Hoff Blackmer, O’Brien set new standard for women in rental

Apr. 04, 2021

Beth Hoff Blackmer, president, Aspen Rent-All, Basalt, Colo., and Rachel O’Brien, president, J & F Reddy Rents, St. Louis Park, Minn., are used to breaking barriers. This year they have done it again. For the first time in the history of the American Rental Association (ARA), two women rental operators are serving as board chairs at the same time: Hoff Blackmer as ARA chair and O’Brien as chair of the ARA Insurance board.

Beth Hoff Blackmer

“It is about time,” Hoff Blackmer says. “I think when I joined the ARA Insurance board in 2018, I was the first female in the history of ARA Insurance to be on the board. When I won the president-elect campaign at that time, I asked Rachel, with Phil Kelling’s (former ARA Insurance president) blessing, to step in because I thought we should put another female on the board. I knew she would do a great job. It’s amazing she will be chair the same time as me being chair of the ARA board. The significance is that there is now a conscious effort to have diversity on our boards.”

The timing of it all is “exciting,” O’Brien says. “I remember a quote Chris Wehrman, past ARA CEO, said to me during a discussion about women leaders. She told me, ‘Rachel, it is the right person at the right time.’ It just ended up that Beth and I are the right people at the right time. It just coincided that we are board chairs at the same time and that we both happen to be women.”

Rachel O’Brien

It didn’t even dawn on O’Brien that they were accomplishing a “first” for the association until Hoff Blackmer mentioned it during a Women in Rental Committee meeting, an outreach both women helped spearhead.

“Beth said this would be the first time two women were chairing these boards at the same time,” O’Brien says. “I said, ‘You have to be kidding.’ I was surprised that it hasn’t happened before now, but I also am surprised there have not been women on the insurance board. Beth and I are the first two women who have been on the insurance board. It definitely was not planned. It just happened. Another cool thing is that both Beth and I own general tool and construction companies. We are not in party rental. Who would have figured — two women and they don’t have any party rental in their operations?”

This achievement was not a set goal. Rather it was more about opportunities that each business leader didn’t pass up. Click here to learn more about this milestone in the April issue of Rental Management magazine.

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