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
“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.