The industry’s new national association has found its first permanent president/CEO.

When the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals and the National Swimming Pool Foundation announced their merger in January, officials planned to hire a permanent president/CEO by fall. APSP’s CEO, Lawrence Caniglia, planned to retire so he was to serve as interim CEO to the new organization, the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.

The group has made its choice. Sabeena Hickman will begin in her new position Sept. 3.

Hickman brings more than 20 years of organization management, with her most recent role as CEO of the National Association of Landscape Professionals. In that role, which she performed for about a decade, she worked in very similar circumstances to those at PHTA: The landscape industry includes a diverse group of stakeholders, and the organization itself recently went through a merger and rebranding.

“I think that in many ways, there are a lot of similarities in our industries,” said Chris Curcio, PHTA’s board chair. “In the association she’s coming from, they had similar concerns around workforce development, and the diversity was very similar. She also did plenty of background research on APSP, NSPF and the unification. She had a very good grasp of who our constituents were and what some of their concerns would be.

“So we’re extremely excited to have her on board. I think she’s going to be a huge asset to PHTA, and I think she’s going to be very well received by our industry peers.”

Caniglia’s departure date has not been set, but he is expected to remain for a short period after Hickman begins.

“Larry was a phenomenal CEO for us and served us very well over his unfortunately short tenure,” Curcio said. “He was integral in going through the process of finding a replacement CEO. He never lost sight of the daily things that were already in process, while he then had to take on the task of integrating new systems and going through this new unification process. I think, to a person, everyone on the board has been very, very mindful of saying how thankful they’ve been to Larry for his work.”

Plans have not been set for Jim Mock, interim executive director of the organization’s non-profit foundation, who will retain that role for the foreseeable future, Curcio said.

In their day-to-day oversight of PHTA, Caniglia and Mock put in place much of the organization’s infrastructure, as well as helping it to start looking at how it would combine three sets of educational programs and benefits packages, Caniglia said. With much of the infrastructure out of the way, Caniglia said, “[Hickman] can concentrate on the big picture. That’s what the board wants her to do, and that’s what she’ll be most effective at.”

Such big-picture tasks include guiding the organization as it figures out where to ultimately locate its headquarters, finalizing staffing and finishing the integration of education and benefits for members.

Because she went through this process at her previous job, which gave PHTA officials confidence. “[The board] was looking for someone who can look out the next four to five years and tell you what this organization will look like but, more importantly, how are we going to get there,” Caniglia said. “She laid it all out in a very... well thought out plan, knowing very little. I think that’s one of the main reasons she was chosen. She’s the right person at the right time.”