The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), one of the most active and well-known colored gem and cultured pearl nonprofit organizations in the U.S., recently saw a rare change in its top leadership. Douglas K. Hucker, the organization’s CEO for the past 24 years, left the group in March, and board president Kimberly Collins stepped in as interim CEO.
Collins, the founder of Kimberly Collins Gems, was voted president of AGTA’s board in September 2021, a three-year position that covers the CEO seat should a sitting CEO resign or be removed. Collins says she will only be in the position until the group can identify and hire a full-time CEO.
But while she’s there, the veteran gem dealer is determined to change the character of the organization to a group that showcases the accomplishments and significant involvement of its board of directors.
AGTA’s current board vice president is David Nassi of 100% Natural Ltd.; its second vice president is Jaimeen Shah of Prima Gems USA; Ann Barker of Barker & Co. is its board secretary, and John Ford of the Lightning Ridge Collection by John Ford is the board’s treasurer. Ruben Bindra of B & B Fine Gems moved into the past-president position in September.
Collins has made big moves already. She recently led the AGTA board in brokering the organization’s return to JCK Las Vegas after it showed with Emerald Exhibitions in 2021. We caught up with the gem dealer to talk about her ideas and plans while she’s in the hot seat and beyond:
The Zing Report: Hi, Kimberly. What made you run for president of the board last year?
Kimberly Collins: People know I represent energy and excitement in the industry, I represent women and our end-consumer. I’m only the second elected woman president in AGTA’s 41 years. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a doer. I’m go, go, go, so I had to run for president. And the board’s executive committee is so savvy and sharp, no one wants to waste any time; they are doers, too. [With Hucker leaving] we’ve kind of divided and conquered when it comes to things we’ve had to do.
Do you have any thoughts of the CEO role being a permanent one for you?
I’m definitely an interim CEO. I’m temporary, and we’re looking for an amazing person to be CEO. I love this industry, but my giveback is in the presidency and encouraging our board of directors to do better and do more. I think there’s someone who can be a better CEO. It’s a full-time job and I have my own business! [All board positions are volunteer, while the CEO is a paid job].
Leadership voids can allow you to rethink an organization—do you think you and the board have been able to do this since Hucker’s departure?
My goal is for the future CEO to manage the organization like a proper 501c3, and be the face of the organization, but I want our board members to be spotlighted, too. I want to utilize the executive committee members. And as an aside, we have more women on the board than ever before—four of the 15 members are women.
What else are you tackling right now as interim CEO?
We are tightening up the financials. We’re strategizing how to streamline our money into stronger promotions for colored gems and cultured pearls. My belief is that if the acronym “AGTA” is on the lips of the end consumers, it will benefit all our members. It will make our shows stronger, and it will help the retailer jeweler.
We have an eye on all our sources, we follow the sanctions, and there are so many amazing things we’ve done that people don’t know about. When the mines flooded from tsunami in Sri Lanka, when supported our members there and raised money to help. The AGTA Silicosis Abatement Project we did in India in 2018—that was really supported by three board members. Our code of ethics for members is the strongest in the industry worldwide. We are strengthening the brand and knowledge of who are we as AGTA and rediscovering why we’re so valuable. —Emili Vesilind
Top photo: A green/grey spinel from AGTA member Tairona Co. (courtesy @taironacoprofitrocks)