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An interview with the Troopers’ interim director, Mike Ottoes, about recent events

by Harry Heidelmark, DCW staff
DCWphotog@aolcom

Following the decision by DCI’s Board of Directors on September 23, terminating the membership of the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps, Mike Ottoes was named interim director of the organization. Since then, he has spent a considerable amount of time determining the best direction for the corps and solutions to the issues taking Troopers off the competitive field, temporarily.

I sincerely appreciate Mr. Ottoes taking his valuable time to take part in this interview.

Harry Heidelmark: Could you please tell us your past and current relationship with the Troopers’ organization.

Mike Ottoes: I was a marching member of the Troopers from 1988 until I aged out in 1992. My years as a member had a life-changing impact on me as a young person, which is what fuels my passion for the corps today. I was part of the Troopers’ administration from 1996-1998 and I have been a regular supporter and fan over the years.

HH: What experience do you have that will guide you in your current position?

MO: I have a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Wyoming. I am currently vice president of a multi-million dollar moving and storage company with locations in five states and I manage over 100 employees.

I am very familiar with the drum corps activity, especially the business side of running a corps. I gained a great deal of experience during my time as a part of the Troopers’ administration.

HH: Were you surprised by DCI’s recent decision to terminate the Troopers’ membership status and do you believe the action by the board to be excessive or unjust?

MO: I was surprised, simply because I was not involved with the daily operations of the Troopers. After hearing the explanation given by DCI, I know they did not make this decision without careful consideration. They felt it was in the best interest of the Troopers and DCI.

I do not feel it was excessive or unjust. I am confident they will be as equally thoughtful when the time is appropriate for reinstatement. We are working closely with DCI to ensure we will meet their requirements.

HH: Do you believe you’ll be able to quickly solve the compliance issues DCI refered to in its announcement and can you tell us the nature of the issues that resulted in the action taken by the DCI board?

MO: It will take some time to solve the compliance issues. The Troopers have not turned in the IRS form #990 for some time. This was the basis for DCI’s decision. We are working with an accounting firm to resolve this as soon as possible.

HH: The corps’ former executive director, Mat Krum, resigned shortly after DCI’s announcement. Were the issues raised by DCI solely a result of shortcomings on his part or were DCI’s concerns more related to issues that were the responsibility of the corps’ board of directors? Will Krum continue to be a part of the Troopers’ organization?

MO: As most people know, running a drum corps is a team effort. There are many people who wish they had done things differently. The corps has been caught in a cycle of trying to take care of the field show before taking care of the business side. That will now change.

HH: It was recently announced that Troopers will not be fielding a competitive corps in 2006. Did DCI tell the corps it needed to take this action or was this solely a decision made by the Troopers’ board of directors and management?

MO: DCI encouraged us to take a step back and regroup for a year. The Troopers’ board, however, made the ultimate decision.

HH: What other steps have you already taken to correct the issues that led to the corps’ current status and ensure compliance in the future?

MO: Many things have happened over the past couple of weeks. We are working closely with an accounting firm to complete the 990s. We have a new business manager who is solidifying our financial picture. The board of directors is actively seeking new members to help strengthen it.

The board has an outreach committee to organize the outpouring of help that has been offered. Also, the board has formed an audit committee to oversee all financial matters.

HH: Do you foresee any major changes within the Troopers’ organizational structure?

MO: There will, of course, be changes. It is a bit early in the process to know in detail what they will be. We need time to evaluate the situation in order to make sound decisions.

HH: What do you see as your organization’s biggest obstacle to putting the corps in a better position, both on and off the competitive field?

MO: We must build our relationship with supporters, members and, of course, DCI. We must show them that things are changing and the Troopers will be back, bigger and stronger.

HH: Has there been any indication by DCI that the Troopers would be accepted back as a division I or II corps and do you have a preference?

MO: It is too early to make that determination.

HH: Bulletin board postings by corps members on the Troopers’ Web site — www.troopersdrumcorps.org — have expressed their loyalty and dedication to the “Long Blue Line.” If the corps has been reinstated by DCI, do you believe a majority of the corps’ current members will return for the 2007 competitive season?

MO: I certainly hope they will. Members will return to a solid organization and a solid drum corps. To be part of the 2007 Troopers will be very special.

HH: What can drum corps fans do to support the return of Troopers to the competitive arena?

MO: Any expression of support — financial, moral, expertise in a certain area; all are things we need.

HH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MO: I just want to thank all of the people who have offered to help the Troopers. The outpouring of support has been truly amazing. With the help of fans, alumni, supporters, members and staff, we will come back, bigger and better than ever.

HH: Once again, Mike, many thanks for your time in responding to my questions.

Opportunities abound for those looking for a way to support the Troopers while they reorganize to come back to DCI competition. Through Troopers’ Virtual Sheepwagon — www.troopers.safeshopper.com — fans can make tax-deductible contributions, purchase t-shirts, DVDs, CDs and additional Troopers memorabilia.

If you’d like to express what Troopers mean to you, feel free to share those feelings with the people of Casper, WY, through the local newspaper, the Casper Star Tribune, and its editor, Clark Walworth (clark.walworth@casperstartribune.net).

Several articles chronicling the latest developments concerning the Troopers have been composed by local reporter Tom Morton (tom.morton@casperstartribune.net) of the Casper Star Tribune, 170 Star Lane, Casper, WY 82604.

Troopers board member Milward Simpson has been appointed chairman of an outreach committee that will focus on building relationship with supporters and volunteer efforts.

Anyone who would like to get more personally involved in supporting the corps, please contact Simpson through the corps’ office: Troopers Drum & Bugle Corps, P.O. Box 375, Casper, WY 82602 or by e-mail at: info@troopersdrumcorps.org.

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Drum Corps World is published as an on-line electronic magazine by Sights & Sounds, Inc., Madison, WI. It is supported by advertising from manufacturers, service providers, corps, circuits and show sponsors. The publication began in October 1971 at the same time Drum Corps International was formed and has been produced continuously as a tabloid newspaper until April 2011 and on the Internet since May 2011. It is released monthly, as well as six additional e-mail blasts, one in late June, three during July and two in August.

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