By James W. Baker
2003-04 WQA President
Background: Owner of dealer-assembler in business since 1995, employing 38 people with focus on dialysis and industrial water treatment. It’s a spin-off of residential dealership Dayton Soft Water, which was founded by his uncle, Ronald D. Baker (who was president of WQA predecessor’s Water Conditioning Federation in 1974 and Water Conditioning Association International in 1950-51) and now run by his son, Doug Baker. Ron and Jim Baker’s father, Weldon, also were partners in softener manufacturer Water Refining Co., which was sold to Lindsay in 1975 and merged to form EcoWater. His father also ran a local Culligan and Miracle Water dealership in Ohio.
Activity: He’s been active within the WQA for a number of years, including a special focus on professional certification, education and commercial/industrial programs as well as the Water Quality Society. He’s served on the last four Strategic Planning Committees including development of the most recently concluded strategic plan. He’s been a past chairman of the Member Services, Reverse Osmosis and Education committees and served on a number of others as well as the WQS Steering committee.
Honors and awards: Chosen to serve as 2003-04 WQA national president; achieved WQA’s highest professional designation, Certified Water Specialist, Level 6; presented the WQA Board of Regents Award, 1998; elected Ohio WQA president, 1989-91
Personal: Married to wife, Janie, with three grown children—James Jr., Andrew and
When my father started his career in water treatment in the 1940s, his business was renting portable exchange tank water softeners for the home. Looking back, I see that home water softening is what we did for almost 40 years. It is still an important part of our industry.
The 1980s and 1990s have changed things. In fact, our business in Dayton, Ohio, is strictly commercial and industrial. Ours is just one example of the many new types of businesses that make up the industry.
Another example of the change is the situation in California. Years ago, we were represented by a regional association in the Pacific Water Quality Association (PWQA) that was made up of strong, involved dealers who worked to support our cause. Today, it is a very different situation. Many of those dealers have been purchased and consolidated and PWQA no longer has the powerful voice it once had. The challenge to support today’s issues will have to be carried out by the manufacturers and the international WQA.
Bill Prior recognized this new dynamic water quality industry and realized that WQA needed to change to represent it. We owe Bill our gratitude for initiating the two-year long strategic planning process that the committee presented to the WQA Board of Directors at the convention. This plan identified WQA as the best organization capable of unifying and representing residential dealers and manufacturers, retailers, commercial/industrial and international businesses. In addition, the plan streamlines WQA’s functions and gives representation to all of the sections of the water quality industry while becoming flexible enough to include new elements as they develop.
I believe this is the beginning of a new, more inclusive age for WQA—and for our industry worldwide. There is no other organization that has the potential resources to unite and represent us. We all need to belong and be involved so that all voices can be heard. It is clear, as I look around, this is definitely no longer my father’s home water softener business! The water quality industry today is a complex and very important factor in the lives of most people. Because of this importance, we are required to be involved with government regulations that are going to affect how we operate our companies and serve our customers. Who better than the WQA to be our representative?
The new challenge for WQA is to adapt to this changing industry. I believe the new organizational and governance structure is a big first step in meeting the challenge. The main focus over the next year will be for WQA to implement these changes. I am proud that I will be a part of that effort.