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Karlena Rannals: Be The One

Early every morning on the commute to work, IAAP International President Karlena Rannals doesn't sing along to Bobby Caldwell or waste time daydreaming about retirement. She uses the speaker phone in her car to work for IAAP during that hour long drive on the 5—what Californians call Interstate 5.  She uses the drive back to shift her focus from work to volunteer before tackling her IAAP job at home.
Rannals is dedicated to IAAP—on the morning commute, when she gets back home at night and on the weekends.

Her dedication to her job at the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District, and to her IAAP role, is an illustration of the attitude of commitment and personal responsibility that Rannals holds. She believes and lives the theme for this year: Be the One.

"I am a firm believer that you cannot affect any change sitting on the sideline," says Rannals.   

Maybe it's living life in sunny California that fuels Rannals. Or maybe it's the circumstances she's risen above to give her the core knowledge that drives her to be the one to ignite the change in her life, in her job and in the association.

Tony Michel, Fire Chief for Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District, sums it up well. "She's a born leader."

Michel met Rannals long before he became her boss—before he even started working at the fire district. They met when she was a young, single mom looking for a place to live. She first arrived in California with a child in tow she had no job, no place to live and little money. Where those circumstances would have troubled most people, the challenge energized Rannals. She took a job as a temp at the fire district and has been there ever since. Over the last 30 years, she's moved from a temp to her current position as administrative manager.

On the job
As administrative manager for the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District, she supervises staff, manages the finances of the district and prepares the budget. She also serves as the clerk of the board of directors, giving her a unique perspective as she takes the helm as president of the IAAP Board of Directors. She knows boards and governance, and as Michel says, she really knows Roberts Rules.

It's evident after spending a day at the office of the fire district that Rannals is respected by administrative staff and firefighters alike. Her boss, Michel, especially, has enormous respect for her and for her work.

"She means a lot to this organization," says Michel. "She does a lot. In the fire department we wear a lot of different hats; in a fire district you have to be a master of many. Karlena has always been instrumental around here that things run well."

Michel elaborates that she manages and ensures the board are carrying out policy correctly and that she's an integral part of the leadership team.

"We were peers. Then, about 18 years ago a fire chief came in from the outside and made a new management team concept. She became part of the management team."

That turned out to be an apt decision, according to Michel. "Karlena has a very good sense of detail and makes sure the mission of the organization is going to be met. We don't agree all the time and that's okay; that's good."

Working for IAAP
Her clarity in administrative management and her commitment to IAAP makes her uniquely qualified to lead the association during this time of transition and growth.

"I believe that the varied responsible that I have as a manager in a small business, gives me the unique ability to assist the board in establishing policy," says Rannals. "It's very important for the fire board to give us guidance and set the policy, not tell us how to do our job."

Not everyone comes to the board with the same experience level, especially the long track record that Rannals has working with a non-profit board.

"That's what's going to help me help keep board members on track," she says.  

Rannals has been a member nearly 20 years, after being a perpetual guest for about 18 months, and continues to find value in her membership because of the professional education that has enhanced her career. When she first started working at the fire district, there wasn't any money for training the administrative staff, so Rannals began saving her pennies and getting training at IAAP summer conventions. As she moved up the management chain, she told her staff about the association.

"She encouraged me to join IAAP," says Connie Balignasay, staff assistant at the fire district. "Anytime there was any kind of training, she'd encourage me to go."

Looking toward the future
Magic happens when a person, or an association, gets out of their comfort zone. That's what IAAP has been moving away from the last few years.

"Where we have been as an association has been stagnant.  Each year there was a plan, but the plan changed each year with a new leadership team," says Rannals. "Today, there is one plan, and that plan doesn't change when the leadership does."

Rannals would love to see IAAP become a household name in the business world, see OfficePro on the newsstands and see our membership increase by 25 percent over the next year. "But if I could only have one accomplishment, it would be to inspire others to want to serve in leadership roles, to be a part of the solutions, and enjoy the ride along the way."

Whatever happens will happen through hard work and personal responsibility of not just the leadership, but every member. After all, that's exactly what Rannals is doing. She's a member serving other members.
Rannals firmly believes, and demonstrates, that we can all "Be the One" and affect change in the association for future generations of office professionals.

"We are headed for great things as we look strategically forward."