NARFE Elects a New National President

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By on October 9, 2018 in Current Events with 0 Comments

After a runoff election, Kenneth Thomas has been elected as National President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association for 2018-2020. He takes office on November 1.

Portrait of NARFE national president Ken Thomas

NARFE National President Ken Thomas

Mr. Thomas was elected in the second round of voting after receiving the largest number of votes but failing to achieve a majority on the first ballot.

Ken Thomas currently serves as a District 6 Vice President of NARFE Florida, known as the Florida Federation. The Florida Federation currently has over 12,000 dues paying members, although they advocate for the interests of nearly 300,000 members of the federal family in Florida.

The new NARFE President faces a number of challenges. Back in May, as he campaigned for the job, Ken Thomas outlined the issues he wanted to focus on:

As a candidate for NARFE National President, I can’t spend another two years waiting for something to happen. NARFE must evolve to survive in the twenty-first century, and drastic changes are needed to continue as a viable association.

There are challenges.

NARFE’s fifty-four federations are in decline. 43% have fewer than 1,700 members, and twenty-one are on life support.

NARFE has closed 220 declining chapters since 2015. 
 
NARFE’s structure remains unchanged since 1947. Failing to adapt, and continuing a course of decline, NARFE’s traditional methods and strategies have failed to address difficult challenges. 

NARFE’s unsustainable membership loss of 59% since 1988 has threatened the association’s ability to defend our earned benefits. NARFE must focus on recruiting current federal employees and retirees, and retention and reinstatement of existing members. 

NARFE’s message doesn’t resonate. People joining NARFE want to know “what can you do for me” and, if they are to remain members “what have you done for me lately?” NARFE must develop a vastly improved message which aggressively and effectively markets our association to the new generation of current federal employees who are the future of NARFE, but not ignore or dismiss our loyal members who have held our association together.

Revenue sources must change. NARFE has insufficient revenue to maintain the association because of over-reliance on dues revenue. 
 
Roles must change. The role of NARFE’s President, running day to day operations of the headquarters office, has to change to that of key power broker, NARFE’s advocate-in-chief, a presence at Capitol Hill meetings, playing the dual role of valued expert helping both chambers of Congress, and straight-talking advocate who can summarize complex reforms in layman’s terms.

It is time for change, not business as usual, and definitely not father knows best. NARFE cannot afford weak promises, low expectations, and unattainable goals.

My government experience, including working on Capitol Hill, thirty-five years in departmental management and executive level service, and my years of NARFE experience as a chapter, district, and federation officer will serve the association’s membership well. 

As NARFE’s president, my priorities must be building the business of NARFE, creating efficiencies, making tough deals and carefully considering divergent viewpoints. The time has come for real-world solutions to the array of challenges NARFE faces.

I ask for your vote and support by electing me your next NARFE National President.

Ken Thomas

© 2018 Michael Wald. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Michael Wald.

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About the Author

Michael Wald is a public affairs consultant and writer based in the Atlanta area. He specializes in topics related to government and labor issues. Prior to his retirement from the U.S. Department of Labor, he served as the agency’s Southeast Regional Director of Public Affairs and Southeast Regional Economist.

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