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Illinois Parks & Recreation
November / December 1995 • Volume 26, Number 6


Recruiting the Best
Finding good board members

by Dr. Ted Flickinger, CLP
by Dr. Ted Flickinger, CLP
IAPD Executive Director
Good boards don't just happen. Finding good board members and keeping them is a challenge. When one board member is replaced, the chemistry of the board can change dramatically.

Today there is a growing number of single-issue candidates running for elected office. These candidates campaign on popular issues, like anti-taxes, and many do not understand the nature of park districts and forest preserves as taxing bodies, nor the multifaceted work of these agencies. Good board candidates do not serve special interests, partisan politics nor seek the post with an axe to grind.

How do you recruit good board members? Not by waiting until election time.

Recruiting the best board candidates is an ongoing effort by current board members and staff. In his article on page 25 of this issue, Urbana Park District Director Robin Hall shares how advisory boards work as excellent feeder programs for future board members. When a citizen serves on an advisory board for a park district or forest preserve, you have time to learn about his or her boardmanship skills and attitudes about the agency. Additionally, this candidate has had some time to gain a broader knowledge of the agency's programs, services and budgetary matters.

Another place to seek well-informed candidates are among your volunteers. Query your volunteer coordinators. Find out who stands out as interested, diplomatic citizens who genuinely care about the district and its work in the community. Talk informally with these volunteers to learn more about their views and interests. You don't want a volunteer who sees only the needs of the museum shop, because he has volunteered for it for the past ten years.

Recruiting board members from other local boards is another way to find the best. Network on an ongoing basis with civic and philanthropic groups, service organizations like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, and chamber and tourism organizations. Individuals who serve on these boards are active in the community and share an interest in its quality of life. Get recommendations from fellow board members and leading staff in the organization to find the "creme of the crop."

An individual's representation on the park board can be influenced—positively or negatively—by his or her association with these organizations, as well as by occupation, ethnicity, and geographic area. A past board member for a youth service organization must be concerned with all ages. Decisions made by park district or forest preserve boards impact an entire community.

Serving on a park district or forest preserve board is serious business. A board member must also be concerned with protecting the open spaces and natural resources of the district. Board members must make decisions about millions of dollars of the taxpayers money. The job is too important to leave with individuals who don't care about the agency's mission, goals and objectives. In recruiting board members the concerns listed opposite should be addressed.

6 • Illinois Parks & Recreation November/December 1995

Does the board candidate express:
-a willingness to give time and energy to learn and carry out board duties;
- a willingness to make personal sacrifices, such as time away from family and work;
- respect for varied opinions, points of view and backgrounds;
- the ability to inspire the community's respect and support;
- a willingness to support board decisions, even when the decision conflicts with his or her personal views;
- an interest in participating in discussions with demonstrated reasoning, good judgement, and the courage of personal convictions;
- an ability to handle media criticism of board decisions;
- support for the executive director in his or her role as manager of the agency, and high ethical standards.

Key questions to ask potential board candidates:
Q: Why do you want to serve on the board?
Q: What organizations (local, civic, business or trade) have you served? What were your major accomplishments? (Ask for references from these organizations and follow-up. Determine from these background checks how the individual works with others to resolve issues or differing opinions.)
Q: What is your overall impression of the park district, its board and staff?
Q: How will political ties impact your board service?
Q: What issues do you want to see addressed by the park board?
Q: How do you see the role of the board member as it relates to the role of the director and staff?

Remember reciprocity during this question/answer period. Candidates should have a chance to ask questions of the board and staff. Supply candidates with ample information about the agency, arrange tours of the district and other orientation programs.

Recruiting the best takes time and resources. It's an ongoing commitment that pays dividends for the entire community.

Illinois Parks & Recreation • November/December 1995 • 7

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