Barton Bonn: Industry Champion

Many years ago, Bart Bonn made the decision to get involved in securing the future of the indoor tanning industry and to protect his chain of tanning salons. Over the course of a decade, Bonn worked with other like-minded industry leaders to eventually organize the industry’s first tanning salon association – the American Suntanning Association. For four years, Bonn has been President and Executive Director for the ASA, leading the industry’s efforts in Washington and overseeing all aspects of the industry association.

Bonn was no stranger to politics, having previously worked on political campaigns in his home state of Nebraska. Building relationships with state and federal lawmakers were measures Bonn knew were necessary to protect his salon businesses.

In 2013, Bonn led a successful effort to get tanning salon services removed from the state of Nebraska’s state admissions tax. The lawsuit and political lobbying support to win that battle was very costly and time consuming, but Bonn is not a man to back down from a fight. “I’ve worked with Bart for many years and one thing I learned is that he doesn’t let anything get in his way when his mind is made up,” said Matt Russell, Smart Tan CEO and ASA’s new Executive Director. “If I am ever in a tough predicament, Bart is the first guy I would want standing by my side.”

Once the ASA organized and the Board determined that Washington was the core of the industry’s issues, Bonn took steps that few people would consider. “He packed up his Chrysler 300 along with this wife and moved to Washington, DC,” said Russell. “He wasn’t going to hope and pray someone in Washington was going to take care of the industry’s problems by sending a check or making a few phone calls; he went there to make sure it was getting done.”

Bonn rented an apartment and lived in D.C. at least two weeks a month, and sometimes for months at a time, while Congress was in session. Every day while in Washington, Bonn spent days, evenings, weekends and holidays attending Congressional meetings, dinner functions and fundraisers till the wee hours. “Like many businesses, relationships are created during social gatherings and after-hours events,” according to Russell. “Bart has earned the respect of many Washington insiders because they know the sacrifices he made to be there, representing his business and his industry.”

After years of leading our industry’s efforts, Bonn has stepped down as ASA President and will now be playing a consulting role as Immediate Past President. Melinda Norton, ASA’s newly elected President, is no stranger to Washington and has represented our industry alongside Bonn for the past several years. “Bart has been a great face for our industry and I’m proud to follow in his footsteps,” said Norton.

Bonn will continue traveling to Washington for at least another year offering his insight to ASA’s new leadership. “Bart has opened more doors for our industry than anyone could have,” said Russell. “His leadership couldn’t have come at a better time for our industry.”