James “Jim” Smock has a resume seemingly tailored to lead the American Association for Nude Recreation, with a 20-year background in government relations, business management, public relations, and lobbying.
About the only thing AANR’s new executive director does not have is a lot of nudist experience, but he’s working on that. He jumped right into the pool during a visit to the Cypress Cove Resort in December and plans to make up for the lost nudist opportunities he did not have as a lifelong Michigan resident.
“We have nudist facilities in Michigan but some tend to be seasonal and if we get three summer months, that’s a win for us,” says Smock, 48, who began his new role at the AANR headquarters in Kissimmee, Fla., on January 9, 2012. “Nudism is not something I had thought about one way or the other, but I’m really enjoying it so far.”
The AANR Board chose Smock among more than 180 applicants for the position, vacated last year when longtime executive director Erich Schuttauf resigned to pursue other opportunities.
Like his predecessor, Smock is a law school graduate with a deep background in government affairs. A graduate of the University of Michigan and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Smock spent more than a decade in the private sector before working for a Michigan legislator from 2004-06. He spent the next three years as the legislative affairs manager for a financial services trade association.
Smock says that progression, from the corporate world to the public sector to government work to the “quasi-public sector” of lobbying and trade association involvement provided him with a strong foundation to lead AANR, which is something of an unconventional trade group.
“It’s a traditional trade association but it also has a social mission, almost a Civil Rights mission to it, in that folks should be allowed, where appropriate, to be nude if they so choose,” Smock says. “The idea is that even if you’re not a nudist yourself, you should respect the rights of nudists to privacy as long as it’s not hurting anyone else.”
Smock says AANR’s membership challenges are common to trade associations in recent years. That’s partly because of the economy, which he says should not be used as an excuse, and also because people in their twenties and thirties are less inclined to join organizations than in previous generations.
“Our society with Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club and online retailing has conditioned us to expect a lot for the least amount of money possible,” he says. “In many cases that’s true. But it’s up to AANR, working with the clubs and the regions, to present a united front and show members the reasons why they should join and the value they receive.”
Smock says those reasons could include AANR getting more involved with issues that are important to potential younger members and that do not stray from AANR’s core message, much like the organization’s involvement with breast cancer awareness.
“There are some issues young people support that we can also support as a way of outreach and being good citizens in areas where we operate,” Smock says.
“You have to get the message out, build those relationships, and put yourself in the lawmakers’ shoes to see what they’re facing from their colleagues and from their district and state,” Smock says. “My mission, in addition to what we’re doing internally, is to carry the message to lawmakers and let them know through education what AANR does.
“There always will be those who say, ‘I can’t support an organization that supports nudity no matter how wholesome it may be,’ but if you keep educating these lawmakers and show that we’re a resource if they have questions, that just works the best for everyone.”
Smock and his wife, Kathleen, have been married for 16 years and have two sons, ages 10 and 14. An avid fan of the University of Michigan football team and the Detroit Tigers, Smock says he hopes to catch the Tigers during spring training in Lakeland – or at least when they play the Houston Astros near the AANR office in Kissimmee.
He says he plans to spend much of his time in the beginning getting to know the AANR board, regions, and the clubs.
“I certainly appreciate the trust and confidence of the board in selecting me,” Smock said. “I know there were a lot of people who applied for this position. I’m honored to be chosen and appreciate the confidence of the membership, club owners, and everyone associated with AANR. I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities.”
There’s a lot more walking around the house naked.