Author: Cornish, Rick

Good ol' boys
As is my habit, I occasionally go to the Message Board and re-read, from start to finish, some of the longer, more controversial threads, almost like a narrative than like reading individual posts made over a week or two or even three. I find that by doing this sometimes I can glean a little more understanding of the issues involved than I get from reading the messages one at a time as they’re posted. I did this with the ‘Elections’ post this morning, and when I was finished I was struck by one of Chef Mike’s comments that, for me at least, explains so very, very much about the energy and angst that’s swirled around this topic. Here’s the comment that got me thinking…

“My Point is Last year I asked what the vote totals were? I was told that they would come out in the Breakdown. I thought that rather odd. It did raise some eyebrows. I had a few people come up to me after the meeting and make a few statements that were for the most part "Ugly". I don't really want to go into detail but it dealt mostly with them referring to the BOD as a bunch of Good ole boys, and that is the way it works around here.”

Driving back from Day-Yo Express in Jamestown, latte’ in hand, dog sniffing the morning air with head out back seat window, ears flapping in the breeze, the phrase that kept rattling through my head was Mike’s ‘good ole boys’ comment. (Note, it wasn’t his description of the board but rather some of the folks he’d spoken to after the election last October.) How silly, I thought, to actually imagine a bunch of old codgers sitting around a smoke filled room scheming up ways to hold on to power, accumulate more power, even use that power to our own personal ends. Absurd. But as I kept thinking about it, I began to realize that we eleven probably have as much in common with a group of good old boys as we do differences. Indulge me as I use an old exercise from my days as an English Lit major…’s called comparison and contrast.

Contrast—Good old boys think they’re ‘gooder’ than the general run of people, in our case, the general CBA membership—smarter, more clever, wiser. Just not the case with the current board, folks. Boy, do we know our limitations; they’re painfully evident when we face tough decisions.

Comparison—Most of the eleven of us are, in fact, old. There’s one forty-something, Lisa Burns, and the rest are fifties and sixties, and our leader, Carl, is in his seventies.

Contrast—We’re mostly, but not ALL, boys. Two women, Darby Brandli and Lisa Burns sit on the board. Darby for only a year, Lisa for six.

Comparison—As the phrase ‘good ole’ boys’ implies, all eleven board members are friends. Pretty good friends, in fact. But I think it’s important to note that, for the most part, as new members have come onto the board they didn’t even KNOW, much less were they friends with, the other ten. I remember when Bruce Campbell came on last year, for example, I had to take him around and introduce him to each and every member. No, there’s not some self-propagating dynasty at play here. And it’s not longevity that’s caused us to become good friends, it’s the fact that we spend a day together each month, are constantly calling or e-mailing one another, serving on committees with one another.

Contrast—The individuals that comprise a group of good old boys are very much the same. They have the same backgrounds, the same politics, they know the same people and, most important, they are of like mind. They share a single agenda. If you’ve ever attended a meeting of the board of directors of the California Bluegrass Association you know just how sharp a contrast this one really is. Our backgrounds are as different as you can imagine….from pipe fitter to corporate CEO, teacher to techno-geek. And politics, we don’t even want to go there. And while it’s true that we do most seriously have a single, unifying agenda, that of meeting the charter of our association, our ideas and schemes and plans and proposals for achieving that agenda can be, at least at the beginning of most discussionn, vastly different…..passionately different. So different that a casual observer would absolutely not believe that the two sides of a given issue after a hot debate could come out even speaking to one another, let along continuing to be friends.

Comparison—Good ole boys tend to watch one another’s back. They generally circle the wagons when adversity threatens. True of the CBA board, too. During our recent financial crisis, the eleven board members came together in a way that I’d never seen before. We were taking (continue to take) some pretty hard hits, and when you talked to one board member, one of one, you got the distinct feeling that she or he was speaking a party line, that she or he was defending the entire group and not just herself or himself. And that’s because we were. We decided from the very, very beginning that there was more than enough blame to go around, and we made a commitment to share it equally. Good old boys in that sense, absolutely.

Contrast—Because they do have similar backgrounds, politics, like opinions, and a single agenda, that of self-promotion, good old boys don’t need to spend a lot of time discussing issues and making decisions. In contrast, our CBA board spends hours and hours on some items. And here’s the secret, here’s the trick that allows us to fight like cats and dogs, then vote, then have lunch and pal around together—we NEVER make an important decision until everyone in the room….the board, officers, general members….feel they’ve been heard. Not just given a chance to speak, but actually feel like their position on a given topic has been heard and understood by the others.

Comparison—Good ole boys are the ‘deciders’. They make all the decisions and then they announce them to the common folk. It’s the same with the CBA’s elected board….we make decisions and then we announce them to the membership.

Contrast—Good ole boys make sure they get to keep being the deciders by rigging elections. The CBA board doesn’t.

You started a good thread, Mike. As you can see, it got some of us thinking.

Posted:  8/10/2007

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