I am not, by nature, a reflective person. At work, I’m always looking ahead to the future; to that next story, that next issue, that next article I need to post online. And once that’s done it’s on to the next thing and then the thing after that. At home, I’m too caught up in the present. I have an amazing wife who is always trying to get us out of the house—to shows, to museums, to that new restaurant she’s heard about—and a five-year-old boy who is constantly demanding a new pirate/dragon/superhero story from me.
But then something takes me out of my bubble and it hits me like a train: I’ve been working for CONTRACTOR Magazine, covering the plumbing and heating industry for almost 24 years now. Wow.
I had a moment like that on the second full day of the 2020 AHR Expo in Orlando (you can see a gallery of images from the Expo here and read a write-up of the show here). It was after the show had ended for the day, and I found myself in the Havana Ballroom on the second floor of the Cuba Libre Restaurant for the presentation of the Carson-Holohan Industry Award of Excellence. This year’s winner—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more deserving recipient—was Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr (you can read all about this year's award here).
One of the things that makes the Carson-Holohan Award special is that it’s not just about excellence in tradecraft or success in business, but about giving back to the industry as an educator and advocate. Getting it means you haven’t just done things, but that you’ve reached out to people, and in ways large and small changed their lives for the better.
And you could tell, in his acceptance, that Rohr really got that. You could tell everyone in the room got that. And as I started looking around that room I recognized all these other industry members who had changed the course of my professional life.
There was Ingrid Mattsson (who held the award 2018-2020), former industry ambassador for Uponor, who I’ve had lunch with I could not tell you how many times. There was CONTRACTOR’s former plumbing columnist Dave Yates (2006-2008 recipient) who was a huge source of encouragement to me when I got the top job here at the magazine. There was our old hydronics columnist Mark Eatherton (2008-2010 recipient), and so many more; John Seigenthaler, Dale Arndt, Dan Holohan himself! And of course, my old boss, Bob Mader.
Because I work for the trade press, it means I’m more “of” the plumbing industry than “in” the plumbing industry. I mean, I’ve never snaked a drain or brazed a pipe or done a heat loss calculation in my life. Technically I’m in the publishing industry—but I don’t go to publishing conferences, and the only place I get to network with other publishing professionals is in (surprise!) the press rooms at events like AHR.
So, it’s the plumbing and heating industry I have to thank for where I’ve arrived in my professional life. That and a few lucky breaks, a few hard choices—and the people I’ve met over the years, so many of whom were in the room that night. And (since I like where I am) that makes for a lot of people I’m thankful for.