Editor’s Note: Last month would have been the NABCA 83rd Annual Conference, which was canceled by the COVID-19 crisis. As such, we’re bringing you the comments from NABCA leadership that would have spoke at the conference.
The opportunity and honor to serve this past year as NABCA’s Chairman of the Board has been an experience I will never forget. I’ve served on several association boards in my professional life and NABCA’s Board of Directors is second to none. Perhaps the reason NABCA’s Board of Directors is so effective and that the association continues to enhance its reputation and expand its services is that we are not monolithic. Each of us brings a different professional background to the Board which broadens our base of expertise and experience. There are politicians, prosecutors, accountants, businessmen, law enforcement and others that work together to move the association forward. It occurred to me at a recent meeting as I watched my colleagues discuss an issue that our different experiences provide us with a rich flow of opinions and ideas to draw on when guiding the association. I want to thank my fellow Board Members for this great opportunity to serve as Chairman of the Board and I encourage you to also recognize that perhaps it’s our differences that make us so effective as a Board.
My theme for this year has been “Balancing Conflicting Priorities.” It was my intention to remind us all that as control systems we are responsible for generating much needed revenue for the state while at the same time moderating the harm that the abusive use of alcohol can cause. However, what has become obvious over the last four months is that “Balancing Conflicting Priorities” is not just a control state issue.
It goes without saying that the COVID 19 crisis is by far the most impactful event the globe has seen in decades. It’s a public health crisis first and foremost but we can’t ignore the economic crisis and perhaps a cultural crisis as well. Where do we go from here? What happens next? Who can we trust? I don’t have answers and won’t pretend otherwise. But please know, that it is my fervent wish you and your loved ones are well.
After what we’ve been through, it’s a bit difficult to write about our world of alcohol sales, distribution, regulation and enforcement as our issues pale in comparison to this crisis. However, the world will return to some normalcy and we will be able to focus on managing our lives and business in ways similar to how we had before this crisis arose. In fact, I believe there may be lessons that we can learn from these extraordinary times. With that in mind, please allow me to comment on this past year.
“Balancing Conflicting Priorities” may seem to be a schizophrenic balancing act but I submit to you that in many ways, because we have competing responsibilities, we are able to serve all the citizens in our respective jurisdictions. As I commented at last year’s Annual Conference, if we concentrate on only one priority and lose sight of the other, we risk becoming irrelevant. Our customers, communities and policy makers recognize that this product requires special handling and that we must balance our efforts to generate revenue while reducing the harmful use of alcohol. We do not want to go back to the pre-prohibition days of extreme excessive consumption, nor do we want the extreme regulatory environment of prohibition.
Let me comment briefly, using my home state’s experience as an example, of attempting to balance our responsibilities. In Wyoming, we work hard to maintain a level playing field and provide ample selection of products from local, regional and multi-national suppliers. At the same time, we also have become a bit more concerned about tainted goods. Our team in Wyoming is working to establish testing protocols for all products. Once again, because we are in the business, we see the potential dangers and can put into place a process to protect our consumers. I know that Utah is also testing products, and in my view, more of us should be doing the same. This past year we have reached out to the TTB and to our industry partners to begin working on standardized testing protocols to address this issue and I thank everyone for working with us on this issue.
Another example of this “Balancing Conflicting Responsibilities” is a program from New Hampshire. In collaboration with Brown Forman, New Hampshire sponsored a “New Hampshire Mocktail” week. An alcohol-free event that reminds all of us that you don’t necessarily need a cocktail to have an enjoyable social outing. It was our intention to showcase this program, along with other “Innovative Practices”, during the Annual Conference. It is my hope that we will be able to schedule these practices in the near future.
I grew up in a very small Wyoming town next to a reservation. The harmful effects of abusive consumption were readily apparent. I worked in a liquor store and remember vividly the devastation wrought by over consumption. I was proud of NABCA for helping to fund the White Clay video which was one of the local stories that legislators considered in the closing of some liquor stores near the border of the reservation. This is another example of how balancing our responsibilities can protect consumers, prevent harms to communities and generate the needed revenue for our jurisdictions.
Following in the footsteps of a long and talented line of Chairmen was a daunting task. Too numerous to name, they were all very accomplished in their states and certainly proved themselves as excellent and effective leaders of NABCA. While my theme this year was “Balancing Conflicting Priorities”, my primary goal was to do no permanent harm. I think I can safely report that with the help of so many, the association is still in good stead with our industry partners, our public health and safety colleagues, law enforcement and other stakeholder organizations.
It truly has been a wonderful chapter in my life and one that I will never forget. I have several people to thank in helping me through this year, but I will express my gratitude more personally and more specifically when next we meet.
I look forward to interacting with all of you very soon.
Be safe and be well.
Director, Wyoming Department of Revenue