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Latest information from AKCA -

Koi Hobby Jumbo AKCA Chairman Larry Leverett

The Chairman of the Associated Koi Clubs of America Larry Leverett, the big fish of the koi hobby as Todo Todorsky called him, joined the hosts of the Koi Club of the Air for the first show of the New Year. Described by many as the nicest guy you could meet Leverett shared his expansive appreciation of America’s premier koi organization, he proudly represents.

This is Leverett’s second year as chairman. He was also chairman from 2000 to 2002 and Vice-Chairman making his time in leadership of AKCA nearly eight years he estimates. “It’s had its ups and downs,” Leverett said. ‘When we did the Koi Health Advisor’s Program people were patting me on the back for the good job I did where all I did was approve the budget for it and Spike Cover did all the work. You had to start saying hey that is not my program, but Spike Cover’s program.”

Leverett shared interesting snippets of AKCA history. “It’s interesting because I was looking at one of the magazines, the first KOI USA issue,” Leverett said. “And it was started in 1976. Ed Fujimoto was the first editor of that magazine and in his words, what he wanted that magazine to be, he wanted it to be dedicated to all koi lovers. And it was published in the hopes that it was looked on as a focal point and a sounding board and bible for much needed communications concerning koi activities in the United States. Now you have to remember this was before they had computers. So there was probably only maybe half a dozen koi clubs in the United States at the time. And very little was getting back and forth and I credit AKCA with bringing all these people together and making a world for these koi manufacturers that manufacture our pumps and filters today and giving them a market.” Leverett also credited AKCA for publishing materials including books that would not have been published otherwise.

“One of the things that is interesting is Ed Fujimoto in 1980 decided he was moving up to Washington and he decided to sell the magazine to AKCA,” Leverett said. “His asking price was $1500, which was way out of the budget. They didn’t have any money for that. So the directors at the time had to come up with money out of their pockets to buy the magazine and continue publishing it. And right now just to publish one issue takes about $40,000. So it has come a long way in just that short period of time.”

“I don’t think the koi hobby would have gone as far as it has so far if it wasn’t for AKCA,” Todorsky said. “That is my point exactly,” Leverett said. “We have judges who in my opinion, I consider our judges every bit as good as the Japanese judges. They do one heck of a job. And so we have a venue to show our fish where we wouldn’t have had that before. Just listening to your program recently we have got some new clubs starting to put on koi shows and that gives another outlet for the hobby. We are making some progress and the future looks real bright for us out there.”

“What do you have planned for the future,” Todorsky asked. “We have the Project KHV Fund,” Leverett said. “One of the reason AKCA is involved in that is because even though you have money it is important to get a bang for your buck. We go to universities and medical facilities that can do research, but we have to give them a guideline. You can’t just throw them $20,000 and say I want a cure for Koi Herpes Virus. It just doesn’t work that way. We have been in that boat before. We spent $20,000 and got a two-page report that a high school student could do. And so that is a waste of money. So when this particular project came up a lot of dealers came to AKCA and asked us to make sure this went in a good direction. I have to give a lot of credit to the dealers and manufacturers of koi products out there because they put a lot of money into this program because it is their future and it is their hobby as well. So we have raised a lot of money for that program. And we have money going out now. We have a couple of programs that are in place. And we have a board, a medical team consisting of scientists that are evaluating these programs. It is a very well run program and it isn’t going to waste money, but I expect some big gains in the coming years for KHV.”

“You have had some great leadership with Ray Jordan and now Gene Anderson,” Hawley said. “That is a big help.” Leverett agreed adding, “Gene Anderson is doing a really good job. I kind of keep tabs on a lot of these people from my perspective.” Leverett noted Spike Cover’s leadership in both the Project KHV and the KHA (Koi Health Advisor) Program. Describing how at board meetings they receive updates on the various programs and on the upcoming Phoenix AKCA Seminar and North Florida Seminar in 2008. “That is another thing you probably would not have if AKCA was not involved because I had to sign a contract with Jacksonville and that area with the hotel and we are on the line for $80,000,” Leverett said. “Hopefully we will get that much back in business for the hotel, but if we don’t come up to that AKCA has to foot the bill for the remaining balance.”

Todorsky a member of the North Florida Koi Club Seminar Committee said, “I know sometimes that bites. And sometimes it works out well. We are trying to put on a good set for you this time here in Florida.”
Todorsky then asked about the meetings of the AKCA board. “You were mentioning that you have your meeting once a month. And we here out in the hinterland get the minutes and so forth, but if a club has an issue that they would like to address what is the vehicle for that?”

Leverett replied with, “that is one of the things AKCA wants to do. That is why the main thing that we require all AKCA clubs have is an AKCA rep. And that AKCA rep’s duties are to report to a person at AKCA that is usually picked out that take a certain amount of clubs. And so once a month they tell that rep what is going on with the club. And that (report) is all included in our minutes, which are available on our website and are available to the AKCA rep. Now if as you say there are some problems that the club needs to handle or whatever, they need to have their AKCA rep contact his contact at AKCA and he can get that information for that club. And it works out well that way.” Leverett gave details of how AKCA provides insurance for koi shows and a special drawing held for AKCA reps that stay in contact with AKCA for six months, which is a reward and encouragement for participating. The prize is a trip to Los Angeles for a private pond tour and voting participation in that months’ AKCA meeting.

Hawley asked, “That is the role of the rep, the director they have a position a vote for the club in the business of AKCA?” Leverett said, “that is correct. Every club has one vote. And a lot of times they are not there to vote. So we vote in proxy for the clubs, but they have the right anytime they want to challenge a vote, to change a vote, vote against anything that is coming before the board, because it is basically an organization of the clubs. The clubs are the constituency. And basically the directors are just caretakers.”

Hawley asked, “has AKCA every considered a conference call sort of situation where some of these directors from around the country might could participate in what is going on kind of like you have done with KOI USA having an editor outside of the California area? In that way maybe you could bring more voices into the process?”

“Exactly,” Leverett responded. “That is one of the things, we are kind of poor in the sense that we could use more people, more directors at AKCA to give us more ideas and thus give more back to the koi hobbyists because it is a non-profit organization. Everything goes back to the hobbyists even the profits from KOI USA. And one of the things we are doing now is we do have at the meeting a telecommunications thing where as some directors are outside of the area they are on the phone. We have a speakerphone that sits in the center that can take a certain amount of calls. It is pretty crude right now. We have worked in the past with even trying to do it on the Internet where we could televise the meeting and then have it sent out to all the directors. That was costly at the time. So it is one of the elements we can’t afford to do right now, but as time goes by I think it will be a little cheaper.”

Hawley noted, “You are receptive to it, but even then I wonder if the AKCA bylaws allow for that or you don’t necessarily have to attend now? You have opened it up to allow certain folks and potentially folks could participate if there is some guru out there who could come up with an inexpensive way to hook folks up to communicate right?” Yea, exactly Leverett said. “We would love it. It would be great for people even if they are not voting just to watch the meeting and see what is going on. That is one the reasons we have the directors drawing. We are trying to get people to come in and see what AKCA does. Because one of the things that I have seen is you go out there and it is like AKCA is this kind of mystery organization out there. What does it do? I don’t even know what they are? We are trying to kind of get the word out saying this is what we do. It is a goodwill sort of thing. It is just to push the koi hobby.”

Hawley asked. “I know you have an election coming up in May, but just like you say for some folks AKCA is a mystery organization to them, but in the participatory sense how do folks get involved in the election process? I know you want to get people involved and more involved, but I bet if you poll the numbers most people don’t realize you have an election in May.”

“Exactly,” Leverett said. “I was surprised to hear you come up with that question because that is exactly what I get. We have in the neighborhood of about 104 clubs that belong to AKCA and when we do have the election we have usually maybe 60 clubs that bother to vote, which is kind of sad. So that is one of the things we are trying to do is get the word out to make AKCA more of a name because it is very important to the koi hobby and to everybody in particular that is associated with it including the businesses and vendors. Even when the bad stuff happens AKCA’s name is always up there. So you know they are a force out there in the field.”

Hawley said, “I know you are trying to drag people along and get them involved involved, but how would they know (about an election)? I know you have a voter’s pamphlet in California for voting, but we aren’t going to see an AKCA’s voter’s pamphlet are we?”

Leverett replied, “No. We have tried that before, but that kind of gets out of hand because maybe one candidate puts something out and that is it. And then it may not go past the AKCA rep for the club. He is supposed to talk it up. The AKCA rep should talk it up and say this is who is up for election and it is also up for anyone else that wants to be a write in candidate.”

Todorsky added, “I myself have been a rep in the past. I’m not currently, but I have in the past. And I know when the paperwork comes in and you basically have a slate of candidates and I bring this to the club the question is, who is that? And who is that person and what do we know about that person? And usually there isn’t more than one person offered for the position. So my club decides to put me up for something and like you say who is this Todo guy from California? So I appreciate that it is an election and that we have a democratic system, but a lot of the decisions, I’m just talking as an East coaster, a lot of those decisions we on the other coast here look at and say, well they’re out there doing their thing in California. And as long as we don’t have a grip about AKCA or the magazine the attitude is, well let them do what they are going to do.”

Leverett replied, “I’ve heard that complaint since I’ve been there of what do we get on the East Coast side? And one of the things I’ve tried to do since I’ve been the chairman I’ve tried to embrace the East Coast and include them into things that are going on. When we started the KHA program we excluded the West Coast as a starting point and made the East Coast a starting point in trying to make it as fair as possible.”

There has been influence and leadership from outside the California area on the board. “We actually had a chairman that was from the Colorado area about 15 years ago,” Leverett noted. “So there was some change, but what we like to see is somebody that starts in as vice chairman and works his way up to chairman so he has got some kind of a feel for the organization and how it is running. For instance, when I started, being that I was in business, I said we have to make money here. They had to take me aside and say look we are not here to make money. We are here to give away money. We have programs and we are trying to do this and trying to that for the koi hobbyists.”

Leverett spoke of the speakers program, and myriad of programs that AKCA offers and noted AKCA pays $130 for each clubs insurance premium each year even though the clubs pay in only $100. They also print guidebooks that formerly went out for free to all members, but that has been revised to incorporated into a program to encourage subscriptions to KOI USA where those profits in turn go back into programs. The cost of printings and bookstore operations were mentioned along with the judges program, Koi of the Year, Champion of Champions, Koi Health Advisor Program, and more! This is all done to benefit the koi hobbyists Leverett said.

Leverett explained why his initially ran and has continued to be a part of the AKCA leadership by saying, “Wow! This is such a great organization and my only concern at the time, as I didn’t know how it ran too well at the time, was there are a lot of old people running this organization and what happens if they die? That is why I got involved among other reasons. I didn’t want the organization to just fade away when it is so important to our hobby. I’m involved in it and we have got people like Bill Thompson. He has been doing an excellent job and Spike Cover, Burt Ballou, and the Finnegan’s Joan and Bob. For all these people, this is their life. They contribute so much to this organization just for the love of the hobby.”
(provided by Koi Club of the Air)