The 2009 PRSA National Assembly is over. In just nine hours, the more than 220 delegates and National Board members present in San Diego managed to streamline the PRSA bylaws by more than 25% into a clear, concise, six-page document that will guide PRSA’s governance for years to come.
While not all the votes went the way I wanted them to, or the Board hoped they would go, the process worked as intended and we have National Bylaws that reflect the views and wills of the membership as a whole.
It is important to step back to thank Dave Rickey, APR, the chair of the National Bylaws Task Force. He led a (mostly) thankless, time-consuming effort, and did the one thing we needed most – set the stage and parameters for an important and difficult discussion. We should send him (and the rest of his committee) a big thank you. He was the driving force behind the many positive changes that came about through this process. Mike Cherenson and Colette Trohan did an amazing job running the meeting.
Debate was to the point and civil. While passions were evident, it was one of the best informed and well-argued assemblies in which I have ever taken part.
As many of you know, I had championed four key issues. I am proud to report that those four issues all prevailed. It was not due to me, or the Northeast District, but rather a concerted effort by a group of passionate professionals throughout the United States who were not afraid to argue for what they believed in.
Resolution of the hottest issues were:
1. Election of National Officers and Board – The PRSA Assembly will continue to elect the national Board of Directors and officers for the time being. It was the view of the Assembly that we needed additional information on how direct elections would be held, before moving irrevocably in that direction.
A resolution passed by a 3:2 majority asking the board to provide specific, detailed information before advancing this issue again. Does this mean it will pass if it comes up again? Based on the way the voting went, I am not sure.
2. District representation is maintained on the board—The Board of Directors will still be comprised of one member from each PRSA district, plus two at large members and the officers. The one change is that if someone from a District doesn’t run, the National Nominating Committee will no longer have to extend a deadline two or three times and try to find a candidate. The seat will go “at-large” for that election only, allowing the Nominating Committee to fill it with a candidate from a district who would otherwise be turned away.
3. The Assembly has morphed into the “Leadership Assembly”—What this means will depend on how Gary and the rest of the National Board want to use us, but the delegates can be much more involved throughout the year.
4. APR is still required for National Board and Office positions—Passionate arguments were heard on both sides of this debate. But the move to remove APR is an election requirement failed. In all honesty, I consider this to be a good thing for tactical purposes. I believe the bylaws would not have passed if APR was removed. Those in favor of removing the requirement should try again in a year or two when the entire bylaws are not at stake.
5. PRSA will remain focused on PR (and Communications) people—The move to broaden the membership base and let in a much wider group of people failed. The language from the old bylaws carried forward. This is not disenfranchising “communications” or social media professionals. If you could join in the past, you can still be a member and can join in the future. The best speech of the day was given on this topic (and it wasn’t me!)
6. PRSA Chapters gain greater control over who they send to the Leadership Assembly – proposals to give weight to certain chapter members and set a one year terms of office for delegates were defeated. The language was modified to give Chapters complete control over who they send to the Assembly and for how long they may serve. Term limits were removed entirely.
About a dozen other issues were also discussed, debated and resolved.
The Northeast District and the Sunshine District continued to develop deeper bonds of friendship as we met (and partied) before and after the Assembly.
If you have any thoughts to share, or would like me to expound on any topics about the Assembly in greater detail, please let me know by leaving a comment.
It was a pleasure and an honor serving as your delegate.