DEPARTMENTS
AN AIHA FAREWELL
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"Washington Insider" Bids Farewell
AIHA’s longtime director of Government Affairs, Aaron Trippler, is retiring at the end of this month. One of four senior managers to leave AIHA over the past year, Trippler is known to most AIHA members as the author of the “Happenings on the Hill” newsletters, many of which appeared in The Synergist under the name “Washington Insider.” Trippler recently discussed his career and future plans with The Synergist.
Instead, he left politics and took a job with an association in Pierre, South Dakota, the state capitol. One of his responsibilities was to lobby on the association’s behalf at the state level. So began Trippler’s long and fruitful career in government affairs. Two jobs and a little more than a decade later, he found himself as the first—and, until recently, the only—director of Government Affairs in AIHA’s history.
PROTECTING THE PROFESSION Trippler’s first day at AIHA was a Saturday, the start of AIHce 1992 in Boston. The conference was a whirlwind entrance into the world of occupational health and safety. Back home after the conference, he told his wife he didn’t think he’d be at AIHA more than five years.
He would last 24, in part because he was given the freedom to make the job his own.
“I liked the members, and I liked the people I worked with,” Trippler recalls. But the key was AIHA’s flexibility in allowing him to work at the state level. “If I had been told to just do federal government affairs, I’d have gone nuts.”
Then as now, state governments offered more hope for progress on the issues OHS professionals care about. Compared to the glacial pace of change at the federal level, state governments were relatively action-packed, giving Trippler opportunities to not only influence legislation but to write some laws himself.
Trippler points to his work on title protection and professional recognition at the state level as one of his greatest successes at AIHA. These laws ensure that only qualified individuals can legally use titles related to the IH profession. Currently, 20 states have granted some form of title protection or professional recognition for IHs.
“I find the states much more fun than Washington,” Trippler explains, “because they’ll introduce a piece of legislation and you know whether you win or lose in 60 days. Washington will introduce a piece of legislation, and then that legislation is talked about for 20 years, and they still don’t do anything with it.” ON THE ROAD Trippler has long been a popular speaker at meetings of AIHA local sections and OHS conferences. Meeting members instilled in him a deep appreciation for the profession. “I’m very privileged to work for people who do what they do,” Trippler says. “It’s not very often you get to work for people [whose] job really makes a difference.”
The travel was enjoyable too, though in recent years it has begun to wear on him. In nearly a quarter-century at AIHA, Trippler has spent enough time traveling that he’s missed three and a half years of his sons’ lives. He estimates that he has given between 400 and 500 presentations—and he insists he didn’t write a single one. That revelation is testament to Trippler’s prodigious speaking ability and his equally impressive talent for recounting, in entertaining and enlightening fashion, what he’s learned from constant reading and conversation with government workers and OHS leaders.
The need to stay informed about politics is not something Trippler will miss when he retires to the California home he and his wife purchased earlier this year.
“Somebody said, ‘Why are you moving to California?’” Trippler recalls. “I said, ‘How far can I get from Washington without having to go to Hawaii or Alaska?’” STAYING ACTIVE Asked about his post-retirement plans, Trippler says he will take about six months to unwind and indulge his passions for golf and non-work-related travel. But he’s sure that he’ll stay active, possibly working as a consultant or taking a job in a golf shop.
He’s also sure that no matter what happens in Washington, AIHA members have the tools to be successful.
“Don’t worry about OSHA,” he advises. “Don’t worry about Congress. As long as you’re doing your job every day, workers will go home healthy and safe every night.”

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On election night in 1978, fourteen votes were all that stood between Aaron Trippler and a possible career in politics. He was the campaign manager for Leo Thorsness, the Republican candidate for South Dakota’s 1st congressional district. A baker’s dozen of voters had swung the race for Thorsness’ opponent, Tom Daschle, the future Senate majority leader. (A recount would widen Daschle’s victory to 139 votes out of more than 129,000 cast—an official margin of one-tenth of one percent.)

The race was effectively decided by a coin toss. Had it come up heads instead of tails, Trippler would have gone to Washington to be Thorsness’s chief of staff, and who knows where that might have led.
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Mallory, at age 14, became entangled in an ice-packing machine while working a summer job to earn money for church camp. Once a budding athlete and artist, Mallory lost function in both arms. Her life will never be the same.
The four senior managers have a collective eight decades of experience at AIHA. For more information, read former AIHA Executive Director Peter O'Neil's article in the November 2015 Synergist.
 
Carol Tobin was profiled in the November issue, and Vicky Yobp in December. AIHA Government Affairs Director Aaron Trippler will be featured later this year.