Gary Thill

Credit: Gary Thill

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Dec. 19, 2007, is a day that will go down in the annals of aquatics history. That’s the date the first-ever federal pool and spa safety act was signed into law.

Experts are sure to argue over what exactly the national Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act means and how it should be applied. (For a full report, see our news story about the law in this issue.) But one thing is certain: The world of aquatics will never be the same.

So who wrought this change that will dictate safety regulations for aquatics professionals across the country? Who opened the door to the industry’s first and, most likely not last, federal law?

It wasn’t one of our industry’s formidable leaders or thinkers. It wasn’t even one of our lobbyists. No, the person who brought about this change is not even an aquatics professional. She is a policy maker, a Congress member with a passion about aquatics safety that played into several tragic accidents recently, including the hot tub entrapment death of former Secretary of State Jim Baker’s granddaughter (after whom the law is named).

I don’t bring this up to scold the industry for not making the changes on its own (though others may not be so kind).

At this moment, I only wish to make a point. Powerful forces are at work in the world of aquatics, and many of them have not been initiated by aquatics professionals. Indeed, as our Power 25 issue proclaims, some of the most powerful people in the industry are not necessarily aquatics professionals. No one makes this point more succinctly — and powerfully — than Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the architect of the U.S. pool and spa safety law.

But there are plenty of other examples of people on the sidelines of aquatics who are having, or will have, a major impact on how you do your job. Along with Wasserman Schultz, we have 24 more such people in this issue whom I urge you to get to know.

We’ve done our best to help you do that with brief interviews that help illuminate who these people are, what they’re doing and where they see the industry heading. Policy makers, consultants, allies, insurers, researchers, architects and advocates — all are working to change aquatics.

You may agree or disagree with their positions, postulates and passions. But don’t make the mistake of ignoring them. Just like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, they are the hidden powers who may well change your world.