IAPMO recently announced CEO Russ Chaney will be retiring at the end of the year. The newly appointed CEO is Dave Viola. Both Russ and Dave are personal friends. When Russ and I discussed his retirement more than a year ago, he asked me to keep it quiet until it was announced. I honored his wish and have not written about his great deeds at IAPMO.
When he told me he was going to retire, we reminisced about a conversation we had more than 25 years ago. We ran into each other at the Phoenix airport and decided to share a cab to the meeting we were attending. As we walked to the cab stand, a limo driver approached us and said he would charge us the same as a cab if we took his limo. So, we figured why not take a limo and act important?
In the back of that limo Russ said, “I think I’m going to take the executive director position at IAPMO.”
We both vividly remember my response: “Are you crazy?”
At the time, IAPMO was going through some difficult times. The position of executive director/CEO did not appear to be all that stable. What IAPMO needed was someone to move them in the right direction and calm down all of the upheaval within the organization. That is why I thought Russ was crazy. It was a big task he would be undertaking.
As we continued talking, he asked if I would support him. My answer was easy, “You have my full support.”
I wanted my friend to succeed; I wanted IAPMO to succeed. In 25 plus years, Russ has more than succeeded; he has taken IAPMO further than I imagined. I think further than he imagined during our conversation.
Russ has moved IAPMO from being a West Coast plumbing code organization to an internationally recognized plumbing and mechanical association. While “international” is in the name, IAPMO really was not internationally known until Russ came along — he put IAPMO on the map.
What makes Russ an excellent association executive is he never took credit for anything. He always promoted the association and the people working within the association. I never heard Russ say, “I did this,” or “I did that.” Yet, I know he did do those things. Even with the announcement of his retirement, the emphasis was on the new CEO, Dave Viola. That is typical Russ — say goodbye, leave quietly and shout about the great new replacement.
A great career
There have been so many accomplishments, it is hard to decide where to begin. Perhaps looking at what has occurred in the plumbing and mechanical codes would be a good start. As Russ was taking over IAPMO, ICC was being established. The first ICC code was the Plumbing Code. However, IAPMO was not invited to the table. This left IAPMO on the outside looking in.
Russ moved IAPMO to the consensus process for code development. All of IAPMO’s codes are developed under the ANSI process, including the Uniform Plumbing Code and the Uniform Mechanical Code. This has really resulted in significant changes — for the better — in all of the codes. One merely has to take a 1991 edition off the shelf and compare it to the 2021 edition to see how much every code has improved.
The other benefit of the ANSI process is issues are properly debated. Gone are the days of two minute debates with a follow-up vote. The code hearings take longer — two to three days — but every issue gets a fair shake.
IAPMO also significantly improved its standards development. IAPMO is a major developer of plumbing and mechanical consensus standards. All of the plastic plumbing fixtures fall within IAPMO standards. There are many other product standards published, as well.
One of the areas I appreciate — yet often not even recognized by the engineering community —is the expansion of the research and testing laboratories. The original IAPMO test lab was rather small, conducting basic plumbing standard testing. Under Russ’s leadership, the labs have greatly expanded and grown. There are now facilities located in many parts of the world. They can test to the majority of product standards.
As a counterpart to the labs, IAPMO has a listing program providing the UPC mark. Plumbing and mechanical product manufacturers clamor to receive an IAPMO listing for their products. The UPC is one of the most recognized certification marks for plumbing products.
When ASSE was struggling, Russ pushed for IAPMO to acquire it. Russ said he would continue to have ASSE operate as a separate entity. Many thought IAPMO would just swallow ASSE and merge its functions into IAPMO. But, true to his word, Russ has kept ASSE going as a separate organization.
Russ also acquired the National Standard Plumbing Code. The National Standard Plumbing Code continues to be developed as a separate document.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment by Russ was developing a staff that is second to none. If you look at a list of staff members, they are the cream of the crop. Russ knows how to find excellent people, then hires them to his staff.
When Russ took over, there were 22 employees on staff. Today, IAPMO worldwide has a staff of more than 350. I can personally attest any dealings you will have with the IAPMO staff will be pleasant and informative. I enjoy speaking to and working with all of the IAPMO staff members.
Dave Viola will have some very large shoes to fill as the next CEO. While I have total faith in Dave, I will really miss Russ. I wish him well in his retirement. He can now stop flying all over the world and relax.
Thanks, Russ. Thanks for all you have done for IAPMO.
The views expressed here are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily represent PM Engineer or BNP Media.