Members of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America were supposed to meet in New Orleans in the middle of February for the group’s annual meeting. Instead, they gathered online via Zoom, as most people have been doing for the past year. ACCA leadership said the event went well, but they look forward to a time when they can gather in person again.

ACCA’s first-ever open board meeting session took place Feb. 16. The hour-long session, hosted by ACCA president/CEO Barton James and Sarah Michel, master content weaver from Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, provided ACCA members a look at ACCA committees. This meeting also highlighted ACCA’s leadership transition of the board, and the Contractor of the Year Award winners were presented.

“The ACCA virtual board meeting provided an ideal place for our members and partners in contractor excellence to hear firsthand the results of the hard work of ACCA’s amazing volunteer leaders and staff, and ask questions," said James. “We were really excited to be able to update them on our activities and share in the excitement with them of honoring some of our volunteer leaders and contractors. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we were unable to meet in person. It was great to have so many of our contractors from across the country online with us.”

During the meeting, ACCA shared a video of outgoing ACCA Board Chair Lanny Huffman of Hickory Sheet Metal in Hickory, North Carolina. Huffman had the unfortunate distinction of being the first ACCA chairman to never address the members in person. He was set to take up his position at last year’s meeting in St. Louis. The city cancelled all such gatherings just days before it was scheduled to start.

Despite performing most of his duties via video conferencing, Huffman looked back on his year with pride. He shared his thoughts with members during the virtual board meeting.

“It’s been an honor to serve the membership this past year and to work with such a wonderful team of board members and ACCA staff,” Huffman said. “But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my team at Hickory Sheet Metal. They are amazing and deserve a huge round of applause. And most importantly, I could not have done it without my beautiful wife, Joan.”

In a recorded interview that played during the meeting, Huffman discussed the challenges the HVACR industry faced over the past year, what he learned as a top volunteer leader of the association, and what he sees for the coming year. A second video featured incoming Board Chair Brian Stack of Stack Heating & Cooling in Avon, Ohio. He talked about what he sees the remainder of 2021 looking like and encouraging ACCA members to get more involved in the industry at all levels. Following the video, Stack shared a few comments on his excitement about being ACCA’s board chair.

“It is such an honor to be here and to serve as the chair of this amazing group of volunteer leaders,” Stack said. “We have overcome a lot in the past 12 months, and we will continue to face obstacles for the foreseeable future.

“It’s the nature of our business. It is either not hot enough or not cold enough. We face burdensome regulations from our state governments and the federal government and their agencies. But that is why ACCA is here for us and why I am so proud to be serving you and our industry.”

Melissa Broadus, ACCA’s director of communications, said the group worked to make the online meeting resemble a live meeting as much as possible. James said there were some advantages, such as creating more of a sense of excitement around the Contractors of the Year. This year, ACCA announced the finalists before the event. People may have been able to figure out the winner in person, but ACCA maintained the secrecy until making the announcement.

There were, of course, some glitches. Stack’s video started playing at double-speed, for example. Broadus said there are always hiccups, even at live events, but in some ways they foster the spirit of the association.

“We have really great members who see the humor in it and have fun with it,” Broadus said.

Still, Kimya Bailey Cajchun, ACCA’s senior vice president for membership and customer relations, said he missed the crowd interaction. That’s why she is looking forward to ACCA’s service managers’ forum, which is scheduled as an in-person event Nov. 1-3 in New Orleans. The 2022 annual conference is scheduled for March 28-30 in St. Louis. That’s later than usual for the event, Cajchun said, but every canceled event from the past year need rescheduling, so they had to work with what was available.

The 2020 event was supposed to take place during St. Patrick’s Day, and St. Louis puts on one of the nation’s biggest celebrations for that holiday. James said it will be missed, but assures members that ACCA is working with local groups to provide plenty of other reasons to visit the city.

The return of live events doesn’t mean ACCA is completely abandoning its virtual presence. Although the past year was exceptional, James said there are often issues with getting members to events. This year, it would have been the unusually cold weather that gripped the South. It was no warmer in New Orleans Feb. 16 than it was in upstate New York, James said. The storm in Texas delayed hundreds of flights.

One of the main purposes of the virtual board member was introducing the general membership to the people who will lead the association for the next year. James said Huffman and Stark are great examples of the board’s growing diversity. Huffman’s main focus is sheet metal, while Stack is a residential contractor. Other board members represent a cross section of the industry.

“We’ve got a really nice lineup of leadership taking shape that gives a really good representation of the diversity of our membership,” James said.

The new board consists includes senior vice chair Keith Paton, Ivey Mechanical LLC, Kosciusko, Mississippi, and secretary/treasurer Stephen Pape, Pape Service Co., Desoto, Texas. Serving as vice chairs are: Linda Couch, Parrish Services Inc., Manassas, Virginia; Martin Hoover, Empire Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., Decatur, Georgia; and Eddie McFarlane, Haller Enterprises Inc., Lititz, Pennsylvania. Also serving on the board are: Tim Cropp, CroppMetcalfe Services, Fairfax, Virginia; Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical, Lorton, Virginia; Louis Fuentes, Air Conditioning Guys Inc., El Centro, California; Vince Gillette, Gillette Air Conditioning Company Inc., San Antonio, Texas; Matt Marsiglio, Flame Furnace, Warren, Michigan; Rob Minnick, Minnick's Inc., Laurel, Maryland; Cody Novini, SoCal Airflow Pros, Mission Viejo, California; and Jen Pierce, Clay's Climate Control, Linwood, New Jersey.