Elections opened today for four AFFTA board seats. Terms are three years in length, and AFFTA staff was delighted to have so many qualified, eager candidates! Election ballots and candidate bios have been emailed to AFFTA members for voting. Voting period ends on August 15th, and the new board members will be announced on August 19, 2014.
Check out biographies of the running candidates below!
Larry is the Vice President of Operations and Technology for Far Bank (Sage, Redington and RIO) Larry’s been on the AFFTA Board for four years and has been the AFFTA Treasurer for three years. As the AFFTA Treasurer, he guided AFFTA to a healthy financial position where the organization can now support the many programs that will increase participation and educate the industry to be stronger business entities. Larry’s financial stewardship allows AFFTA to continue to invest in advocacy of healthy fisheries, as that equates to more jobs for the fly fishing industry for years to come. If reelected to the AFFTA Board, Larry will continue to bring his expertise to the board on the challenges of growing the fly fishing industry, increasing fly fishing participation, and ensuring that our precious fisheries are thriving not just surviving.
Larry joined Far Bank in 2005 and has been fly fishing for many years. Larry grew up on the east coast fishing the mill ponds in eastern Connecticut down to the Chesapeake Bay. Since moving to the west coast in 1997, he has fished primarily in the Rockies but has made some excursions to the east coast and down to Mexico, Belize and Christmas Island. One of his favorite fishing activities is participating in the Jackson Hole One Fly, which he has fished for the past five years. However he most treasures fishing the Puget Sound with his family.
Lee M. Janik III
My interest in a position on the AFFTA Board of Directors is deeply rooted in the core of our industry. I have very strong feelings about where this sport was born from, how it has developed over the years, but more importantly, where it is headed. The main reason that I started my US Fly Rod Company over two years ago was out of concern for where I thought things might be headed. I believed that I could assist in keeping our ‘roots’ alive and on track so to speak…to me, the industry seemed to be heading towards a monopolistic way of thinking and the total domination of a particular market segment. To me, some are losing sight of the heart, which embodies our sport. Creativity, individualism, freedom, serenity, comradery, a sense of being a part of something special, or simply being allowed to be different without consequence. The foundation from which our sport has been built upon is beginning to crumble, and what has made fly fishing so special, so intriguing, seems to be developing into that which is driven by a big business mentality. Well, those two ideals have never existed symbiotically…nor will they. One most certainly and with extreme prejudice will overtake the other and we will be left with only one survivor, I personally do not want to see our sport lose the mysticism that it was built on…I want my children and the youth of the future to feel the same feelings that I did over 20 years ago when I stepped into a trout stream for the first time with my fathers garage sale bamboo rod and multiplier reel loaded with the wrong line and no backing…and I watched in absolute amazement as I witnessed my first trout rise to a mayfly. That moment in time is burned into my fiber and still causes goose bumps until this day. I have been fly fishing for more than 23 years, and over that time period Fly Fishing has blessed me with lifetime friends as well as the memories of places nationally and internationally that I would otherwise have never seen unless fly fishing had taken me there. I still feel as if my journey has just begun, and I would like to help others to find their way to our sport so that they may experience life through a fly fisherman or fly fisherwoman’s eyes…because it truly fulfills mind, body, and soul. I want to be a part of the future of fly fishing…and I know that as an AFFTA Board Member I can help make a difference.
Steve Bendzak caught the fly bug growing up in Seattle, and spent his childhood and young adulthood fishing across Washington and British Columbia, spending every summer after college fishing Lake Lenore in eastern Washington. Steve is the proud husband to Carrie and father of Bradley, CaSadie and Charles.
Steve’s professional background has revolved around the fishing industry, even as a young man working at the family business, Circle-W Fishing Camp and Archer & Angler retail shop. From there Steve began a 22 year career with ExOfficio, helping start the company as one of the owners and overseeing the brand as both Vice President of Sales and as General Manager. Steve helped steer the company with three owners including Orvis, K2 Inc and Jarden. He was able to satiate his conservation and philanthropic itch through conservation efforts while at Orvis, as well as Rivers of Recovery.
Steve recently moved to Bozeman to join the Simms Fishing Products team as Vice President of Sales. Steve stated, “I have witnessed many changes within the fly fishing industry as well as the water that I grew up fishing. I believe that we have unique opportunities to build a future that exceeds the ‘glory days’ of the past and AFFTA should lead the way.”
Currently the Divisional Merchandise Manager and lead rod developer for Orvis Rod and Tackle, Shawn started fly fishing at the age of 11 while spending time at his father’s hunting and fishing store in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating with his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Louisville, he spent a decade working in the energy industry and most recently designing nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy’s fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers.
Shawn’s entry into the fly-fishing industry came after a chance meeting on an airplane with a member of the Orvis Rod and Tackle team. He was hired as the lead rod developer and has fully embraced the fishing industry, from the design of products all the way through to the consumers’ hands.
Shawn lives in East Dorset, Vermont, with his wife Kate and daughter Isla.
As a Colorado Native, Ben Kurtz gained an appreciation for fly-fishing at an early age. After graduating from Brown University, Ben first stepped into the industry as a professional fly fishing guide in the Vail Valley. Shortly thereafter, he embarked on his career with Fishpond, which ultimately led he and his family to become equal partners with John Le Coq in 2012. As a mission driven company, his passion for conservation and helping to drive a creative brand helped formulate his focus on creating products with a soul.
“We are all fortunate to be a part of an amazing industry, which I want to see grow and thrive. It’s important for all components of the industry to come together to realize and achieve these goals. I am very excited for the opportunity to continue to work with AFFTA, and to bring my perspective as a young business owner,” Ben stated.
John Torok is the President/CEO of Hatch Outdoors, Inc. Founded in 2003, Hatch is a manufacturer of premium fly-fishing products. Prior to co-founding Hatch he worked for 12 years in the commercial printing and graphic arts industry. John is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and a southern California native who spends the majority of his time fly-fishing and cycling. He lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and two daughters.
Michael A. White
Michael is a long tenured and respected industry sales representative; having worked for many companies within our industry. Currently, he represents Simms Fishing Products, Umpqua Feather Merchants and, hunting brand, Sitka Gear in the Northern Rockies.Michael has over 16 years of experience as an independent sales representative, with 13 of those years having occurred in the Southern Rockies. This makes him one of few independent sales representatives to cross territories. AFFTA believes this will bring a unique perspective and insight to the Board. Michael works closely with each retailer to develop a plan to enhance assortment mix, further education, improve merchandising, problem solve, and grow their business. Michael is a great listener, communicator and dedicated to being the best partner with retailers in his territory.
“My focus has always been on being the best business partner for each retailer. I listen to better understand their goals and objectives and then work very hard to help them execute upon that plan. My favorite times are when I have a chance to collaborate on something new, innovative and exciting with a retailer; particularly when it reaches their customer base. I’ve always believed the relationship between consumer and retailer is the most vital component to grow our industry. Finding new ways to build upon those relationships and, more importantly, forge new ones is a key challenge we all face in the industry. I’m excited to work with AFFTA and believe my experience as a sales representative, meaning always in the middle, will help me see each side of any issue. I trust this perspective will be found mutually beneficial for all parties involved in AFFTA and in our industry.”
Like most fly anglers, Oliver White cut his teeth on trout streams. An itch for adventure fueled trailblazing excursions to remote fishing opportunities the world over — Siberia, Tierra del Fuego, Venezuela, Africa and beyond.
While guiding in Argentina, Oliver was presented an opportunity to leave the industry for a “real job” as a financial analyst for a highly regarded hedge fund. That two-year “detour” in New York revealed a business acumen within him. Oliver’s financial experience added a new, important layer that deepened his capabilities. He took a moribund motel property and created Abaco Lodge, now a premier Bahamas fishing destination. He’s deeply involved in operations for Bair’s Lodge, for years a South Andros Island mainstay for well-traveled anglers. Oliver continues to lead anglers on trips across the globe, widening his already estimable network.
More than a lodge owner, Oliver participates actively in the industry. He endorses brands, writes articles, participates in films and features and supports conservation efforts. He appreciates all facets of fly fishing — the traditions and the innovators, the products and people and, most importantly, the places we love to spend our time.