This week’s PPAI Expo will be the final one for Carl Gerlach, MAS. The vice president of marketing at Gill Studios, Inc. and former PPAI board chair, Gerlach has announced he will retire on February 16 after 35 years at the Shawnee Mission, Kansas-based supplier. He has led the company’s marketing department for the past 33 years.

Gerlach will continue to serve as mayor of Overland Park, Kansas, one of the largest cities in the state, following his reelection to a fourth term this past fall.

Over the past three decades, Gerlach has been an active volunteer leader in the promotional products industry. In addition to serving on the PPAI board, he was also a member of several PPAI committees and chair of the Promotional Products Education Foundation. He was also one of the founding members and leaders of YESAA (Young Executives of the Specialty Advertising Industry).

Paul Lage, president and CEO of Gill Studios, says, “We will miss Carl’s leadership and vision at Gill. He has done a remarkable job of keeping this company in the higher echelon of our industry for several decades.”

Asked to comment on the best part about working in the promotional products industry, Gerlach says, “There are three things: first, the people in the industry. I started my career in this industry, and after four years I left for a job in another industry. I missed the people—both distributors and suppliers who were so friendly and helpful, even if they were competing against each other. So, when I had a chance to return, I immediately said yes. Some of my best friends are people from the promotional products industry. Second, the creativity of the industry. It is an exciting industry to come to work in every day. It is a challenge every day to meet with the demands of distributors to service their customers and to stay a step ahead of your competition. Last, the industry offers a great opportunity to get involved and give back to the industry. It’s another opportunity to continue to grow as a person.”

According to Gerlach, the best part about working at Gill Studios was what he learned there. “Gill taught me the true definitions of customer service and how to treat people with respect,” he says. “That knowledge not only helped me in the industry but also as I entered the political world of giving back to my community as mayor. It enabled me to help others, solve problems and look for what was the best outcome in the long run.”

Gerlach says he will most miss being able to see his friends at shows or picking up the phone to solve a business issue and then hearing how their family is doing. In addition to continuing his role as mayor, his plans for retirement include, spending more time with his new granddaughter and family, traveling with his wife, Jill, and playing more golf.