In just a few days, Bill Brewer, AQHA's executive vice president, will?retire after 37 years of service to the world's largest and most influential equine-related organization. Bill took the top post shortly?after I first joined Horse&Rider as editor in the early 1990s, and I've admired his brand of leadership and followed his work ever since.
On Bill's watch, AQHA was transformed from an entity that saw itself?primarily as a horse registry. He expanded the association's business model into one that's customer-service-driven, with membership growth as its goal--or to my more commonplace way of putting it, "as much about bringing in more people as it is about making more horses."
With Bill at the helm, AQHA got innovative. Just a few examples:
AQHA developed a thriving, worldwide system of trail rides open to all breeds. It developed alliances with and began keeping records of breeds and disciplines not under its own roof. It created the versatility ranch-horse event. It launched America's Horse, the free full-color magazine that goes to every AQHA member. It developed a host of instructional materials in multiple mediums, and brought Quarter Horses to regular TV programming. And that list is just for starters.
I have never interviewed a guest for my blog until now, but can't think of a better person than Bill to become the first.?These are the questions I would ask him if I found myself seated next to him on a plane, at a dinner... or on a trail ride.
1. You've carried a big weight of responsibility night and day, for many years. Now that your retirement date is almost here, what direction are your thoughts taking you as you wake up every morning to report for your last days?
- Actually, a lot of things: getting through the upcoming AQHA Convention, and not just because of the issues we'll be facing at convention, but because I'll be handing over the Association.
- I'm very emotional; who wouldn't be?
- I'm reflective. I'm looking back on not just 37 years with AQHA, but 42 years of marriage.
- And, while I'm not looking forward to it, I'm thinking about a second surgery that I have to have probably sometime in April, and I don't know if I'll wake up from it with a pancreas or as a full-blown diabetic.
- I'm also thinking ahead to what I'll be doing with AQHA after retirement. I've been asked to work with the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Foundation; I hope to do some things in that role that I wasn't able to do as an executive vice president.
2. Quite a few people seem to view AQHA as this huge, monolithic entity that's somehow unapproachable. Yet I happen to know that you are the sort of top-chair executive who takes time to send personal notes to AQHA members--because I've been the recipient of some. Please share some of your thoughts on the value of that personal touch.
I grew up in a small town in southwest Oklahoma, where everyone knew each other, and you valued people. I was raised to know that a man's handshake was his bond--his word. Everyone I come in contact with becomes a friend. I just want people to know they're special and that they are valued.
3. You have been deeply acquainted with nearly 40 years' worth of AQHA employees working alongside you in Amarillo. What do you wish the average horse person knew about the people who work behind the doors of the American Quarter Horse Association building?
That they are some of the most committed, customer-service-oriented people I know. One thing a lot of our members might not know is that a large percentage of our employees do not own horses; yet, they work at AQHA--and want to work at AQHA--and they love the American Quarter Horse. Every single one of them "rides for the brand."
4. The horse world has seen some large and rapid transformation lately, not all of it reason for celebration. I think we'd both agree that some challenges lie ahead. If you could put one lasting piece of advice on a T-shirt, what would it say?
It's funny you ask that. I just had some T-shirts made, and while they don't necessarily address a specific issue, they say, "American Quarter Horses are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." And that all goes back to the strong belief that I have that the American Quarter Horse is the world's most popular horse because of his gentle, kind disposition; his intelligence and willingness to be trained; and his soundness. I am very concerned for the long-term future of our breed if we don't regroup and pay attention to those traits that helped make the horse what he is.
5. What do you hope will come to be seen as your biggest, most lasting legacy?
That I truly cared about the reason this Association was started--the American Quarter Horse. I am proud of AQHA and the brand we have built.