With the passage of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has become one of the most influential — and controversial — agencies in the aquatics industry. And Inez Tenenbaum leads it.
Born in Hawkinsville, Ga., Tenenbaum was taught to swim by her mother and has dedicated her career to protecting the wellbeing of children. She began her professional life as a teacher and served in state government as South Carolina state superintendent of education. She became CPSC chairwoman in spring 2009, and since then has made enforcing the VGBA one of her agency’s priorities.
“From my earliest days, I directed the agency to enforce this act,” she says, pointing to her appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” and interviews in other media venues, in which she clearly stated her intention to use CPSC’s authority bring all public pools into compliance.
To that end, CPSC has since begun working with state attorneys general and other stakeholders to develop inspection programs and information campaigns, and to develop the grant program stipulated in the law.
But Tenenbaum is as much a strong Southern woman as the fictional Scarlett O’Hara, and her impact on aquatics is likely to go beyond VGBA. A graduate of the University of Georgia with a law degree from the University of South Carolina, she hopes to use the resources of CPSC, the media and “the power of the bully pulpit” to promote awareness of overall aquatic safety and drowning prevention.
“Pool safety has to be a top priority, and we’ll continue to work with stakeholders so the industry itself is a very strong advocate for child safety,” she says.