Vol 45, Issue 1

September/October 2005

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STC Houston - Dateline Houston - September/October 2005

Community Paragraphs

by Sherry Michaels, Director Region 5

Sherry Michaels

Have you seen the 1984 movie Romancing the Stone? There's a line in it that I frequently think of these days. Michael Douglas delivers it after he and Kathleen Turner slide down a muddy slope to escape assassination: "Hooo-ha! What a day!"

STC is the midst of a time that can only be described as "Hooo-ha! What a day!"

Since induction at the annual business meeting in Seattle, the newly elected board of directors has dealt with a number of significant issues. Among the most impactful have been the resignations of STC Executive Director Peter Herbst and STC First Vice President Mike Bates. We are also continuing the work initiated by previous boards of moving STC into becoming a more responsive and open association for its members. In addition to that work and those events, we continue to develop better ways of communicating STC events and progress and accountability to our members.

Our most important task, that of visibly making our actions accountable to the members, and communicating them is taking time to develop. The STC board does not act in a vacuum. Every decision must be deployed and enacted by using one of three resources:

  • a competent, highly leveraged office staff
  • committees made up of members like you and various board members (recruited and elected from members like you)
  • outside consultants, which we obtain for below market price, to whom we refer for expertise outside that of the board

Such deployment demands creativity, reasoned approaches, and the responsible use of our finite resources to meet the member needs.

If I were to outline priorities that interest you most, I'd start with the following:

First, Suzanna Laurent, our president, developed steps of a process and appointed a committee to begin selection of a new executive director. Suzanna then sent a message to community leaders (via the president's mailing list) that we had change underway in this position, and the steps she took to manage the situation. When the committee finds worthy candidates, they will present the candidates to the board to decide upon. If we need an interim executive director, the committee has sorted through the resources and has plans in place to manage this potential issue.

Next, Mike Bates had responsibilities as a committee member for Governance, Finance and Education Support. These are all vital committees charged with improving STC into the future. Mike's resignation also left a decision vacuum that we had to fill immediately. According to the current bylaws, Suzanna appointed Second Vice President Paula Berger to step into Mike's first vice president position. Then Suzanna filled the second vice president position through appointment of Linda Oestreich (who had been a candidate for second vice president in the last election and had won the second highest number of votes). Linda has served on the board and has been actively dedicated to STC for more than 20 years. I believe that with so many of us new to STC governance, it's a very good thing to have the legacy knowledge that Linda can provide. A balance of progressive, new, reform-oriented board members and learned, knowledgeable board members can only be good for the membership of STC. Linda will serve as second vice president through the May 2006 annual board business meeting.

An essential piece of providing support and mentoring of community leadership is the Leadership Community Resource (LCR). The 2004–2005 board heard you when you said you needed the support of the "sponsor" side of director-sponsors. In response to your voices, the board asked Judy Glick-Smith to put together a resource pool that acts as a "triage" resource to any community that wants it. Judy and her team are developing a database that contains volunteer mentor names that LCR committee members can assign whenever a community wants advice on anything, such as leadership roles, volunteer recruitment, member recruitment, financial management and so forth. In the meantime, while Judy and her committee members are developing the structure and putting it together, directors still will perform the director-sponsor role.

Finally, in September we will approve our 2005–2006 budget. The approval process generates a great deal of examination, questions, and recommendations by the board members. Our newly elected treasurer, W. C. Wiese, asked for and received a number of questions from each of us. The responses to those inquiries and the inspection and discussion of them will lead the board members to an informed and balanced budget approval.

In addition to my role as the director of Region 5, which means I am responsive to members and I vote responsibly for those members, my "other job" is to complete the rechartering process for our communities. In that effort, I report to committee manager Victoria Koster-Lenhardt, director of Region 2. Rechartering is part of the Community Affairs committee, and I serve on that committee with Bob Dianetti, director of Region 4, and Vici. For the sake of managing STC committees well, STC presidents team each new director with a second-year director and a third-year director. Bob is in his second year as a director, and Vici is in her third. This process protects STC (the members) by assuring the passing on of legacy information. For the sake of managing the STC board well, the STC board has a reporting structure. I report to the second vice president, who was Paula Berger, but with the new changes in effect as of August 12, my STC "boss" will be Second Vice President Linda Oestreich.

As for communications, Suzanna appointed STC Fellow Lory Hawkes as Communications Committee manager. Paula Berger, Cindy Currie (director for Region 1), and I serve on this committee. We are working on several initiatives to get you more information and get it to you faster. We've gotten a lot of really good ideas from every source, and we will be implementing them as soon as we can. Our objective is to get information out to you, and to funnel information from you quickly, proactively, responsibly, and fully.

STC is a mature, big association. It is the biggest association of its kind, in the world. It takes the combined skills of volunteers (reform oriented and legacy), a very loyal and hardworking staff, and skillful management to ensure that your trust as a member is well placed.

STC is in the process of transitioning into a more dynamic, responsive organization that serves members more fully. In accomplishing this task we will no doubt encounter roadblocks and events that at times seem overwhelming and seem to be larger than our combined leadership experience, as diverse as it is. In these times we ask your indulgence as we work steadily, competently, and as quickly as we can in our volunteer capacities to move STC into a better place.

To sum up activity in STC at the board level over the last three months, I simply have to borrow from the script of Romancing the Stone. Hooo-ha! What a day! What a great new day for STC!

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