Monday, May 04, 2009

What's Up?

This morning I was asked whether I am a candidate to be president of my coop. My answer was that I am not seeking the job, but that if there are six board members who want me to, I will accept the job (and be the seventh vote.)

There is another person who I am told wants the job, but since the person who told me that is severely irony-challenged, I don't know for sure -- the statement the presumptive candidate is quoted as making could have been meant humorously.

I have already served as president of this coop for five years -- and I am completing my fourteenth year on the board. I do not want to be president -- it's quite enough to be a responsible board member. So why am I willing to accept the job?

First, though I say this who shouldn't, of all the present and potential board members, I am the most suited for the job -- temperamentally, by availability, and by experience. For over a decade now, the president has been a retired person. When I was president the first time, in the early 1980s, I was not only working but I was beginning a new career -- high school teaching. During my second stint, from May 2004 to May 2006, I was putting in 20 to 30 hour weeks at the job. I believe our outgoing president is averaging more time than I did.

I think I will able to chair even handedly. Depending on who gets on this time, there may be some sparks. I think I have the skill (or at least the vision of what's required) to help the board have vigorous but civilized discussions.

I think my experience at Morningside both on and off the board will help me help the board to be a better board.

Our main challenge right now is financial -- this has nothing to do with the current economic crisis, but that sure makes finding solutions more difficult.

The first time I was president I had just been overwhelmingly elected to the board for a second three year term. My three years as president ended in acrimony -- not over me, but it left such a bad taste in my mouth that I vowed never to be on the board again. Six or seven years later I ran again and that time I was tied for a one year term. I won the run off and a year later I was elected to a full three year term.
In 2004, I was on a trip in early February and when I checked my phone messages I had received an urgent message that things were awry at Morningside Gardens. Upon my return I was urged to run for the board (even though the official deadline for a candidacy had passed.) I did run and I was again elected with a large number of votes. I was elected president by the board, unseating the then current president. Two years later the same thing happened to me -- I was unseated by an incoming director.

In November 2007 I wrote in a small notebook:
Should I run for the board or shouldn't I?

I need to have my time.
If I run, I might want to be president.
Being president is too time-consuming.
It's fun.
I want to.
The corporation needs me (or somebody good.)
I'm good

As it happened, in December I decided against running -- then in January a board member implored me to run. So I did.
Sure enough, I was asked to be a candidate for president. It turned out, there weren't enough votes and I withdrew. I didn't really want to be president anyway, and I also did not think that the incumbent, who had unseated me two years before, was all that bad. We all have strengths and weaknesses and the question was this -- did her weaknesses trump her strengths? For some board members, the answer was yes -- and some were against her for political reasons. But there were an equal number who were for her on account of her strengths.

Some of that politics is still here, but the cast of characters is changing slightly, and my candidacy would not be challenging anyone. In our coop we have twelve directors; each year four are elected for three year terms. A director may serve a maximum of six consecutive years -- that is, normally, two three year terms. Three years ago, four new directors were elected -- three of them were clearly perceived to be part of a faction. This year, none of those three are running for reelection -- they are all going off the board.

I hesitate to say too much about the politics here -- largely because so much of it is driven by personalities. I will say this -- for each of the six candidates for the board there are people who say "I wouldn't vote for that person," because of either a personality trait or a position that person has taken (or is said to have taken) on a no longer live issue. In my judgment, none of those reasons speak at all to the question of whether any of the candidates will be a good board member.

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