Invacare’s Williams shifts gears

Friday, October 31, 2003

ELYRIA, Ohio - Dave Williams, who for 11 years has led Invacare’s political efforts and helped the industry score victories like the DME upgrade provision while staving off bugaboos like competitive bidding, is downshifting his duties from full time to irregular part-time employment, which he sometimes refers to as retirement.

Cara Bachenheimer, a partner in the Washington-based law firm of Epstein Becker & Green, will take over Williams’ duties as vice president of government relations. Williams will continue to work for Invacare as a specialist in legislative and political activities.

Bachenheimer will base her operations for Invacare in Washington.

Williams said the decision to step down after 11 years was related to his multiple sclerosis, a disease that first hit him in his twenties and has gradually worsened. Williams’s battle with MS is the subject of a memoir, Battling the Beast Within, that will be published early this winter.

Dealing with MS and a tough travel schedule ultimately proved incompatible, Williams said.

“I made 31 trips in 2002, about 25 of them to Washington,” Williams said. “It got to be too much.”

All those visits, last year, this year, and throughout the 1990s, did bear the kind of fruit that Williams looks back on with gratification.

“We’ve made Congress aware,” he said. “They are not buying it 100%, and some are choosing to ignore it, but we made Congress aware that there’s an option out there called home care.”

Williams also revels in the number of companies that have seen fit to establish government relations positions.

“For a lot of years, it was just me, and somebody from AAHomecare and Cara when she was with HIDA,” said Williams. “Now there are some really great people, like Rita Hostak, working on issues for other companies.”

Williams’ impact as a positive force for HME providers is roundly lauded.

“Dave Williams has been an inspirational force for this industry in lobbying,” said Calvin Cole, director of corporate development for Hoveround. “He has done as much for this industry as anyone. We all owe him a lot.”

Although Williams was employed by Invacare, providers say the tenor of Williams advocacy was such that he transcended identification with a single manufacturer and came to stand as a voice for the industry at large.

“I’ve had to remind myself that he works for Invacare because he never comes through as being partial,” said April Mason, president of Lifeplus in Raymond, N.H. “His impact has been tremendous. He’s worked tirelessly to have our message heard.”

One of his strengths, say Mason and others, is Williams’ ability to cut to the chase.

“He’s able to cut through all the political legislative jargon and encapsulate for us as providers what it is we need to do, the time frame we need to do it in, and how to go about doing it,” said Mason. “He knows it so well that he can drill down to what our plan and strategy should be.”

Providers say, above all they’ll miss the kind of tenacity and passion that Williams brought to the industry.

“You go find all the superlatives out there,” said Tom Ryan, president of Home Care Concepts in Farmindale, N.Y., “and I’ll put him them all behind Dave Williams.”