PORTSMOUTH, NH -- Six New England state vending associations honored Melissa Johnson of Harold W. Young Inc. (Natick, MA) as the 2011 Harry Wishart Award recipient at their combined spring meeting here. The vending conference is taking place at Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel & Conference Center on June 11 and 12.
Johnson is the first woman to receive the annual award, which recognizes an operator or supplier who has demonstrated long, effective leadership in promoting the vending industry's interests throughout New England.
The six New England trade groups, which are state councils of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, are the New Hampshire Vending Association, Massachusetts Vending Association, Pine Tree Vending Association, Connecticut Vending Association, Rhode Island Vending Association and Vermont Vending Association. They work together closely on legislative issues.
In keeping with tradition, last year's honoree, Eric Mueller of United Snack Group (Cheshire, CT), selected Johnson as this year's winner after consulting with past recipients and getting their consensus. Mueller is also the legislative director of the Connecticut association.
Among her notable accomplishments, Johnson led the charge to defeat the legislative measure in New Hampshire in 2007 that would have put a 50¢ per pound tax on candy. Mueller praised her leadership on behalf of the vending industry, noting that she helped to stop a bill that could have had devastating consequences for operators throughout New England.
Mueller also recognized Johnson for working tirelessly alongside Rob Tappen, the inaugural Wishart award recipient in 2000, whose exemplary association involvement and leadership in New Hampshire ultimately benefited operators throughout New England. He thanked her for her role in organizing the joint confab, hosted this year by the New Hampshire Vending Association.
"Melissa has continuously been the 'glue' in New England who has kept operators in touch with all of the industry's important issues," said Mueller. "She joins a distinguished group of winners who take the lead in the way that they communicate with our members, act ethically and work for our common cause."
Todd Hedrich of Hedrich Vending (Presque Isle, ME) conceived the award that honors the memory of the late Harry Wishart, a vending pioneer from Maine who is widely regarded as one of the first independent product brokers. Wishart is credited for being the driving force that brought the New England associations together.
"I knew Harry personally, and he would have never taken any credit for anything. He always liked to set up the operator," said Lloyd "Bud" Willey of Canteen Vending's Maine operations. "He was the man behind the scenes. He loved to see new blood in the business and he relished the relationship that he had with second- and third-generation companies."
Harry Wishart Award past recipients are: Rob Tappen (2000); Mike Campbell (2001); Ed Jones (2002); Ed Dooley (2003); Todd Hedrich (2004); Allan Gilbert (2005); Larry Cohen (2006); Howard Michaels (2007); Lloyd "Bud" Willey Jr. (2008); in memory of Loren Athearn (2009); and Eric Mueller (2010).