April 18, 2012

2 Min Read
Changing the Guard

From the moment Bruce Parker announced his retirement as the head of the Environmental Industry Associations late last year, the pontification raged. Everyone knew someone who was destined to be the new head of the EIA. If I had a nickel for every sure pick that was relayed to me over the last five months or so, I’d be contemplating retirement right now.

But not one of those predictions was Sharon Kneiss. Many folks I spoke to seemed confident that the next leader of the EIA would be an industry stalwart, possibly even someone already serving within that organization — as Bruce Parker was when he was tapped for the top spot. And it’s easy to understand why they would think that given our industry’s collegial, occasionally insular, nature. Which is why Kneiss’ selection caught many (including myself) a little off guard.

Kneiss represents a bold choice — ultimately one that will prove invaluable to the EIA and our industry at large. It suggests the organization is looking outward, rather than sticking with that old clubhouse mindset. The waste and recycling industry is in the midst of a fundamental shift in both how it does business and how it is perceived. The challenges presented us would have been almost inconceivable 15 to 20 years ago, necessitating a new way of thinking and speaking about what we do. Kneiss’ scientific and environmental background makes her uniquely suited to lead the charge.

Waste Age was fortunate enough to land an exclusive interview with Kneiss, in which she reveals what led her to pursue the position and what she has in mind after taking the reins in June.

Among the things that I like about Kneiss at first blush is the fact that she freely admits that she doesn’t have all the answers right now. Part of being a strong leader is having the humility to concede that there are things you don’t know along with the patience and willingness to learn them. While Kneiss has represented industries very similar to the waste and recycling industry, she does not yet have a full understanding of what we do and how we do it. So it is refreshing to hear that her first plans simply involve listening and learning, rather than attempting to present the illusion of movement by setting agendas without a full grasp on things.

Once Kneiss has that grounding, I look forward to the fresh ideas she will bring to the table and continuing to partner with her and the EIA to help strengthen our industry. Welcome, Sharon!

I would love to hear your thoughts on EIA’s new leader, or anything else you care to share. Please drop me a line at [email protected].

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