director, whenever he or she begins his or her tenure with NCRA, will inherit a dedicated staff and a membership marked with loyal and passionate volunteers and elected officials. While we have our fair share of challenges ahead, we also have a foundation of solid fundamentals upon which future growth can be cultivated. During this period of transition, I commit to you a steady hand to ensure that the foundation is, indeed, strong and primed for the change and improvements our new executive director will surely bring. NCRA is not unique in its need to examine how the market is impacting the profession. As with all associations, we must adjust accordingly and prepare itself for the future. Now is the time!

During the month of March, the search committee and NCRA Board of Directors conducted a series of interviews of candidates for the new CEO and executive director. The vision they have for our next leader is clearly defined and will assist them in accomplishing the association’s goals and objectives.  In short, I will be returning to my behind-the-scenes duties in the finance and administration realm. I appreciate the opportunity to have served as a steady hand as we prepare for what is sure to be a world of opportunities.

Wendel Stewart, CAE, is serving as interim CEO and executive director of NCRA in addition to fulfilling his roles as senior director, finance and administration. He can be reached at wstewart@ncra.org.