NAED Enters New Era with Smith as President & CEO and New Meeting Format

Feb. 22, 2024
Smith is known throughout the industry for his business acumen in managing digital initiatives and it’s an area he will focus on in leading NAED.

The 2024 South Central Region meeting held this week in Dallas at the Omni Dallas Hotel had quite  a bit more buzz than usual.

The association offered an update on its plans to combine its Eastern and South Central regions into a single region starting with its meeting in Feb. 17-19, 2025 in Tampa, FL. The continuing march of mergers and acquisitions across the electrical landscape was responsible for the change.

But the much bigger news was the announcement that Wes Smith from Mayer Electric Supply/Rexel would become president and CEO, filling a position vacated by Tom Naber back in June 2023. Smith comes to the job following an impressive career of more than 30 years at Mayer Electric Supply, where he rose from a job in the warehouse to lead the company as president and CEO. He also gave generously of his time back to the industry while at Mayer and Rexel, most recently as NAED president from 2020 to 2022, and to lead IDEA as chairman.

Smith is known throughout the industry for his business acumen in managing digital initiatives and it’s an area he will focus on in leading NAED. In a speech to NAED South Central attendees, Smith said also he will focus on collaborating with other electrical industry associations, including the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA); National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA); and National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

He comes to the post at a challenging time for NAED. Mergers and acquisitions have radically changed the traditional membership make-up of NAED, which has evolved from a large number of family-owned independent distributors to a much larger mix of companies run by national or regional chains. With fewer independent electrical distributors attending  these meetings, manufacturers — particularly smaller manufacturers — often have trouble getting appointments with the national and regional chains at the NAED events. A related issue is the high ratio of manufacturers-to-distributors attending  the regional and national meetings.

Sources contacted for this article applauded the NAED staff for building up the association’s niche meetings over the past few years, including the Women in Industry Forum, LEAD Conference and Marketing Summit, but said the regional meeting format could be retooled.

Two program initiatives led by Ed Orlet, the interim NAED CEO during the transition, and the NAED staff,that also get positive reviews have been the Futures Group roundtables and panel discussions that focus  on emerging electrical technologies such as electrification, grid modernization, electric vehicles, renewables and battery storage.