FORT WORTH, Texas-Jim Kelley officially took over the reins of one of the fastest-growing horse breed registries in the world Jan. 1, when he succeeded Ed Roberts as executive secretary of the 100,000-member American Paint Horse Association (APHA).
Kelley assumed the leadership position after serving five years as APHA's assistant executive secretary. He worked closely with Roberts on projects that have ranged from building a new 40,000-square-foot international headquarters building in Fort Worth in 1998 to establishing a high-tech computer system that streamlined registration processes.
Kelley becomes APHA's sixth executive secretary. Roberts held the position for 26 years and helped lead the organization from 10 employees and 26,000 registered horses when he arrived in 1975, to 160 employees and more than 640,000 registered horses today.
Working with a $15 million operating budget, Kelley and his Fort Worth-based employees are charged with carrying out APHA's mission to collect, record and preserve the pedigrees of American Paint Horses. Those horses are now being registered at a rate of about 62,000 every year.
The association's mission also involves overseeing regulations related to the breeding and exhibition of American Paint Horses, and in so doing, maintaining the desirable characteristics and outstanding reputation of the breed. Sound conformation, versatile athletic ability, intelligence, calm temperament, a willing disposition and beautiful coat color patterns are among the many qualities that have made American Paint Horses popular for the past 40 years.
APHA is also dedicated to serving its members with innovative programs that both enrich their enjoyment of their American Paints and increase the value of their horses. Those members are now located in every U.S. state, every Canadian province and in 39 other nations around the world.
Kelley said his goal at APHA remains the same as it always has been-to continue building on those programs that have made the association successful over the years. Included in his formula for success is an emphasis on outstanding customer service.
"We've seen our membership numbers grow tremendously because of the personal services we offer and the fact that in everything we do, we want our members to feel welcome and appreciated," said Kelley. "This is their association and we're here to serve them.
"With 100,000 members, keeping up with the sheer volume of requests for information can be challenging, but we do it with the help of the technological advancements we've made recently. It's been a critical factor in handling work efficiently and in processing a record number of on-line requests.
"Our computer system is honoring 2 million requests a year from on-line visitors who are seeking information about everything ranging from progeny, pedigree and performance records to race results. And, they can get that information back in only a few seconds."
Kelley takes over the top management job at APHA during a year that marks a major milestone for the association-its 40th anniversary. To commemorate that event, APHA will unveil a larger-than-lifesize bronze of four Paint Horses at its Fort Worth headquarters this summer. The creation of the bronzes has been a two-year project designed to celebrate APHA's successes and create a timeless representation of the breed standard.
Kelley also assumes his new role during a time when APHA's annual World Championship Paint Horse Show has reached monumental proportions. Every year, thousands of exhibitors bring about 2,000 horses to the extravaganza in Fort Worth. This year's show is scheduled June 23 through July 6.
"We have so many good things going on at APHA," said Kelley. "Now, my job is to take the best and make it even better. We've got a talented staff here, and that's exactly what we're going to do."
Kelley, born and raised
in Lampasas, Texas, graduated from Texas A & M University in 1975.
He has a long history of education and experience in both the livestock
industry and in dealing with related associations. Following his graduation,
he worked two years with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service before
going to work for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
in Fort Worth. He served that association for 19 years before joining
APHA in 1996. He makes his home in Weatherford, Texas.