Monday, May 24, 2010

Why I support term limits – an editorial

Two proposed amendments to the BCRR By-Laws have been suggested and approved by the board for a vote in this general election on May 26:

One proposes to formally amend the number of Member-at-Large positions on the Executive Committee from three (3) to four (4). This was proposed to both accommodate the amount of work the Board has on its agenda and to recognize that the Board has functioned with four de facto members for several years.

The other proposes to institute a term limit of not more than three (3) consecutive years for the office of club president. There is currently no limit on the terms of any board position in BCRR. This provision is similar to the 3 year term limit in effect for the HARRA President. Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to term limits, but I personally feel the pros outweigh the cons for the following reasons:

1) Term Limits facilitate maintenance of an energetic and dynamic club over time.
2) Term Limits avoid potential stagnation of the board
3) Term Limits prevent “Incumbent Block”
4) Term Limits encourage participation and inclusion of more members in club affairs

Having limits on the presidential term ensures that there will be turnover within the board over time. Change is good- the introduction of new ideas and methods of doing things is, in my opinion, the best way to keep our club “fresh” and “on top”. I think we all recognize other running clubs with longstanding leadership that has changed little over time. While this can arguably be efficient, it also allows the members to become complacent. The argument is that if someone is willing to do the work, let them. However, in many instances the board becomes stagnant as well as efficient. There may be little change over “how we’ve always done things”- not the best strategy for maintaining a dynamic club responsive to the changing needs of its members and attractive to new recruits.

If one does want to be part of the process, running for office against a long-standing incumbent can be a daunting process (“Incumbent Block”). On the other hand, people are more willing to step up if they know the leadership will change. Thus term limits encourage (and in fact require) more of the membership to get involved with the actual “running” of the running club. This has to be good thing.

Perhaps the best argument against term limits is that if you have a good president who is willing and able to continue, why should you risk electing a new person who might not be as good (or much worse). This will almost certainly happen on occasion, but over time, it is in the best long-term interest of the club to have turnover of the board for the reasons stated above. Another oft stated argument is that one may need time to institute long term goals in the club. This is a valid argument, but three years should be sufficient time to institute any changes (such as new races, new programs, etc). Importantly, an individual is not prevented from holding office at a later date, as long as the terms are not contiguous.

I encourage you to read the existing BCRR By-Laws ( online. I welcome any opposing views (you can either send Neeraj Rohilla your essay and he will post on the blog separately, or you can directly respond to my post on the blog as a comment).

Kathi Mahon (current BCRR President)

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