Thoughts on The Replacement of Ken Martin as APS Executive Director

by Lloyd A. de Vries

kmartin2013aI hate to use this phrase, because it was used to describe my situation seven months ago, but Ken Martin’s position as executive director of the American Philatelic Society “wasn’t a good fit.” It was never a good fit.

His tenure as the APS CEO was uneasy from the start. Ken wasn’t what many on the Board of Directors and other organizational leaders wanted. Efforts to make him into that type of an executive director weren’t successful, and probably weren’t ever going to be successful.

Ken is one of the most popular people in U.S. stamp collecting. Practically everyone likes him. Many older collectors watched him grow up in philately, from president of the now-defunct Junior Philatelists of America into employment with the APS. If you have attended an APS-sponsored or -sanctioned stamp show in the last two decades, chances are you ran into him — perhaps literally! As APS Shows & Exhibitions Director, we called him the Blue Blur, walking rapidly (and sometimes running) from one part of the show to another.

Ken was the only APS executive director I ever saw on his back under exhibit frames, pulling out reluctant screws. (No one does it better.) But as an APS leader told me last summer, “I’m not sure we want to see our executive director on his back under exhibit frames.”

Operations are Ken’s strength, though, and it’s part of why he is so popular with stamp collectors: Although he is a gold-level exhibitor and judge (Chief Judge, in fact), Ken looked and acted like most of us.

Unfortunately, it’s not what the current leaders of the APS feel the organization needs in its executive director. To keep trying to make him conform to that model is like trying to make one of those stripped screws fit into a frame. No one was happy with the result.

14 thoughts on “Thoughts on The Replacement of Ken Martin as APS Executive Director

  1. I don’t know how to put this in words but all I can say is that there are no words to describe the firing of Ken Martin as the APS’ Executive Secretary. I know I should take Ken Lawrence’s information as gospel and this is just further proof of his insight and understanding of our hobby’s darker side. Many months ago the brouhaha over the creation of a new position that would have placed someone over Ken led to such an uproar that the leadership could not go forward with it. At that time Ken wrote that the “leadership” was attempting to do to Ken what they had done years earlier with Bob Lamb. Ken wrote that they were attempting to dump Ken but in a way that the membership would not catch on. I guess he understood what we are now learning to be true. It’s a giant shame and I just want to say how much I believe our Society has lost with Ken’s firing. A word that comes to mind to describe Ken is “mensch” and there are none in the leadership that I know of that I would use that term for today.

    • Ken hasn’t been fired. I guess the word is “demoted,” or the euphemism is “being moved into another job.” And, since he’s agreed to stay on as Chief Operating Officer, therefore one could argue that the APS hasn’t lost that much.

  2. In an interview on APS StampTalk with Nancy Clark on WSRadio.com on January 22nd, APS President Steve Reinhard said the change in executive leader of the American Philatelic Society wasn’t a rehash of the bylaws amendment that was overwhelmingly defeated last spring.

    “It wasn’t an end-run around anything. This was the recommendation of a new committee,” Reinhard said. Members told him they voted against the bylaws change because of the way that was handled, without enough time for discussion. The Secure The Future Committee “took an independent look at what was needed.”

    The Committee, and the APS Board, felt that a change was needed, or the viability of the organization was in danger.

    “If we don’t do something about this, we’re not going to have a society that looks anything like what it looks like now,” Reinhard said. “Many of our employees will have to be let go, many of our programs will have to be terminated, because we just won’t have the funds.”

    The STF committee and Board felt that Ken Martin was not the person to make the needed changes.

    “We needed a fresher approach. we need to get someone with a proven record of growing organizations,” he told Clark, herself a former APS Treasurer.

    “We feel that this is one of the highest priorities we have.”

  3. I believe the APS went down this road a few years ago with fundraiser, non-collector Peter C . Mastrangelo. As I recall, Peter was brought in from the outside to save the APS from financial ruin. That didn’t work out so well and he left after a couple years without much monetary success. The Society then promoted Ken Martin to Executive Director. To demote him now is not well thought out in my opinion. Ken Martin has been a loyal soldier. He’s well known and respected in the philatelic society. As far as I can determine he’s done a good job managing what meager resources the APS has since the acquisition of the Match Factory. I just don’t understand how the APS can justify a new $100,000 plus position when finances are already tight. My suggestion is bring someone in first as a part-time consultant then see if the chemistry is right with the staff and philatelic community. See what results they produce. Then MAYBE offer them the job. The other option is to get some proposals (free) as to how to gain new members and funding from some public relations firms or individuals that have worked with major philatelic players such as i.e. Mystic, National Postal Museum, ASDA, etc.

  4. I like Don Schilling’s ideas! In my humble opinion he is right on target about what was tried in the past at huge expense to the Society. The major problem over all these years has been money. I don’t understand why our Society’s leaders are not more transparent about this issue. If we had the money coming in the membership numbers would not be the issue that so many people make it appear. Our sister hobby— numismatics— has about 10,000 members less in its national organization (the ANA) and yet money is never an issue to them. They’ve gone through about three Executive Directors in the past three years because of a host of problems that we have never had to address because of the honesty and hard work of Ken Martin. Yet we don’t seem able to say where the real problem is: our wealthier members simply don’t support our Society in the same fashion as the wealthier members of the ANA do. Let’s look at this more closely, and keep Ken Martin in the position that he has done such a fine job in the past. Create a new position that will be filled by the Board to fill our coffers with sufficient funds to carry us into the future. Just don’t hire Peter Mastrangelo again!

  5. Fantasy Job Posting for the new A.P.S. director:

    The A.P.S. is currently in search of a 21st century leader capable of leading a 19th century hobby without upsetting too many of their current members who operate under an inflexible 20th century mind set. This person must also be able to attract new young members who never used the mails as their primary communication method.

  6. Hello Lloyd:
    Let me say first off how delighted I was to read in your opening blog that you were returning to the format that I first experienced about 15 years ago. Namely, with a thoughtful approach to discussion of issues, welcoming of view points, sharing of ideas, and terrific insight into stamp and philatelically related subjects. Golly, when I remember the 252 k that I had to use to hook-up to the internet – it seems like nothing more than a flash and we’re up to mega-million byte capacities to enable participation – SHOULD ONE CHOOSE. I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and sometimes, participating in those discussions many years ago. Unlike, I might add, what evolved into the VSC – which I quickly managed to disengage from and remove from my favorites within about 6 months of the initial histrionics!! Since then, I’ve occasionally lost my grip and found myself straying back to the Delphi website – where I see the accusations, innuendos, and subtle and not-so-subtle character assassinations continue ad nauseum; I wish Chris well in trying to modulate the venom!!!

    Secondly, I’m not going to address any aspects of the Ken Martin matter, except to say this – I hope that all of us are willing to give this change a chance. Change takes time to show its negative and positive outcomes, and I believe that a tandem leadership team can pave the way for a strengthened APS – unless those vociferously opposed are so rooted in their perceived tried and true prescriptions that they can’t see other approaches to a long term solution. Tandem teams have worked magnificently in the past in history, entrepreneurship, politics, sports, military affairs, and religion (and you can all think of them without help from me), and in other instances they have proven to be miserable failures. For my part, I’d rather place my bets on a committed and dedicated COO who (here’s hoping) can work with an unknown and untested ED to steer the APS to a bright and reinvigorated future.
    Nuff said!. Hope all works out on this board/blog or whatever you call it.

    Sergio Lugo, RMPL President; 30 year AP member, and sporadic reader of this blog and its predecessors!

  7. With the overwhelming support of Ken Martin and his dedicated and loyal staff, I fail to see how the new board can come up with such an insane and demoralizing plan. Perhaps Impeachment is in order??

  8. I like what Sergio Lugo had to say! It seems like this is a decision that has been made and our Society is going to have to get behind it and work as hard as we can as members to make it succeed. I just thought that someone had to say how much we as members have always respected and appreciated what Ken Martin has done for us over the years. I wanted to be as positive as I could be under the circumstances. I have appreciation for how hard this decision must have been for the Board and I hope only the best for our Society in the future.

  9. To Dr. Bantz et. al.: Thank you for your remarks. Two things I would like to add.
    First, I am a member of the STF Committee. My sincerest apologies to all for not having clarified this earlier. Remarks/queries/questions should be directed to Alex Haimann and/or Steve Reinhard.
    Secondly, my computer at the RMPL has been being upgraded for the past week to a new computer and my address book of 700+ members and friends of the RMPL has not transferred successfully. I say this because 4 days ago, I prepared a one page document to be sent out to those RMPL members and friends on the subject I addressed above. I’m hoping I can get it out by the end of this weekend. It basically recaps my points above, explains further and introduces some cautionary/wariness notes. I thought that such an e-blast to our friends and members who are APS is warranted because of the ultimate significance of the action and an individual presently at the helm in Bellefonte who, in this part of the world, is highly esteemed.
    Sergio Lugo

  10. I seem to remember the membership of the APS voting on this not too long ago. The membership voted that this was NOT the direction we wanted the APS to move in. How is this not an “end around”?? The wishes of the members were ignored and they implemented this anyhow. I can’t help but notice that this comes AFTER the majority of membership renewals have been collected. I will have to think hard next year if I want to give my money to an organization that ignores its members. I can read the AP magazine in the library for free.

    Just my two cents on the matter.

  11. Good Day to All:

    I think if anyone goes back to the AP of July or August, the vote tally that was reported was something like 66% against and roughly 33% in favor. On what? The proposed by-law changes. I defy anyone on this planet to show me where a vote on an ED was ever called for of the membership in May of last year. The only “end-arounds” I’ve seen recently were the Seahawks running around the Broncos.
    Sergio Lugo

  12. I read (from Alexander Haimann) that the APS is currently looking for an executive director. This is 15 months after the last post on this thread.

    Did they ever get a replacement for Ken Martin back in 2014?
    In the May American Philatelist Ken is listed as the executive director.

    Thanks

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