We were visited last week by the National Automobile Dealers Association's top two officials: elected Chairman David Westcott and President Peter Welch, who six months ago took over responsibility for day-to-day affairs.
Just for fun, they brought a mask of Hillary Clinton, who will be NADA's keynote speaker at the convention next year in New Orleans. Nice joke, but I think it would be a mistake to wear that mask anywhere around the convention.
It was enjoyable to discuss many of the issues facing NADA with the two leaders.
I have always marveled at the tightrope NADA walks while representing nearly 16,000 automobile dealers -- dealers with very strong opinions about everything from politics to automobile brands to how to run a dealership.
Welch is just getting his sea legs but has had a wealth of experience running the California dealers association. Westcott is halfway through his one-year term and is busy planting as many seeds as possible.
So many issues are facing NADA that the organization can't possibly deal with all of them. Plenty of those issues are local and can be better handled by city and state organizations.
Also, many issues can be dealt with in cooperation with government agencies and organizations in Washington.
NADA could be even more effective if it were willing to be a little tougher with Congress. Regardless of party, members of Congress understand that plenty of auto dealers are in their districts and that those dealers are usually big campaign contributors.
There is probably no other group that can get the attention of Congress quicker and hold it longer than automobile retailers. They have a far better chance of getting their point across than any automaker.
Still, it is a careful road they must travel. NADA's leaders should remember Teddy Roosevelt's famous line: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
Over the years, NADA has done just that. But from time to time, I'd like the organization to wield that "big stick."
The auto industry would be in a bad place without NADA. I know that NADA will be just as effective in the future, if not more so.