As Matt Seaholm settles in to his new post as CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, he is setting his priorities on personnel.
"We've had some positions that have been open for far too long," Seaholm told Plastics News. "One of the mandates that we certainly have as a leadership team is bringing in good, top-tier talent to fill these important roles."
Turnover among the staff had been a key factor in the decision to oust Tony Radoszewski from the top job at the association in March.
In the months before Radoszewski's departure after a three-year stint with the group, the association saw its chief economist and the heads of key councils serving the processing and equipment manufacturing sectors and its government affairs director handling California and other western states active on plastics legislation leave for other jobs.
The decision to name Seaholm, who had been the group's top lobbyist for two years, to the CEO position within just a few weeks also pointed to the need to begin rebuilding its staff.
"As you know, we've had some turnover and it's very difficult to replace people if they don't know who's at the top of the organization," said Tad McGwire, chairman of the association's board of directors. "Going on a nationwide search, which could take several months, we would have done it if we didn't think Matt could excel at the job. We really think Matt can excel at the job."
The move to name Seaholm as the new CEO suggests the group wants to find someone with government and policy experience to help navigate the legislative and environmental challenges the industry faces.
"In making Matt our next CEO, the board is indicating how important advocacy and communications are for the plastics industry right now and the role we expect [the association] to play as a voice for its member companies," McGwire said.
"Matt's extensive experience in this space and vision for where he wants to take this organization made him a great choice to be its next leader," he said.
The group also named Glenn Anderson as its new chief operating officer.
In April 2020, Anderson was named the group's vice president of member engagement, after a nearly 40-year career in the industry, including at plastics machinery maker Milacron LLC.
The decision could also be seen as representing some continuity in staffing for the group, which had seen sizable turnover of senior managers and executives in Radoszewski's three years as CEO.
In an interview, McGwire said the association wanted to move quickly in filing the CEO job in part to address staffing issues.
The four weeks between Radoszewski's departure and Seaholm's appointment is a much shorter time frame than the several months it could have taken for a national search, he said.
McGwire said the board feels advocacy and communications are priorities.
"It's been loud and clear to the board that advocacy and communications are the two critical areas that we need," McGwire said. "We've been good at advocacy, and we need to be much better at communications."
The last three CEOs of the group, stretching back 20 years, had all come from industry companies before heading the association, so hiring Seaholm represents a break from that.
In a statement, the association highlighted his work in government affairs, including running the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, which is a self-funding unit of the plastics association. Prior to that, Seaholm was a vice president at Edelman, a public affairs firm in Washington.
"He is a veteran of political and policy campaigns, having worked on everything from local ordinance fights to statewide political campaigns to national issue advocacy initiatives," the association said, adding that Seaholm had testified before 30 legislative bodies and done many media interviews.
In a statement, Seaholm said he was honored to be chosen to lead the group and said plastics are essential to society.
"While the industry has challenges before us, I firmly believe they are outnumbered by the opportunities," he said. "The innovation in materials, the investment in technology and the overall commitment to sustainability give us countless stories to tell."
Earlier in his career, Seaholm had worked as chief of staff to Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., for other candidates in Wisconsin and for conservative groups including the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. He had managed Duffy's campaign for Congress in a district in northern Wisconsin, defeating Democrat Dave Obey, who had held the seat since 1969, in the Republican wave election in 2010.
In naming Anderson COO, the group elevated an executive with extensive familiarity with its NPE trade show, the largest plastics trade fair in North America and the source of about half of the association's revenues. Anderson had been a longtime member of the association's board prior to joining its staff in 2020 and was the chairman of the NPE2018 show when he was at Milacron.
"In his new role, Glenn is going to be integral to the growth of the association, the success of NPE and a member engagement strategy that gets [the association] where it needs to be," McGwire said.
Seaholm said Anderson's background in the industry will work in tandem with his policy experience.
"Glenn perfectly complements me with his industry knowledge as well as his experience as an executive within the industry," he said. "Combined we make a really good team for the management of the association."
Anderson's familiarity with NPE will likely be valuable for the group, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to cancel the NPE2021 show. The largest segment of the group's membership comes from companies making plastics machinery and molds — about 530 of its 830 companies — and for many of those firms, a key reason they join the association is to get a discount on exhibiting at NPE.
The next NPE will be in 2024, and the group typically banks proceeds from the show and spreads it over its next three budget years, making the event crucial to its financial health. Association leaders said they had been able to weather canceling last year's show with financial reserves and insurance payments.
After machinery firms, the next largest segments of the association are materials suppliers, with about 130 member companies, and processors that mold or manufacture plastic products, with about 100, according to the group's online directory.
Both Seaholm and Anderson will be introduced in their new roles at the association's spring meeting in Chicago May 2-4.