The Asphalt Industry's Passion

March 1, 2023
Lessons from the NAPA annual meeting in Miami

By Gavin Jenkins, senior managing editor

What can the asphalt industry learn from Lindsey Vonn, the retired Olympic gold and bronze medal-winning alpine ski racer for Team U.S.A.?

More than you might think.

Last month, I attended the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s (NAPA) annual meeting at Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Vonn’s keynote address came in the form of a conversation with incoming NAPA Chairman Christian Zimmermann and Katie DeCarlo, a pavement research engineer at the Heritage Research Group.

I walked away inspired by what she’s accomplished. Vonn spoke about the hard work and dedication it took to even reach the Olympic team, as well as the challenges of dealing with adversity.

During her career, Vonn suffered nine major injuries and had five surgeries in a decade. She never let them discourage her from competing. And now that she’s retired from racing, she refuses to slow down, testing herself with multiple projects, including the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, which was established to empower girls.

Vonn’s message of determination and continuously challenging yourself translates to any line of work, any walk of life. So, why was she speaking to NAPA members?

Zimmermann’s parents were Olympic skiers. At 84, his mom, Penny Pitou, who won two silver medals in 1960, is still an avid skier, and an impressed Vonn called her “a boss.”

Before his conversation with Vonn, Zimmermann introduced the audience to his wife, Deb, and his daughter, Zoe, who is on the U.S. Alpine Ski Team.

I have never skied a day in my life. I imagine it’s fun, but if I die without ever going skiing, I’m sure I’ll be fine (When I do an outdoor activity, especially in the winter, it needs to involve my dog Bob, or I probably don’t want to do it).

However, despite my ignorance to skiing, it was not lost on me that the overarching theme linking Vonn, Zimmermann, skiing, and NAPA was more powerful than hard work and determination. It was passion.

Without passion, success is impossible, and the members of NAPA do not lack passion. As James A. Mitchel, the outgoing chairman, said before introducing Zimmermann: “I really love asphalt!”

I have now attended two of NAPA’s annual meetings and one of its mid-year meetings. It’s an incredible organization that’s run by talented and friendly people, and their networking events prove that its members are the same.

The keynote speakers they choose are always inspiring and thought-provoking, and in NAPA’s general sessions, they don’t push partisan agendas. They deal with the facts facing the asphalt industry, and they have honest conversations about the challenges and opportunities that the year ahead will bring.

As the rest of this issue shows, the state of the asphalt industry is strong.

My admiration for NAPA and the passion of its members has nothing to do with the afternoons I spent walking along Miami Beach. However, if your organization is planning on holding a convention, and you choose Miami Beach, may I join you? R&B

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