Friday, May 11, 2012

CA Board Recap: Year One

Last night, I was re-elected/re-appointed from the Columbia Council to the Columbia Association Board of Directors.  I assure you that the magic trick that transforms the Columbia Council to the BoD is not worth going into here, but it is just complicated enough to have at least one person (for the last two years) say "How do we do this again?"

Said otherwise, I officially started the second year of my term.

This has been a very interesting journey and I would like to think I've taken all of you with me through just about every step.  I came on the Board thinking "This thing needs fixin' and I'm the guy with the hammer."  That was cocky.  It was also unfair to those who have long tenures on the Board who have tried to steer the ship in more subtle ways along the years.  There's not one member on this Board that doesn't think CA needs to be fixed in some way, with each viewing the "problem" in a different spot.

Somewhere near the mid-point of my term, one of my friends told me "You've been compromised, but that's ok.  That has to happen for you to get things done."  I spent the next week moping about the idea that I was the one that changed.  I thought "That's not true, I've just changed my methods."  I attempted to explain that "I can't just be a barn-burner."  Then I realized that the observation was not a criticism, but to the extent it may appear as much, it was true.  I was...ugh...compromised, but not in a way that changed my overall focus or goals for Board service.  I stopped trying to tear down walls and refocused on working within the parameters that were set.

A lot of this has to do with my appreciation of and friendship with the other members of the Board.  Lawyers have a very unfortunate trait in that we are made to have intense, uncompromising, winner-take-all arguments, and then invite the opponent out for a beer after it is over. (You've probably seen this trait on display throughout these pages).  When non-attorneys encounter this trait, it strikes them as sociopathic.  "Wait, you and I disagreed for just about that entire meeting.  You said my position was 'completely without merit' and then pushed for a vote overriding my concern.  Why are you being nice to me now that the meeting is over?"  This is something that I can't change about myself (despite a recent effort to soften my tone), but it is also something that will inevitably create barriers between me and those I disagree with.  I still like every one of these Board members and enjoy my opportunity to work through tough issues with them.  They frustrate me.  I frustrate them.  But our dedication and motivations can never be questioned.  I like that.

It is hard to recapitulate 24+ meetings at over 3.5 hours a pop in one post.  We've passed big things like Hobbit's Glenn and preliminary plans for Symphony Woods.  We've passed small things like the "Change in Operating Hours" policy. 

It is a rare experience to be so close to the ground while the plates are shifting.  For the first time in almost 50 years, this City is in the midst of fundamental change and reconfiguration.  It is very difficult for me to explain to all of you exactly how it feels to be in this position at this time.  Equal parts excitement and terror.  Hope and paranoia.  As I've said before, two of the most common thoughts I've had over the last year have been "This is big" and "We better not mess this up."  We are making decisions on motions that implicitly read at the end "...for the next 30 years."  For someone like me, that type of intensity is just about as good as it gets.

There is still a lot of work to be done.  Despite my better judgment, I have volunteered to be Chair of the Strategic Implementation Committee this year.  As Chair, I will sit on the Board Operations Committee (gaining that pesky vote that would have been so helpful to Board Reform last year), and run one-third of our Board meetings.  Similar to my motivation to run for a spot on the Board in the first place, I felt that I needed to put up or shut up.  Committee Chairs take on a lot of additional work, but they also have a great deal more responsibility with regard to the direction of the Board and its interactions with Staff.  I look forward to the new opportunity and hope my wife forgives another night out of the house for BoC meetings.

Finally, just about every time I've written something positive about CA Board service, at least one person has come to me and said "Tell me how you really feel."  It seems the sour tastes much better than the sweet.  And I'll be honest, there are as many frustrations with this endeavor as any of you had previously predicted.  But what no one predicted, and no one seems to be willing to accept, is how much I do enjoy this work.  I've worked too hard to build trust with all of you to blow that on some rainbow and lollipop tune that may conscript you to Board service.  "Ha ha, tricked you.  Now I can finally go back to watching Thursday Night Football.  Peace."  If anything, I was tricking people by writing overly negative posts about Board service to make some martyr out of myself for the rest of Columbia to sympathize over.  There is no other opportunity like this one in Columbia and I'm happy to be one of the people doing the work.

So let's wade in again, shall we?  I appreciate all of you that have read my bi-monthly posts and commented with your thoughts.  That has been sustenance through the tough parts and discipline through the easy ones.  I don't thank my wife on the blog when I can just as easily do so in person, but if you like what I'm doing, maybe you can thank her the next time you see her.  She deserves it more than me.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!