Leadership from within

NAVTA replaces top two staff members with veterinary technicians
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The National Associ­ation of Veterinary Technicians in America’s executive board appointed two veterinary technicians to leadership positions in an effort to take the organization in a new direction.

Julie Legred, NAVTA president in 2008 and 2011, will replace Andrea Ball as the association’s executive director. Kara Burns, chair of the NAVTA Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties, will replace Sandy Sponaugle as communications director.

Burns and Legred
Kara Burns (left) and Julie Legred have taken new leadership positions with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. The two hope to continue to increase membership, attract more volunteers to leadership positions, and improve the content of the association’s journal. (Photo by Matt Alexandre/Robb Cohen Photography)

“We heard the techs’ voice that they want NAVTA run by techs, so that’s what’s going to happen,” Legred said of the more than 8,000-member organization.

Burns added, “I think a lot of technicians want to become involved with NAVTA or the specialties but don’t know how to. I think Julie and I can guide them in the right direction and feed their curiosity and willingness to volunteer.”

Since 2008, Ball’s management company PlanIt World, based in Washington, D.C., has run NAVTA’s day-to-day operations. Sponaugle, president and CEO of Platinum PR, which is a partner of PlanIt World, helped run the journal and manage public relations.

“They did what they were hired to do—increase awareness of technicians and our membership. Their management company is growing, and I think it was the right time for both of us,” Legred said.

The leadership transition began Nov. 1 with Legred and Burns taking their positions on an interim, unpaid basis until June 1, 2013, when NAVTA’s executive board will review their performances. In the meantime, the two will carry on the association’s business and start to put their plans in place.

They have already relocated their positions from D.C. to their hometowns—Legred to Bricelyn, Minn., and Burns to Wamego, Kan.—while maintaining their current jobs.

Legred left her position as veterinary technician program specialist at Banfield in August and is in the process of starting her own consulting firm, Veterinary Technician Advancement. She also co-owns a swine genetics company with her husband. She will continue to sit on the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s board and all other committees where she holds a seat.

Burns is the founder and president of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians. She will also continue as president of the Kansas Veterinary Technicians Association and as a veterinary technician specialist with Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

“In order for me to focus on communications, someone else will take over the NAVTA Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties, but I’ll continue to lead the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians,” Burns said, as the academy prepares to give its first examination in June.

NAVTA’s annual conference, held this year from Nov. 16-18, may also be relocated from D.C. in coming years.

“We haven’t had the attendance that we’ve wanted. We’re looking at all different options,” said Legred, who will finish her term as Veterinary Technician Section manager on the AVMA Convention Management and Program Committee this coming July.

In the coming months, Legred’s and Burns’ main focus will be to solicit feedback from members and stakeholders on what kind of association they’d like to see.

“We want to hear from the profession; not just techs—although that’s key—but everyone. What is NAVTA to them? What can it be? What has it done right? What can it improve on? We have a big job in front of us, and we’re excited about that,” Burns said.

She says she has plenty of ideas for the journal and for promoting the role of veterinary technicians, too.

“Our current communications director has done a great job bringing us into the social media age. My plan is to take it to the next step,” Burns said. “I’d like to see us represent more of the profession. Our biggest constituency is companion animal medicine, but we have so many technicians in industry to laboratory animal medicine to government. I’d like to highlight those more in the journal.”

In the long run, Legred she would like to see greater collaboration with the AVMA.

“Working together with veterinarians only makes sense so we can be a very strong team. I’ve pushed for that at both the state and national levels. I think it has to happen, or else, we can’t move forward,” she said.