Tami Kessler, who spent her 45-year career with the Southern Forest Products Association, recently announced she will retires as executive director of the SFPA on April 2. Prior to her departure, Eric Gee, who served the organization as its communications officer, replaced Kessler as the association's leader. Following is the press release announcing Kessler's retirement:
Tami began her life-long career with SFPA after graduating from Soule Business College in December 1976, joining the association as Secretary to the Forest Resource Division. Her path to Executive Director began as she moved into SFPA’s Accounting Department following the retirement of Elsie Wichterich. In 1982 she was promoted to Office Manager and then to Director of Administration in 1986 as she quickly ascended through the ranks. In 2002, she was named as Exposition Director for the association’s Forest Products Machinery & Equipment Exposition, followed by the board-level role of SFPA Secretary and Director of Administration. In January 2014, Tami became SFPA’s Executive Director. Tami is one of the longest-serving employees in SFPA history.
During her service at SFPA she served under many influential SFPA leaders including Lionel Landry, whom Tami considers her mentor during her early years with the association. In addition, she enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with SFPA’s Board of Directors, all of which became great friends.
Tami’s planning skills were integral in the development and transformation of EXPO as well as the execution of countless SFPA Spring and Annual Meetings. Many of Tami’s favorite memories of her time at SFPA come from Annual Meetings, which she enjoyed both planning and attending. In particular, she recalls many fishing excursions and pictures with a Texas Longhorn. In addition to the annual meetings, one of Tami’s fondest memories was the grand opening of SFPA’s new building in Kenner in the late 70’s – a showcase for Southern Pine lumber products on a raised foundation.
Tami leaves a legacy built on relationships and trust. Her contribution to the faithful carrying out of SFPA’s International Program continued SFPA’s reputation as a dependable cooperator for USDA funding. “Tami’s thoughtful and purposed leadership will be greatly missed,” remarked Alaina Hanson, SFPA’s Director of Administration.
Tami’s cheerful personality and attention to detail helped the association run smoothly; never losing sight of SFPA’s mission of service to the industry – even during the more demanding times. "On behalf of all members, I want to recognize Tami for her many contributions to our industry and thank her for her dedication and service to SFPA throughout her career,” commented SFPA Chairman Craig Forbes, “Her contribution and wonderful personality will truly be missed. Please join in me in celebrating Tami as she moves to retirement. We wish Tami and Kerry the very best in the future."
Tami plans to join her husband, Kerry, in retirement and hopefully spend more time at the beach with her family. She will greatly miss the southern pine family that she has grown to love. “I am fortunate to have served a great industry with wonderful people I can call friends for a lifetime! It has been a pleasure and honor to serve the industry,” Tami said.
As part of an orderly transfer of leadership, Eric Gee will assume the role as Executive Director on February 1, 2021.