President’s Message


July 2022 –

Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday that I was writing my first
President’s message, and here I am writing my last. It has truly been an honor to
serve; and with this message, I hope to convey enough of my gratitude to inspire
others to volunteer to serve our great association in some capacity.

Twenty-eight years ago, I attended my first USCRA convention as a new federal
reporter. The President of USCRA at the time was Joe Snyder, from Chicago, and
to this day, he sends me emails of encouragement and advice. Having attended
other types of conventions before, I fell in love with USCRA conventions because
it was the first time I had come to a convention where I immediately felt like
family. The seminars were federal-court specific, which helped me understand the
new world I had entered, and the camaraderie among the members was
infectious.

A short time after that, my mentor, Maellen Pittman, joined the Executive
Committee and encouraged me to run for her seat as Seventh Circuit
Representative. I wasn’t sure if I should do it as I still felt so new, but I saw it as an
opportunity to learn more about federal court from some very experienced
people. I still get choked up thinking about how lucky I was to have such guidance
and the chance to work with and become friends with so many wonderful
colleagues from across the country. And we had such fun! The hospitality suites
are legendary.

Back then, we were just beginning to use email for board communication. Before
that, we did conference calls in between board meetings. We worked on such
things as battling the PriceWaterhouseCoopers study that the AO commissioned
to study our two-tier compensation structure, advocating for an increase in pay
for realtime certification, and the ability to charge for realtime provided to
parties. Yes, there was a time when we were not able to charge for realtime.
Times have changed. We still use email to communicate on board issues, but now
we have Zoom to do face-to-face meetings. Members use Facebook to ask
questions, share stories of cases they’re working on, swap brief forms, and the list
goes on.

The past few years have been very trying, but it’s the hard work and dedication of
our Executive Committee, Board of Directors, committee members, past
presidents, and members at large that have helped us weather the storm and
reinvent ourselves as the new USCRA. I am truly humbled to work with such
talented people who are so willing to give their time and talent to make this the
best association it can be.

I give you some of this history not so much to reminisce, but more to show you
that I didn’t have any great attributes to serve as President of USCRA. I just had a
desire to serve and a willingness to learn. If you’re thinking, oh, I would love to
help, but I don’t have any special skills, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a
Ph.D. in association management or need to have all the answers – you only need
the desire to serve and the willingness to learn. You’ll get so much more out of
service than you realize. As Bryant McGill said, “No time is better spent than in
the service of others.”

I would like to thank the USCRA Board, my fellow Executive Committee members
and the Circuit Representatives, for all they do in the service of others. I’d like to
thank Joe Rickhoff for being an outstanding treasurer the past three years. His
dedication has helped put us on a good path financially. Thanks also to Jana
McKinney for her help and support of my presidency. She is a rock star and will
continue to lead us to be a strong association in her term as president. Thanks to
Becky Sabo, who, in the midst of a cross-country move and assignment to a new
courthouse, took on the secretary’s role AND appointment as the chair of the
Convention Committee. The Convention Committee has done a terrific job this
year putting together another great convention in Denver.

Last, but never least, I want to thank Kelli Mulcahy, without whom there probably
wouldn’t be the new USCRA. She has worked tirelessly to put us and keep us on
the right track. I would need pages and pages to detail all that she has done for
USCRA and for me, but it would never do her justice. Not only has she guided the
Executive Committee throughout my tenure, but she’s done a fabulous job on the
TCR, has become a member of CRAG, and continues to write tests for the
Reporter Testing Committee. Kelli has agreed to stay on as Immediate Past
President in my absence, as I must step down to take care of family issues. She is
and always will be my hero.

I hope I’ve said something in this message that will inspire some of you to step
out of your comfort zone and become a more active volunteer in an organization
that will help you grow and thrive as a federal official court reporter, the United
States Court Reporters Association.

Kathy Fennell, RMR, FCRR
USCRA President