Vice president of marketing and communications, PHTA
When Janay Rickwalder graduated from college, she planned to become a high school English teacher — but after a stint student teaching, she came across a classified ad for a public-relations position in a Washington, D.C.-based trade association. This job began her over two-decade career in association management in industries from life insurance to pest management to aquatics.
“Associations are drivers of change,” Rickwalder says. “Whether it’s advocating legislation on behalf of the industry, creating business opportunities, providing education and training, or elevating public perception, an association makes an enormous impact on the industry it serves.”
Experience: 23 years as an association executive, joined pool and spa industry in 2019
When Sabeena Hickman joined the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance in 2019, Hickman asked Rickwalder to come along. The two had worked at sister associations in the pest and landscape management industries, collaborating on trade shows and legislative issues. “I had always respected her leadership, so the combination of being a driver of change and working with Sabeena was a no-brainer for me,” Rickwalder says.
Rickwalder has been tasked with developing an identity and voice for the PHTA since its formation through the unification of the National Swimming Pool Foundation and Association of Pool and Spa Professionals in 2018. She will be part of the team that focuses on PHTA’s new corporate vision to educate, advocate and elevate the industry.
While it has posed several challenges to the industry, the coronavirus pandemic has allowed PHTA to demonstrate leadership with government entities, public health organizations, members and the media, Rickwalder says. To date, PHTA has achieved over 800,000 media impressions valued at $1 million and counting, Rickwalder says, including mentions in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, the Associated Press and the New York Times.
Next year, PHTA will launch a networking group that hopes to attract, develop and support women in the aquatics industry through educational programs, mentoring, resources and peer networking. “It’s a tremendous sign of the times for a male-dominated industry to hire a female CEO and have a female chair-elect for its trade association,” Rickwalder says. “Our industry is lucky to have so many strong, smart women.”