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WAABI Concludes Annual Leadership Conference

August 4, 2009


WAABI (World Association of the Alcohol Beverage Industries, Inc) has concluded its annual Leadership Conference marking the 65th anniversary of the volunteer group. WAABI has been uniting  women and men from all segments of the alcohol beverage industry since 1944! The conference was held in Alexandria, Virginia, and gave members from chapters nationwide an opportunity to visit the recently restored distillery of George Washington, as well as other historic and cultural sites in the Washington, DC area.

The first order of business on July 27 was the election of a new leadership team. Paul Houston, Plant Manager of the Beam Global Spirits & Wine Cincinnati facility was elected President. Tobin Thomas, with Beam in Clermont, Kentucky, was elected Vice President. Julie Vierkandt, with the Wirtz Beverage Group Minnesota was elected Treasurer, and Stephanie Flannery, Quality Control Manager at Beam’s Cincinnati plant, was elected Secretary. Judy Mitchell, a former President of Minnesota WAABI and Data Processing Manager at Wirtz Beverage  Minnesota, was elected Member at Large. All will serve two year terms.

That evening, WAABI bestowed its highest honor, the UNITY AWARD, on Craig Wolf, President and CEO of WSWA (Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America) (Wolf, left, with WAABI President Paul Houston). The UNITY AWARD recognizes leaders who have provided exceptional leadership beneficial to all segments of the beverage alcohol industry and the people who depend on the industry for their livelihood. Wolf said he really tries to concentrate on the things that bring the industry segments together rather than on the things that divide. “We are all concerned about the dangers of drunk driving and the under age access issues. We all recognize the need to be engaged in our local communities and understand that the external threats to our industry far outweigh the internal industry differences.... WAABI channels your beneficient spirit. WAABI chapters work tirelessly to support local and regional charities. Their efforts are especially critical to the success of Sky Ranch, which helps troubled kids from across the country turn their lives around.   WSWA and its members will continue to support WAABI and the principles it stands for because it is the right thing to do and because it truly represents the best that is within each of us and within our industry.”

Throughout the two days of business sessions, WAABI delegates heard from speakers reflecting concerns of all segments of the beverage industry on the social and political issues of the day. Among the speakers were Ralph Aguera from Brown-Forman, Tony Abbinante from Diageo, Mark Gorman of the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), Jim Rowland and Jerry Brown from WSWA, John Bodnovich of American Beverage Licensees (ABL), and Brandi Nannini of the Century Council. They briefed WAABI on concerns ranging from universal ignition interlock requirements to massive tax increases proposed to reduce recession-driven budget deficits. As it has throughout its 65 year history, WAABI is focused on preparing for battles which unite the industry and are appropriate for WAABI members nationwide to be called on to help defend the industry.

WAABI chapters each reported on their extensive charitable and community service efforts during the past year. Dozens of worthy causes have shared hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by WAABI through golf tournaments, auctions and other activities. First among all these great causes has always been Sky Ranch. Every WAABI chapter raised more than $1,000 for Sky Ranch in the past year, and the total was close to $150,000! Former Executive Director of Sky Ranch, Scott Louks, joined Sky Ranch for Boys President Nancy Brady, Sky Ranch Foundation Chairman Mike Donohoe, Foundation President Ralph Aguera and WAABI Sky Ranch Chairman Michael Thomas in thanking the members for this great level of support! [Pictured at left, Texas Congressman Kevin Brady (2nd from left) stopped by the WAABI dinner on July 28 to spend time with his mom, Nancy Brady, President of Sky Ranch for Boys (3rd from left) and other friends including South Carolina retailer Suzie Riga (left) and former Sky Ranch Foundation Chairman, George McCarthy (right).] It was announced that WAABI will hold its 2010 Leadership Conference in conjunction with Sky Ranch for Boys and Sky Ranch Foundation celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Sky Ranch in June of 2010. The Hall of Fame dinner will be held June 6 at the brand new Lodge at Deadwood, followed by a group visit to Sky Ranch on June 7. Further details will be posted soon at www.waabi.org and www.skyranchfoundation.org.


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