November 2006 President's Message
By Barbara Toy
OCA Election Time!
My, my – how quickly this last year has gone by! Not only are the holidays looming, but it’s time once again for the OCA elections; specifically, it’s time for nominations for the Board of Trustees. For those who may not have been through this before, or who may have thrust these little details of club business into the furthest recesses of their memories where it’s hard to retrieve them, we take formal nominations at the general meetings in November and December of each year for the Board for the following year, and members can vote from the time the ballots are finalized and posted on the website (probably a few days after the December meeting) through to the end of the general meeting in January. Besides being nominated at the November or December general meetings, you can become a candidate by emailing Bob Buchheim, our club secretary (firstname.lastname@example.org) or me (email@example.com) about what Board position you want to run for.
Our Board is made up of eleven Trustees, four of them officers and seven Trustees at Large. The officers are President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Anyone who is a member in good standing of the club and who has been a member for at least a year can run for Trustee at Large, or for Secretary or Treasurer. Any member in good standing who has served on the Board at any time for at least a year can run for Vice President or President. That means that there are a whole lot of you out there who are qualified to run for the Board in any capacity – this is your chance to get your name on the ballot for the 2007 Board, and I hope you’ll take full advantage of it!
Q&A About The Board:
“That’s all very well,” you say, “but what exactly would I be getting myself into if I were elected to the Board?” I’m really glad you asked that question – let me tell you a bit about it.
The Board is the body ultimately responsible for running the club, and we’ve been fortunate to have had an active and professional Board for quite a few years. Its regular meetings are held on a Sunday evening every other month beginning in January (sometimes – very rarely – there are additional meetings for emergency situations or a particular issue that can’t be handled properly at a regular meeting). The agenda for the meetings includes all significant budget matters facing the club, general policy matters, various club projects, and requests or issues brought by individual club members. Between meetings, Board members keep in touch by email, and information about issues of concern to the Board is often exchanged by email to help prepare for discussion at the actual Board meetings.
So, if you’re a Trustee at Large, your formal duties would essentially be to attend the six regular Board meetings and keep up on Board issues by email – not very arduous at all. Honesty compels me to note, however, that almost everyone on the Board winds up volunteering to help with various matters that come before the Board, which results in involvement beyond just the meetings and emails – but that’s generally where the real fun of being on the Board comes in. You can’t tell in advance what issues or projects will come up, but a few of these that I recall include the Anza Planning Committee (which is still working on the development of the Anza site), the awards program that Bob Buchheim volunteered to manage, the installation of the Broadband system at Anza that Liam Kennedy conceived of and arranged when he was on the Board, organizing club banquets (Joel Harris volunteered for this in 2004, and Tom Kucharski in 2006), designing and arranging for the club bumper stickers (this was one of Matt Ota’s projects) and innumerable repairs and improvements at Anza that Gary Schones has undertaken. These activities are where Board members can really exercise their creativity on behalf of the club, and they can give a tremendous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction
“Well, that seems pretty easy,” you say, “but what if I wanted to run for one of the officer positions? What would I have to do then?”
As mentioned above, if you haven’t served on the Board before, there are only two officer positions you could run for, Treasurer and Secretary. Of the two, the Secretary position is a bit more straight-forward: according to the club’s bylaws, the Secretary is responsible for producing the minutes of the Board meetings, and for maintaining the official Minute Book, so we have some way of determining what the Board has done on various issues in the past. The Secretary also produces official correspondence on behalf of the club, as needed, and often takes on other responsibilities, such as collecting nominations for the ballot. Our current Secretary, Bob Buchheim, has also taken a very active role in our general meetings, as he generally does the announcements and he has also been producing the slide show that is shown before the meetings and at the breaks.
Defining the Treasurer’s duties is a bit more challenging. Charlie Oostdyk has held that position for many years, and, over time, he has become responsible for a number of somewhat related jobs, so it’s hard to know exactly where his job as Treasurer ends and these other responsibilities begin. The Treasurer is clearly responsible for managing the club’s financial affairs – so Charlie deals with such things as the club’s bank accounts and tax returns, and keeps track of money coming in and bills that need to be paid. A lot of the money coming in is from membership dues and pad/observatory fees, so Charlie also maintains the membership records and pad/observatory license records, sends out notices of when payments are due, keeps track of who has paid and who has not, and does appropriate follow-ups, etc. He also (because he has the most current membership information) has become responsible for generating the necessary envelopes and mailing labels and for processing and mailing out the Sirius Astronomer each month, as well as doing any other bulk mailing that the club might need. As part of keeping track of the club’s financial obligations, he deals with our broker over our insurance coverage each year, and deals with such things as the contracts with the Irvine Co. and Chapman University (even though we don’t actually pay any money for the facilities each of them lets us use). He also selects, obtains and sells the calendars, books and various other items you see for sale at his table at the general meetings (sometimes referred to as “Charlie’s store”), records the information for the club’s “Starline” information message each month, and a lot of other things that seem rather peripheral to a purely financial position, but certainly help keep the club running smoothly. Bottom line is that, if you ran for that position and won it, I really don’t know what to tell you about where your responsibilities would end. I just know that I am very grateful to Charlie for all he’s done for the club as Treasurer for all the years he’s held that position!
“Interesting,” you say, “but what if I want to be President or Vice President?”
If you’ve served on the Board for a year at any time, you could run for either of these positions. As to duties of these positions, the Vice President serves the vital function of dealing with the speakers for the monthly meetings – making sure we have a speaker for each of the meetings, dealing with any special equipment or other needs speakers might have, and introducing them at the time of their talks. The most challenging aspect of this part of the Vice Presidential duties is finding speakers, but this usually isn’t as hard as it might seem, as we have some “regulars” who can be relied on for an interesting talk every year or so, and a lot of people are willing to help out with suggestions and contacts, and many will even handle contacting prospective speakers. Also, even though the Vice President is in charge of finding the speakers, other Board members are very concerned when we don’t have a confirmed speaker for an upcoming meeting and will help out with finding someone.
Besides dealing with the speakers, the Vice President presides over general meetings and Board meetings when the President is absent, and, if the President can’t complete his or her term for some reason, the Vice President takes over that position. This is a rare situation, but it did happen several years ago when Wayne Johnson had to move to Tucson in the middle of his last term as President and the Vice President at that time, Russ Sipe, had to take over as President for the remainder of his term (which he handled very well, I might add).
The President’s formal duties are to preside at the general meetings and Board meetings, and generally to administer the club. In the past, the duties related to the general meetings included putting together the slide shows for each of the meetings, doing the announcements, and often helping to find speakers – with Bob Buchheim doing the slide shows and the announcements and with Craig Bobchin’s success in setting up speakers as far in advance as he can get commitments and actively seeking assistance as soon as he is aware of developing problems, the general meetings have turned out to require very little work from me as President this last year, for which I thank both of them! Board meetings require a bit more preparation, as the President drafts and circulates the agenda before the meetings, collects and brings relevant documentation on agenda items for Board members to consider, and is also supposed to bring such things as the club’s supply of paper plates and flatware for the potlucks that traditionally precede the meetings and help them get off to an amiable start.
The other formal duty is the President’s Message. I’ve never been told of any specific requirements for these other than that one should be done every month and that they need to be emailed to the editor of the Sirius Astronomer by the deadline, currently the 15th of each month. Content and format (and length) are pretty much up to each individual President. If you look back at the President’s Messages posted on the website since late 1999 or in past issues of the Sirius Astronomer, you’ll see that they often cover current events related to the club or in astronomical circles at the time, giving interesting snapshots of the past. The real point for my purpose here, though, is that each President approaches the President’s Message a bit differently, based on his or her interests and background, and these are all equally valid approaches – so, if you decide to run for President and win the position, you would essentially have a free hand in this aspect of the job.
Since the President is the club’s chief administrator and spokesperson, there are a lot of informal duties that go with the position, which essentially boil down to taking care of whatever comes up. Sometimes these are significant issues (such as the fire at Anza, getting notice that our insurance would not be renewed, and problems with locations for club functions such as the Beginners Class or the Silverado/ Black Star Canyon star parties, as a few examples), but usually they’re fairly minor – people wanting information about the club or club events, people wanting help with astronomical questions or wanting to know if we can show them “their” stars, people wanting to be put in contact with certain members of the club or wanting to sell astronomical equipment, and so on. A lot of people contact the President because that’s the first name they see on the “Contacts” list – the plus side is that you get to talk to a lot of interesting people as a result. As to major problems that come up, you quickly find that you are not alone in dealing with them, as other club members as well as other Board members are very generous about pitching in to help once they find out about a particular problem. Overall, even though you may hear that being President involves a lot of drudgery, that’s not really true, and, to the extent it might be the case at any particular time, that’s more than balanced by all the great people you get to work with and the other pleasures that go with the position.
The point of all this is…
…that serving on the Board, whether as a Trustee at Large or in one of the officer positions, is really a lot of fun as well as helpful to the club, and the duties that go with the various positions aren’t really onerous, even for the President and Vice President positions. If you talk to current or past Board members about why they decided to serve on the Board, most of them will tell you they wanted to give something back to the club – we’ve all benefited from what the club offers its members, and serving on the Board is a great way to “give back” by helping the club continue to grow in healthy directions. So, even though all of the election campaigning in the outside world may be leaving you cold about anything that even appears to be related, please do consider becoming a candidate for the 2007 Board. And, of course, come late December/early January, please be sure to vote!
© Barbara Toy, October 2006