Jennifer Carpenter took the reins as president and CEO of the American Waterways Operators (AWO) 23 days ago. She led her first big industry meeting as head of the organization this week in New Orleans at AWO’s Safety Committee’s Annual Meeting.

“You’re here to learn from each other,” she told her membership. “My vision for AWO is we are your indispensable organization critical to help your companies and our industry survive, adapt and thrive in this constantly changing business and public policy environment. Safety leadership is critical to our adapting, surviving and thriving,”

For just under eight minutes, without any help from a written script or note cards, Carpenter opened the meeting, speaking passionately about the organization she’s been a part of for 30 years, the industry it represents, and the future. “Safety issues are going to be central to the evolution of AWO,” she said. “How can AWO lead and support your companies and our industry in continuously improving in safety, security and environmental stewardship? How does that look different in a post Subchapter M environment?”

Carpenter touched on the fact that its important for AWO to change with the times. “What are we doing now that made a lot of sense at one point, but we’re in a different place now and we need to look at it differently?” she asked.

And her final question to the membership: “How do we use the safety leadership of this industry to enhance our reputation as an advocacy fighting force?”

I’ve known Jennifer for over 22 years and watching her lead her organization through its first day of safety meetings with knowledge, confidence and understanding didn’t surprise me at all. Looks like AWO has the right person in place at the right time.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.