President’s Message: Looking out the windshield

Many years ago, I heard a talk by a presenter who compared a windshield’s size to a rearview mirror’s size. Stop and think about it for a moment; the windshield is 50 times larger! Why? Because it’s vital to see what’s coming and not to be blinded by what’s behind you. If the mirror were any larger, it would block your view. While 2020 was a year most would not wish to repeat, it cannot be forgotten. Lessons learned from the pandemic will influence the plans for 2021 and beyond—but it has not deterred VAA from its core mission “to promote the increased use and quality of asphalt pavements in Virginia.”

So, what can members and friends of VAA expect in 2021? First, VAA will continue its commitment to VECAT and the asphalt materials credentialing classes. While classes will be held online and not in person, VAA employees will be staffing virtual office hours from January to April to assist students in course materials. Along with supporting current courses, VAA and Germanna Community College will initiate efforts to revise all VECAT materials. Over the next few years, VECAT classes will have new study guides, presentations, videos, and formats. Second, VAA technical staff will offer Asphalt Lab Reviews for members and non-members on an as-requested basis. While not intended to be a proficiency exam or comprehensive audit, VAA staff will review the lab set-up basics and offer input. Third, VAA plans to host three main events—70th Annual Meeting, Discussion with the Department, Mid-Atlantic Asphalt Expo & Conference (MAAE), and several smaller webinars and training sessions. With the lessons learned from 2020, many of VAA’s events will either be virtual or hybrid (i.e., in-person with a virtual component) depending on the content, scope and need to keep everyone safe. Finally, VAA will continue to provide the technical services members, VDOT, local transportation agencies, and the general public have come to expect.

2021 will be an exciting year for VAA. Under the leadership of VAA’s Chair David Horton, the association will be undergoing a long-term strategic planning process. The final plan resulted in the establishment of VECAT and MAAE; this current process will set the direction for VAA over the next decade.

As we look through the windshield, we’ll see a few bug splatters. Nothing ever goes as planned, exactly. But, as the asphalt industry was able to do in 2020, we’ll assess, adjust, and move forward. The resiliency of this industry makes the future bright.