Tom Van Buren assumes chairmanship of NPGA board

June 17, 2024 By    
Photo of Tom Van Buren and Jeff Stewart by Rodney Choice/Choice Photography)

Tom Van Buren, left, takes the gavel from Jeff Stewart and becomes the new chairman of the National Propane Gas Association board of directors. (Photo by Rodney Choice/Choice Photography)

Tom Van Buren’s appointment to chair of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) board of directors carries historical significance.

Van Buren, COO and executive vice president at Pico Propane and Fuels, part of the Meritum Energy Holdings group, became the sixth person in the industry’s history to chair both NPGA and the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) during their careers. He joins Milford Therrell, Daryl McClendon, David Lugar, Glenn Saunders and Stuart Weidie. Van Buren served as PERC chair from 2015-17.

Van Buren also enjoyed an up-close look at history in the making when Paula Wilson and Michelle Bimson Maggi became the first female chairs of PERC and NPGA, respectively. During their respective tenures, Wilson with PERC in 2013-15 and Bimson Maggi with NPGA in 2022-23, Van Buren served as secretary of PERC and vice chair of NPGA.

“That was both cool and awesome to see, and I learned so much from both,” he says of Wilson and Bimson Maggi.

Van Buren’s rise to NPGA chair also adds to his Meritum colleagues’ involvement in the industry. Meritum President and CEO Christopher Hill is the current vice chair of marketers for PERC, while Robert Chalmers, executive vice president and CFO at Meritum, served on the PERC council with Van Buren and later became chair as well.

When Van Buren took the gavel from outgoing NPGA Chair Jeff Stewart of Blue Star Gas at the association’s June meeting in Washington, D.C., he reflected on his journey – from growing up in Maine, to his college days in New York, to joining the Army and moving to Texas. He spoke fondly of joining the propane industry with Ferrellgas 25 years ago and learning from leaders like George Koloroutis, Boyd McGathey and Steve Wambold. They encouraged him to become active in the industry.

“One of my favorite phrases is ‘Iron sharpens iron,’” Van Buren said to industry members gathered in the nation’s capital. “Being in the presence of a strong person can help define another.”

Van Buren recalled how Bimson Maggi challenged the industry “to get in the arena” and fight for its future, how Stewart challenged propane marketers “to get uncomfortable” by adopting a new product or service to help grow the business and ultimately the industry.

“I’m going to emphasize both as I travel,” Van Buren said.

But he will have his own message for the industry, especially in an election year, he shared. And that is: Review your message.

“How do you communicate what you do?” he asked. “I used to say, ‘I’m in the propane industry,’ which is OK. But after the last few years, it’s not good enough. We are in a fight locally, at the state level and federally, and we have to be better at our messaging. We have an opportunity to share our story and what our propane product is all about versus just saying, ‘I’m in the propane industry.’”

Van Buren encouraged industry members to identify one other person at their respective companies who is not currently active in the industry.

“We need to plan for the future,” he said. “It’s fantastic to see the new youth business council and other efforts in our industry to help build bench strength and succession planning for our future.”

Whether that involvement comes within the state associations, NPGA or PERC, Van Buren said, “It all matters.”

In addition to Van Buren, NPGA appointed its other officers: Mike Hopsicker of Ray Murray Inc. as chair elect, DD Alexander of Global Gas as vice chair and Trent Hampton of Lakes Gas as treasurer.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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