I'm penning this column in a Washington, DC hotel following the first full day of the American Institute of CPAs' Spring Council meeting.

Although I've written about the profession for nearly seven years, this is my first Council meeting. So far it's been a lot of fun meeting people I'd only talked to on the phone, and introducing myself to state society leaders, board members and garden variety council members from places like Montana, Wisconsin and Washington state. Aside from the Institute business being conducted which will make its way into the newswire and our other publications, Council meetings offer a rare opportunity to hobnob with a cross-section of AICPA members as well as gain me an audience with the profession's past, present and future leaders.

I learned that the Wisconsin faction was somewhat dismayed to find that the opening reception hors d'oeuvres were bereft of any cheese platters, and got the inside dope on the cascade legislation currently being considered in Seattle.

The Alabama faction made us impatient New Yorkers wait a good minute while they held the elevator for their compatriots following the opening night reception, earning them some ribbing about the slower pace of the South.

Once the proceedings got underway, I stood by as a Colorado member and Institute president Barry Melancon engaged in a friendly, yet heated exchange on whether to change the wording in a resolution about the future of the specialty credentials (the member won), and listened in at lunch as speakers who updated members on the Professional Ethics Committee critiqued their presentation and wondered how to condense a difficult issue into language members could better understand.

Institute chairpeople past, present and future decorated the front three or four tables in the JW Marriott ballroom, offering the interested observer a concrete glimpse of where the organization has been and where it might be headed in the future.

One new council member from an Eastern state who had never been involved in such a large-scale Institute gathering was dismayed by what he viewed as an overwrought process to get something accomplished. Used to operating in a small accounting firm, the Robert's Rules of Order proceedings, the diversity and size of the crowd, and the task at hand seemed a bit daunting.

By tomorrow, it should all feel old hand, to him, and to me. Council meetings are free and open to the press and anyone who's interested in how the AICPA works. Never been to one? Y'all come to the next one now, ya hear? The Alabama folks will be sure to hold the door open for you.

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