How the International Sign Association Ended up in Virginia

In 1980, the National Electric Sign Assn. was in turmoil. The January 1981 editorial in Signs of the Times magazine began with “This publication has been filled with anguish for many months now watching, sometimes in disbelief, the internal strife that has beset and virtually halted the progress of the National Electric Sign Assn. We have remained silent – and wisely so, we believe – in the reporting of the turmoil that has deeply eroded the viability of the electric sign industry’s association.

“To criticize the antics that were taking place at the time would have only further injured the creditability of the organization, and seemingly there were no quick, universal solutions to the compounding problems.”

The partial remedy was the hiring of George Kopecky as NESA’s first paid president, and the move of NESA’s headquarters from Oak Brook (greater Chicago), IL, to Alexandria, VA on September 22, 1980. The October 1980 issue of Signs of the Times reported: “The hand-picked administrator says that one of his chief tasks will be ‘to properly represent the association membership in Washington.’

“For the past 24 years, he [Kopecky] has worked on the [Capitol] Hill, the past 20 years as staff director of the subcommittee on oversight and review for the powerful House Public Works and Transportation Committee. In this capacity, he and his 12-member staff have had intimate involvement with highway safety and beautification matters, as well as jurisdiction on many related environmental concerns.”

In the March 1981 issue of Signs of the Times, incoming NESA chairman Jim Allen wrote,

“Once the staff is fully developed, Kopecky will be able to devote more of his time to our legislative interests, an area in which he provides NESA with an unprecedented level of experience and ability. There is no question that consistent and professional representation on Capitol Hill will be one of our primary needs. I feel certain that Kopecky can put us on the offensive. Under his direction, I hope to see an efficient clearinghouse of legislative information, so that we can anticipate problems and deal with them in their early stages.”

When Ron Simpson was named the NESA chairman for 1982, the January 1982 issue of Signs of the Times reported, “On the legislative front, the new NESA chief sees President George Kopecky maintaining strong, consistent representation in Washington.”

NESA also initiated its first political action committee in September 1981, called NESA PAC.

Wade Swormstedt

Wade Swormstedt

Wade is the former Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry and the former Editor and Publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.

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Posted in Associations.