Through her work as an aquatic designer and president-elect of the Association of Aquatic Professionals, Terri Smith is bringing her extensive professional aquatics background to a national audience.

Smith began her career in high school, lifeguarding and teaching swimming. She spent almost a decade at the Steiner Aquatic Center in Salt Lake City as a coach, program director, head lifeguard and swim instructor. She later held aquatics management positions at several other facilities, including the West Valley City Family Fitness Center.

In 2006, Smith switched gears and joined the team at Water Design in Salt Lake City. Today, at age 40, she is one of a small group of designers with hands-on pool operation experience, a perspective that gives her unique insight into what works.

She first became involved in the industry on the national level through the National Recreation and Park Association That was in 1997, and in the last decade she played a vital role in organizing several conferences for the organization. In 2008, she was the NRPA National Aquatics Conference chair, and in 2010 she became National Aquatic Management School chair.

Now, Smith is bringing that experience to AOAP, founded last year. As a board member she is a key part of getting the new organization off the ground.

“What I’m charged with is the marketing component,” she says. That includes promoting AOAP’s inaugural conference this month in Austin, Texas.

“I’m really all about networking and helping aquatics professionals meet other professionals,” Smith adds. “You can have a connection via Facebook, but to look in someone’s eyes and absorb energy, that’s something you can’t do online. In-person communication is vital, especially for young professionals, because it will help them to develop professional interpersonal skills in a way that email or connecting via a social network won’t.”