From the PBC Porch —  2/28/14

Good Morning, PBC!

Just one topic in this “From the Porch”, because I’ve received questions from several of you, and we’ve got some elections coming up.  It’s PBC “Civics Class” and today’s topic is the Board of Governors and elections.  The PBC Constitution and Bylaws may not be the most compelling of reading, so here’s the Cliff Notes version.  And to be completely transparent, my real motive here is to get interested PBC members thinking seriously about participating on the Board and using their skills and energy to bring PBC to the next level.

As you may know, we have a 9-person Board that is the governing body of PBC.  Three board members are elected every year, each for a three-year term.  (My Board tenure finishes in 2015, in case you’re counting the days).   There are no term limits, but this year the three Board members whose terms are expiring have all indicated that they will not be seeking re-election.  Those three members are long-standing members Gretchen Ellsworth and Tom Stork, with at least a quarter century of Board tenure between them, and Mike Malone, who very ably served for one term but has moved west.  There will be more tribute to these great stewards of PBC in the near future, and on behalf of the entire Club, I thank them for their commitment and many contributions to the PBC community.

Getting into the meat of corporate law, Board members have a fiduciary obligation to the Club to always act in the best interests of the organization as a whole.  Because board members may, in certain very limited circumstances, also be held individually liable for the actions of the organization, we carry Directors and Officers coverage as part of our liability umbrella (and hopefully that will never have to be used).  Board meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month, starting at 6:30 p.m. and typically ending around 9:00 p.m. Board members pay full dues, and receive no benefits, other than the fulfilling legacy of having served the Club, along with a material increase in the number of emails they receive.  The officer positions of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer are separately elected from among the Board members (more on that in the next Civics lesson).  Board members also often play a very active, sometimes Chairperson, role on our standing committees, or on special initiatives, such as our new 501(c)(3) organization, the Potomac River Boathouse Foundation (more on that soon, too).  Having a Board member as part of every Committee is an excellent way to ensure that there is good connectivity between the Committee and the elected governance of the Club.

So why become a Board member?  If you have a belief that you can improve the Club, and have the time, energy and passion to devote, you should give it serious consideration.  This is your chance to really ‘Bleed Red’!  The Board is a collaborative body; one useful thing learned by sitting on a Board, particularly a non-profit Board of an all-volunteer organization, is the need for balance and understanding of different viewpoints.  As we see from the stalemates in our national politics, the art of compromise is an effective way to get things done.

As for the elections themselves.   Our governing documents provide that only senior members in good standing (i.e., are current on all dues and fees payments), and who attend the Annual Meeting in person, may vote.   No proxies are allowed.  This may seem a bit anachronistic, as it tends to disenfranchise those members who are simply unable to attend the meeting, but that’s how our documents work.  We took a major stride to address this issue a few years ago by amending the Constitution to provide that the Annual Meeting may be held anytime during the first two weeks of April (the Constitution had previously required that it be held on the first Wednesday in April), thus allowing us to hold the Annual Meeting on a weekend –  this year, Sunday, April 13th.  But to move a step further, and allow membership voting by mail, electronically or through proxy, we would need another Constitutional amendment.  So please do come to the Annual Meeting, exercise your vote, and it’s a great time where we honor many of the people who have contributed to the Club over the prior year, and the food and drink are marvelous.

The Board is strongly encouraging those members who intend to run for a Board position to send a statement of why they would like to be considered for this opportunity, to the Secretary (click for contact form) for publication in a special ‘elections’ section on the PBC website.  This open forum will allow for a better understanding of the issues (and passions) that candidates may want to address, an opportunity for candidates to be known and thus available for questions before the meeting, and ultimately a more open process.   Our current process of candidate identification and consideration, in the space of a few minutes between floor nominations and elections at the meeting itself, is not really a model of good governance, and I’d like to see if we can improve on that.  So don’t be shy – let’s be upfront and proud about how we want to work for, and improve, PBC.

And a major congrats and thank you to our heroes at PBC – Sadie Quarrier and Lena Wang – who helped to save the life of the troubled soul who jumped into the Potomac about a week ago.  Read all about it on