ALEXANDRIA, Va. — When Vic Parra first sat behind the wheel of the United Motorcoach Association, keeping the engine running and the tires inflated were among his priorities.
“When I joined the board in 2000, it was more about survival and trying to make UMA a viable organization,” recalled Jeff Polzien, president of Red Carpet Charters in Oklahoma City and secretary of the UMA board of directors.
“Today it is a totally different organization. Under Vic’s leadership, UMA has become the go-to organization in the motorcoach industry,” Polzien said. “It has become a very great service, from Bus & Motorcoach News to Bus & Motorcoach Academy to the legislative efforts it puts out to protect the industry to the technical support it provides.”
Parra will retire as president and chief executive officer of UMA on March 31 after 19 years in the position.
“It has been a real pleasure working with Vic,” said Brian Scott, president of Escot Bus Lines in Largo, Fla., and a longtime member of the UMA board.
“He has seen the industry through good times and tough times. We’ve gone through 9/11 and other economic downturns that caused aggressive industry cleansing. We’ve gone through over-reaching government regulations and some of the industry’s best times,” Scott said.
Dennis Streif returned to the motorcoach industry in 2001 after spending time as a school bus contractor.
“I became more active with industry associations and got to know Vic,” Streif said. “Vic and the entire UMA organization work diligently to stay ahead of issues, such as technology and legal issues, for the betterment of the entire industry.
“When Vic became president and CEO of UMA, his charisma and close relationships with legislators in Washington, D.C., served the United Motorcoach Association well. He is a person who is respected,” said Streif, a UMA board member who is vice president of Vandalia Bus Lines in Caseyville, Ill.
“He is always on the ball all the time. He is articulate, very well dressed and always carries himself in a very professional manner. Vic has done a lot of great things for UMA and motorcoach operators.”
Polzien agreed, adding that Parra “did a great job of recruiting very strong board members to guide UMA. We owe a big thanks to Vic for the efforts he put in for many years.”
Steve Klika, a former president of the International Motorcoach Group who has been hired by the UMA board to manage a national search for Parra’s replacement, said the association has “some big shoes to fill.”
“Vic has taken the organization to a new level — there are so many initiatives he started. Now we have to find somebody who can take the baton and move it to the next level,” Klika said.
When reviewing candidates, “We are looking at their experience, their ability to deal with others, the leadership to set a vision in conjunction with the board and the management skills to implement it,” he said. “We also need to look at the ability to reach out to our members more directly with training and development opportunities and finding other ways to touch our members.”