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Milwaukees NARI Gets Its First Woman President
by Julie Norwell

This month Diane Ausavich became the first woman to be elected president of the Milwaukee Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). This is particularly significant given that Milwaukee’s chapter is the largest chapter in the U.S. and many of the programs it has developed have been adopted by other chapters across the country. Diane, 41, comes to the position with nearly 15 years experience in the home improvement and remodeling industry with Carl Krueger Construction, an award-winning design/build firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that specializes in disaster restoration. She has served in a number of roles for the family-owned business headed by her father as well as numerous roles within NARI. WomenOf.com Editor Julie Norwell spoke with Diane soon after the announcement.

What does the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) do? What are its primary goals?
NARI is an organization that is geared towards getting contractors to join and abide by the organization’s code of ethics, bylaws and mediation arbitration for consumer issues. It also encourages consumers to use NARI contractors when they undertake a remodeling project – the idea is that NARI becomes a resource for remodeling contractors that consumers can trust.

How significant is it to be the first woman president of the Milwaukee chapter of NARI?
It’s a big deal. We are just about to celebrate our 49th anniversary—the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in 1961—and this is the very first time a woman has been president.

How difficult was it for you to gain the position of president? Was there an apparent glass ceiling that you needed to break through?
There was a bit of glass ceiling. The industry has been predominantly male-dominated throughout its history. In the last 20 years more women have been joining the association and getting involved, but there is still a glass ceiling. There are only two other women on the board of directors and there are no other women on the executive committee.

How does the election work? How competitive is it?
You work your way up the ranks of the organization and you should get involved with as many different committees as possible. There are several positions you should fill first before you can be considered for president, like secretary, treasurer and there are three vice president positions. You also need to be on the board of directors and then on the executive committee. It’s taken me seven to eight years to get here. You also need to do a little campaigning to get your name out there, but the position is not always contested. The term of office for president is potentially for two years, although the man who preceded me only completed one year. It’s not a full-time job, but there are a lot of things to deal with on a day-to-day basis, so I will see how it’s going after six months before assessing how long my term will be.

What sort of reception have you gotten from colleagues about your election?
Fastastic! I’ve been surprised by how many cards people have sent me to congratulate me. Also, NARI’s Milwaukee chapter has a Facebook presence and I’ve received a lot of congratulatory messages from people through that forum, too.

What goals have you got for your chapter as president?
One of my themes is to increase diversity within the organization—I don’t just mean where women are concerned but also minorities. We’re reaching out to Hispanic and African-American groups, too. I also want to continue to get NARI to become a household name. We’ll do that through shows, tours, media opportunities, like this interview, and the Internet. I think our chapter would benefit from more frequent strategic planning, so I want to do it on a biannual basis instead of an annual basis. I’d also like to generate additional revenue to help keep members’ dues low.

How many other women chapter presidents are there in NARI today?
There are 60 chapters nationwide and about one-third of them have women presidents. There have also been three women presidents at the national level. I would consider trying for the national seat myself in the future, but I have to build name recognition. It is good that Milwaukee has a good history of sending people onto the national level—three former Milwaukee chapter presidents have gone on to become national president.