Interview With Jeff Gudman: Candidate for Treasurer of USA Swimming

Last week SwimSwam spoke with Bob Vincent about his nomination for Treasurer of USA Swimming.  At the time of that interview Vincent was running unopposed; however, nominations for all board of directors positions are still open and Vincent is no longer alone on the ticket.

Jeff Gudman of Lake Oswego, Oregon, has also decided to run for Treasurer of USA Swimming.  Gudman, who is also running for State Treasurer in Oregon, was kind enough to give SwimSwam some of his time and tell us why he believes he is the right man for the job.  Below is some of our conversation.

SS: What do you view as the most important roles of the treasurer?

JG: “[Number one], it’s a voting-member of the board [of directors].  Number two is making sure the organization stays financially healthy by working very closely with Jim Harvey, the CFO.  Both of those [tasks] are equally important because you’re not only the treasurer, but you’re also a member of the board—you have both responsibilities.”

SS: Okay, so your influence is more than just on the fiduciary side?  You are able to have a say in a wide range of decisions that get passed at the highest level?

JG:  “Yes, completely.”

SS:  Okay, so I know you have a very impressive resume, but in your opinion, what qualities about yourself do you think will make you a good treasurer for USA Swimming?

JG: “There’s the depth and breadth of my experience in swimming, up and down the line.  From working at the local, novice meets here in Oregon, to regionals, to sectionals, to national meets, and then having attended and watched three different Olympics.  So it’s the depth and breadth of experience that goes back decades on the volunteer side.  I also know what it means to get up there and race.”

“I swam all the way through college (Pomona College), I was a member of an All-American Division III relay while I was in college, and I continue to swim to this day.  The depth and breadth of experience, [the fact] that I did swim, and that I think it’s important to have somebody on the board, who, in the next four years I believe that, having a new executive director, and I think that we want to have somebody in an elected position who will be voting on that who can bring that historical perspective as well as current involvement.”

SS: Do you see any areas about the organization that, in your role as treasurer, you would like to improve?

JG: “In the role of treasurer, no, because we have been very, very fortunate, to have a person the quality of Jim Harvey.  He is terrific.  He is the one who lives it day-to-day, he provides the reports that go to the treasurer; the treasurer obviously reviews it with him before presenting it to the board [of directors].  Jim has grown with the organization and the organization has grown over the years.  Jim has had the financial function to grow and adapt along with it, so I see continuing growth, adaptation, as the organization continues to grow in the financial function, but I don’t see any need for any kind of significant structural change in how the finance and treasury function is organized in Colorado Springs.”

SS:  You were the Vice President of Program Development for USA Swimming from 2010 – 2014; what do you consider some of your biggest accomplishments in that role, and how has it shaped your perspective when considering the responsibilities and influence that you would have as treasurer of USA Swimming?

 JG: “The items that I am most pleased with are a reflection of the other people, rather than myself.  As Program Development VP I had four different committees in my area of responsibility, working with the president, I made sure that we had very good chairs in each of those four committees, and my—in addition to all of them, every time we would talk—either by person, in phone, or email, was, to them, and their liaisons and the staff liaisons was, ‘you keep pushing the things you want to do in your area; I’ll let you know if you’re pushing too hard.’  It’s a cultural approach, but it’s a way to—we’re too big an organization to have one member of the board [who does] everything, so you want to have good people on the volunteer side, and you want to make sure those good people on the volunteer side are having good communication with the staff liaisons on the committees.  I’m real proud of that, because [I want to] foster that kind of atmosphere.”

“Number two was the… Shared Services Initiative.  [But] it did not have as much success as I would have liked.  Almost everybody in USA Swimming agrees that, if you were to take a map of the United States and re-draw the LSC lines, with a completely blank slate, we would not have the lines that we have today, that we are working with today.  But it is very difficult for a variety of reasons to get those changes brought about.”

SS: So, to an extent, empowering the people that are the volunteers, the foot soldiers, that are working to help the sport from the, down to the very grass-roots level, volunteering at the local club swim meet, or what have you?

JG: “Absolutely.  And also we need to recognize things have changed.  You know?  What worked for us in the 1950’s and 60’s were the volunteers, which are great—we could not do what we do without the thousands of volunteers—but we also have to recognize that the times have changed with respect to that structure and adapt to it, and go from there.”

“Going back to your question about my time as VP of Program Development, one of the areas [where] the progress is occurring [but very slowly] is, from the perspective of the US continuing to be the number one swimming nation in the world.  The efforts that have been made to broaden our base, in terms of diversity and inclusion—we’re beginning to see a little bit of that benefit coming forward.  You saw it in the Olympics.  But we need to continue that effort to make sure we can get as many people involved in swimming as possible.”

SS: How do you believe your various roles throughout swimming have shaped your perspective when it comes to overseeing the sport at the highest national level?

JG: “It’s a perspective.  It’s a long-term perspective.  There’s an old phrase that I use in my business career and in my volunteering career: when you’re up to your [elbows] in alligators, it’s hard to remember the original directive was to drain the swamp.  And you want to keep your eye on long-term goals, recognizing there’s going to be ups and downs as you get there, but stay focused on the long-term, and always recognize the difference between what is important and what is urgent.”

SS: As treasurer, how do you keep athletes in mind first and foremost, per USA Swimming’s core objectives?  (Building the base; Promoting the sport; and Achieving sustained competitive success).

JG: “Well number one, the fact that you used that statement is a testament to the continuing evergreen nature of it, as developed by Chuck (Weiglus), which is great.  Number two, like yourself, like myself, I was an athlete, so as I’m sitting around the table, even though my competing days in college are now 40 years ago, I know what it means to get up and race.  And you want to be out there and there for the athletes.  So I think it is a viewpoint that you have on it.”

SS:  Now, you were treasurer of USA Swimming from 1996 to 2000, correct?

JG:  “I was, yes sir.”

SS: So how do you think the organization has changed in the past 16 years, and how are you prepared to take on the new challenges that have evolved over those last 16 years?

JG: “The organization—the single best decision that I made, or single best vote that I made, when I was serving as treasurer before, was the hiring of Chuck Wielgus.  Flat out.  Every other decision, while important, pales against that decision.  That’s number one.  Number two: I have worked with organizations that are of comparable size, or a bigger size, much bigger size, than USA Swimming is.  And, it’s a perspective to say, how do we—let’s not look at where we are now, let’s look at where we want to be in 2024, 2028, 2032—work backwards from there, and say ‘how do we get there from where we are now?’  Number three is looking at the organization on an ongoing basis.  Start conversations with athletes, with coaches, with volunteers.  Are we structured the right way?  How do we change our structure if needed to better provide those services to all of the athletes that we have?”

SS: What do you think the biggest challenges facing USA Swimming and its membership are right now, and how would you address those issues?

JG: “I know I’m repeating myself, but the biggest challenge, I think, is that we will be picking a new executive director in the next four years.  I hope that Chuck continues to perform, and provide the terrific leadership that he has, but as Chuck himself will acknowledge, you know, he is fighting cancer.  So that’s duty number one… that is by far number one.  Because, the vision, and the tenor of leadership starts there.  And number two is always keeping in mind that our base of the sport, as you rightly pointed out ‘build the base,’ is around the parents and the kids who are going to the novice meets.  And, looking up to the great athletes that we have; like, ‘I want to be like Mike,’ or ‘I want to be like Missy,’ or ‘I want to be like Katie.’  And how do we help foster that atmosphere?”

SS: How has your role as a politician and public servant in the state of Oregon prepared you for the role of treasurer of USA Swimming?  Granted, you’ve already been [treasurer of USA Swimming], but in the years since 2000.

JG: “Politics, in the best sense of the word, is about finding common ground, acknowledging the other person’s point of view has validity, working through that commonality and the differences to try and get something that both parties or all the parties agree [upon].  It means you spend a lot of time listening, rather than talking.  You spend a lot of time face-to-face, because things go better face-to-face when trying to [work through difficult issues].  So the old phrase of patience, and keeping your eye on the long-term goal.  And I don’t know if that’s something that comes out of politics, or just as a perspective of life as you get older.”

“I’ve found that when I was serving in an elected position, a public elected position, often times I’ll have people tell me, whether face-to-face, or over the phone, or by email, or by text, ‘Jeff, I think you’re crazy.’  And my general response is, ‘Well you may be right–let’s go have lunch.’  And that works really well.”

SS: You have a lot of corporate experience: how has that business experience helped you, and how would it affect your perspective this time around were you to be in charge of USA Swimming’s budget again?

JG: “It provides the importance of metrics; of establishing policy and then measuring how you are doing; of holding people accountable when they buy into goals that are mutually agreed upon; and again, keeping your eye on the long-term goal and working toward it.”

SS: You’ve mentioned long-term goals a few times now; what do you think one or two of the most important long-term goals of USA Swimming should be?

JG: “Well I would go back to the three goals: build the base, promote the sport, achieve competitive success.  Everything flows out of those three things, and so as we’re talking about what we’re doing, the first question we should always ask about any particular proposal is, ‘how does this relate to those three goals, and why is this one better than some other proposal?’”

Further information about the USA Swimming annual convention can be found here.  For Mr. Gudman’s bio, per USA Swimming, click here.  Current members of the USA Swimming board of directors and all USA Swimming committees and committee members are also available on USA Swimming’s website.

The new treasurer will be elected next month at USA Swimming’s Annual Convention, taking place in Atlanta, Georgia.  Stu Hixon, USA Swimming’s current treasurer, has served the term-limit allotted for the role, and is ineligible for reelection.  Nominees can be made by receipt of a nomination form up until September 9th if the form is sent by mail, or until 12:00 noon on Thursday, September 22nd, if the form is hand-delivered at the convention.  Nominees must be non-athlete members of USA Swimming and must have completed a background check and undergone the Athlete Protection Online Training Course before September 19th, 2016.

Leave a Reply

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

Read More »