Board Chair’s Message

A message from Thomas Coté, MBA, CAE, ESSAE Chair of the Board 

I want to begin by thanking my board colleagues and fellow members for bestowing upon me the honor and privilege to serve as Chair of the Empire State Society of Association Executives (ESSAE). During a time when we are transitioning into a more member-focused and broadly based association, I gladly take on this challenge.

Since the first time I saw “CAE” after my executive director’s name and found ESSAE as a collective voice for our profession and industry - I have held this organization and its members in the highest regard. I’ve had the experience of serving on, and leading committees, presenting programs, enjoying social events and making lasting friendships. I’ve always considered myself a servant leader – a person who hopes to empower others rather than assume control. Through my service to you, now is my chance to leave a legacy – one created for and by you.

This year will certainly fly by. Here are the few initiatives I’d like your help in achieving:

Association Experience Internship Program – How many of you fell into associations? How many of you went to school to be an association leader? And how many of you see confused faces when you explain your profession to others?

Time and time again I hear my colleagues struggle with finding a talented workforce with knowledge of the way in which we operate. We waste resources on taking chances that we can train a new hire quickly, since our time is already limited. We’re so busy with stretched budgets and member demands that we all long for a solution.

How many of you can use an intern? No, not just to fetch coffee – but someone to learn your association, hotel, CVB, business, and provide the insight of a millennial? A person whose talent you can develop and provide opportunity to. I envision working with the local institutions of higher learning and offering our hundreds of members the chance to share their wisdom and to develop the workforce we desperately need. They can be from many majors and programs (finance, marketing, leadership, communications).

For those of you who attended the ESSAE Annual Meeting and Awards, you heard my words about this initiative, and the feedback has been strong. If you’re willing to join our task force or have input that could be helpful, please contact me or Vanessa.

Building Bridges with ASAE – ASAE is where you earn your CAE. We all know their events are far from Albany and expensive. We tend to forget our own mantra about telling our potential members how important it is to belong to their industry or professional associations. Well, we all need to belong to ASAE. ESSAE is an allied society of ASAE. For too many years, we have been operating without a strong relationship with our national counterpart. I hope this year, that will change. Vanessa has already laid the foundation for a new beginning by inviting their staff to speak at our events, but we can do so much more. I’ve had the privilege of being accepted into ASAE’s highly competitive DELP (Diversity Executive Leadership Program) and I’ve seen first-hand the work that ASAE does to ensure the future of associations is bright. They say “build it and they will come”. ESSAE will build the bridge, but will you come and support ASAE as well? Let’s join and support!

ESSAE’s Media/Political Relations – Our industry is powerful. We represent millions of New Yorkers. We advocate for a wide range of important social and political issues. We shape conversations. We open doors (and sometimes close them!). We have a collective economic impact unmatched by other industry groups. And as our tagline says: We guide. We empower. We lead.

It is time that we educate our policy makers and media partners on the importance of our industry. We have our first “Association’s Day” lobbying effort scheduled for May this year. This will lay the ground work for our future efforts towards branding our industry as a true community leader, complete with an ESSAE task force. If you have experience in this field, please contact me or Vanessa.

Whether you hail from a professional society, industry trade group, philanthropic or charitable organization, hotel, CVB or vendor group – you’re in the right place. If you’d like to join one of our newly forming task forces, a current committee or just drop me a note about ESSAE or my initiatives – please do!

My personal email is and I would love to hear from you.

I thank you for being part of ESSAE. We are glad you're here.


Thomas Cote, MBA, CAE
Executive Director 
Academy of Sports, Cardiovascular & Wellness Nutrition
Vice President of Strategic Development
Capitol Hill Management Services