Behind the bureaucracies of the state boards are your peers — working cosmetologists and nail technicians charged with protecting your — and their — customers' health and safety.
They are, perhaps, the most influential members of the beauty industry, making recommendations and decisions that affect all aspects of your career — how long you attend school and what you learn, your continuing education requirements, and whether you can use a drill. They are the members of the state boards of cosmetology.
While their specific responsibilities are legislatively mandated and vary by state, the primary role of the state board is to protect salon customers. To this end, they provide the administrative staffs with technical expertise, doing everything from formulating rules and regulations to overseeing disciplinary hearings, administering practical examinations, and inspecting schools.
Of the many questions raised in recent years about state boards of cosmetology, a few have focused on the industry-member boards. Namely, can industry members put consumers' interests before their own? Just a few years ago a number of states seemed to think not, introducing legislation to disband the state boards. However, the bills failed in all but California, and even there the Department of Consumer Affairs quickly replaced the policy-making board with an advisory council made of members from all facets of the industry.
While the structure of the, boards has been questioned, no one denies the importance of industry input to the administrative staffs that oversee licensing and regulatory enforcement. After all, who better understands the risks to consumers' health and safety from a poorly regulated industry than the people who perform the ser vices and know just what can go wrong?
"We don't really get that many complaints from the general public," admits Brenda Hoxsey, chairperson of the Oregon State Board. "But in testifying before legislators I see that what we do is extremely important because legislators don't understand what we do and they don't realize the potential dangers consumers face. We treat the practitioner as a consumer, too, in terms of issues like ventilation and the use of methyl methacrylate."
Here, NAILS talks to current and former board members from a number of states about their backgrounds and how they got appointed, why they feel industry representation on the boards is important, and the challenges they think state boards face in the future.
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Dedication
Most boards consist of licensed cosmetologists and members of the public. In some states it's mandated that other industry segments, such as nails and esthetics, be represented, while in others the type of license isn't specified, and membership is open to anyone in the industry. State board members almost always are appointed by their governor, usually based on their application and letters of recommendation from people in the industry.
"I applied to the state board when one of the inspectors, who knew of my activities with the NCA, said I'd be good for the job," explains Nilsene Privette, a nail technician in Phoenix who served on the Arizona board for seven years. "I put together my resume and got letters of recommendation from some people in my community."
Cynthia Stramecky, owner of Taylortown School of Beauty in Taylor, Mich., applied for a position on the Michigan State Board when board members who knew her from her attendance at meetings recommended she apply for an opening. Stramecky has been in the industry for 37 years, most of which she has spent involved in various associations. Before becoming a board member she had worked with the state's testing office to develop tests and qualify examiners'.
Their motives for joining range from a desire to learn more about the state board and its processes to a desire to impact the industry. Linda Zesiger, owner of Salon Orleans in Las Vegas, for example, applied to the board in January after observing the rapid and huge growth in her native city. "It's my industry and I knew it needed change. Complaining doesn't do anything, you have to be willing to act. So I applied," she explains. "We need to keep up with all the new things coming in, like the increased use of drills."
Lucia Coito, on the other hand, served on the Nevada State Board for more than seven years, partly as a way to repay the state for having helped her when she needed a career. "I applied for a state program and the Southern Nevada Employment Agency gave me the opportunity to get my manicuring license," she remembers. Just four months after graduating she had a full appointment book at one of the most expensive salons in town and she's never looked back. When she applied to the state board five years later, she immediately was appointed.
Regardless of their motivations, all these board members have one thing in common: a passion for their careers. Board members volunteer an average of one to two days a month administering exams, reviewing case histories, evaluating policies and procedures, attending disciplinary hearings and public board meetings, and doing whatever else the position requires.
Industry Representation Vital
"A lack of industry representation would be very bad because many of the people who work in the administration are not licensed in cosmetology; they are just employees of the state. Because the board members work in the industry, we understand best what it takes to protect customers' health and safety," says Carol Martin, chair for the Idaho State Board.