What just happened? This was my reaction in December when what Lemony Snicket might call 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' landed me on the RRRHA Board.
Up until last year I was clueless about the role of a residential association, other than it asks for an annual encumbrance fee which grants access to the park facilities. Then I fell on an icy pathway and started wondering who (if anyone) was responsible for keeping it cleared and safe. It took a while to find out more and I ended up writing a short article for the local journal about walk paths, the state of them, and who they belonged to. By now, a bee was starting to buzz in the bonnet. There didn't seem to be an easy way to get hold of the right person at the right time to raise concerns, or have any certainty they would be addressed. By September 2015 my complaints had reached the RRRHA President who invited me to a board meeting. The outcome was that I was asked to help with improving communications.
Life engineered a slight delay and, in the interim, rumours were swirling about dark deeds up at the Ranch. Given my recent encounter with the Board, I offered to try and find out more. I took a list of concerns to the President then reported my findings both to the original group and subsequently to a restive and loudly hostile Annual General Meeting. To my internal horror, my name was promptly put forward as a candidate to join the Board. What to do? My churning gut screamed "NO!" However, I had already half-committed to lending a hand to improve communications. In short, suspecting there would be nothing but bear traps ahead, I still felt morally obliged to step up.
Little did I suspect that one week later, my fellow directors would elect me President. Gulp. Bear traps were multiplying. However well-intentioned my predecessors may have been, the reality that confronted me was a system that functioned haphazardly. The kindest interpretation is that too much pressure on too few people with too little time led to some procedural shortcuts. The previous board had recognised some shortcomings and hired a professional external consultant whose recommendations were now waiting in my in-tray, the equivalent of an emergency siren blaring: wholesale reforms were going to be necessary.
Two months on, working the equivalent of 50-60 (unpaid) hours each week alongside a handful of directors and stalwart staff members also putting in considerable effort, we are starting to make headway on the most urgent priority issues: the organisational structure has been redesigned to transition the Board of Directors from a hands-on administrative body into a governance and policy-setting body with day-to-day administration in the hands of permanent staff with appropriate expertise (recruited and appointed by February 1st). Health and safety procedures have been brought up to code. Your volunteer directors, assigned to specific areas of responsibility in committees (e.g. Budget, Operations, Bylaws) have been working hard to redraft policies and procedures to put in place the highest standards of professional and ethical behaviour as well as imposing formal internal controls over assets and spending.
We have only just begun. And there is still a mountain to climb. Our hope is that when we report back to the membership at the end of March, others will see that this effort has been worthwhile and will consider joining us to complete the task. Onward and upward!