The board of directors of the Dallas-based American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) selected Debra N. McGuire, MBA, IOM, CAE, as the association’s fourth president and first female chief executive officer.
Established in 1981, AFSA and its federation of 32 chapters serve as North America’s largest fire sprinkler industry organization. McGuire’s tenure will begin on Jan. 23.
“Fire sprinklers save lives, and I am honored to have been selected by the American Fire Sprinkler Association Board of Directors as its new president and chief executive officer,” said McGuire. “Believing in a system of free enterprise, AFSA is the voice of the ‘merit shop’ in the fire sprinkler industry. This concept continues to grow in importance as maintaining the right for employees and employers to determine wages and working conditions as they choose, within the boundaries of the law, is vital to a successful democracy and free market economy.”
As president and CEO, McGuire will be responsible for providing guidance and support to the board while leading AFSA’s team of engineers and other professionals who are dedicated to serving the membership comprised of contractors, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs). She will also represent the association, interacting with key stakeholders, including regulatory and other public agencies, as well as increase the visibility of the value of the fire sprinkler industry and those companies that operate merit shops throughout North America and globally.
Wayne Weisz, owner of Cen-Cal Fire Systems Inc. in Lodi, California and chairman of the AFSA Board of Directors, said, “I am confident that the board has made the right decision in selecting Debra McGuire as our new president. We are certain that between her association management experience, and her enthusiasm for the AFSA mission, the future for our association will be very bright."
McGuire also will oversee the association’s efforts to provide educational advancement, promotion and utilization of automatic fire sprinkler systems in the U.S. and around the world. AFSA operates a 501(c)(3) organization—the Center for Life Safety Education Inc.—which provides continuing education and training for AHJs in the fire services; testing and certificate programs for specialties within the fire sprinkler industry; and scholarships to students who plan a career in the area of fire protection and safety technology.
“By working together with valued stakeholders, AFSA members are leading the way in how fire sprinkler systems are designed, installed and maintained,” continued McGuire. “I am looking forward to overseeing efforts to build and strengthen AFSA’s membership base, along with expanding AFSA educational and training programs, and creating greater awareness of automatic fire sprinklers and the merit shop fire sprinkler industry.”
In her three decades of association management, McGuire held a variety of leadership positions. Most recently, she was chief executive officer of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and executive vice president for the Family Medicine Foundation of Michigan. Previously, she was director of communications and education for the Michigan Townships Association, and prior to that, communications director for the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA). In 1999, MMA received the Gold Circle Award from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) where she was recognized for her lead role in the innovative public relations campaign, “Manufacturing in Michigan.”
Mike Meehan, president of VSC Fire & Security in Richmond, Virginia and Region 6 Director, chaired the AFSA Executive Search Committee. “The AFSA Search Committee considered many variables in choosing our next president,” said Meehan. “After reviewing many resumes and some extremely qualified individuals, the committee narrowed it down to three candidates and presented the slate to the board of directors. The board unanimously supported Debra McGuire, who has a long track record of personal and business success that is very impressive. Her broad industry background and many years as a proven executive leader in the association business were the skills we were looking for. We are flattered she accepted the position and look forward to working with Debra to grow and enhance our industry and the American Fire Sprinkler Association.”
The selection of McGuire caps a search process facilitated by former AFSA President Steve Muncy, CAE. “Debra McGuire’s experience in the many aspects of association management will allow her to hit the ground running with an excellent understanding of association best practices,” said Muncy. “She is well-known and respected in association leadership circles. AFSA members and the fire sprinkler industry will benefit greatly from her experience, leadership, and commitment to the mission of AFSA.”
McGuire was awarded the designation of Certified Association Executive (CAE), the highest professional credential in the association industry, 15 years ago. In 2009, she was appointed to the CAE Commission, then elected as its vice chairman in 2011 and chairman in 2012, completing her work on the commission in August 2014, after serving as immediate past chairman and a member of the CAE Professional Conduct Committee. McGuire also served as a member of the 2014-2015 ASAE Foundation Development Committee and was appointed to the CAE Appeals Committee in 2016. She currently serves on the ASAE Foundation Research Committee and APAC – the political action committee for associations, based in Washington, D.C.
McGuire is an alumna of the Honors College at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan where she completed her undergraduate studies while on a track scholarship. She also is a graduate of the Institute for Organizational Management (IOM) at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana and Cornerstone University (MBA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.