James DeVoss, Keith Wagner, and Robert Lamb

Between 1953 and 2004, a period of fifty years, the American Philatelic Society was fortunate to have three excellent Executive Directors. Under the APS bylaws, the overarching policy of the society is set by the President and the Board of Directors, but the Executive Director has the job of running the society and implementing policy day to day.

Jim DeVoss was a career army officer who was already an accomplished philatelist when he became Executive Director in 1953. For nearly thirty years he was the face of the society through nearly ten Presidents and Boards of Directors. He worked tirelessly for the society and oversaw its period of greatest growth. When DeVoss took the helm of the APS, it was only one of three major national philatelic societies, each of which had a geographic slant. The APS was strongest in the North and West, the Society of Philatelic Americans was strongest in the South, and the TransMississippi Philatelic Society was strongest in the Midwest. By 1984, when DeVoss retired, the APS was the only national philatelic society that mattered (and by 2000, the only one that existed). The society enjoyed great growth during his office.

Keith Wagner, DeVoss’s successor, was also a career army officer and a lawyer. Hardworking and diligent, Wagner continued the successes of the society, making the annual APS show STAMP SHOW what it is today. Under Wagner, the APS expanded its expertization service to become truly first class and the society began online stamp sales for its members.

In 1994, Robert Lamb was recruited to become the APS Director. Lamb had been a career diplomat, including a stint as an ambassador. Personable and competent, Lamb oversaw the expansion of the society and was involved on its move to the Match factory, where it is hosted today. Lamb was involved in the expansion of the American Philatelic Research Library, a subsidiary of the APS.

Each of these three men put their mark on the society, and I served with all three during my time on the APS Board of Directors, first as Director at Large, then as treasurer, and finally as Chairman of the Board of Vice Presidents. A good Executive Director, like a good Chief of Staff, wields enormous power. The Board sets policy, but there is great discretion in implementation. The Board of Directors  meets just twice a year, and most of the Directors have a few pet projects they keep hawking but are very happy just to be part of a well run society. So, by setting the agenda and controlling implementation, my experience has been that the Executive Director largely sets the policy for the society, especially after he or she has been there a while and has established a bit of institutional support and credibility. This is why a good Executive Director is so important to the organization.

The new Executive Director is Scott English. He comes with a good resume and is personable and intelligent. He has the tools to be another in a long line of people who have helped organized philately over the last sixty years. We all wish him well.

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