Saturday December 17, 2016 was the end of the Trusteeship of DAV Chapter 23 (West Seattle) and the election of a reform slate of candidates.
The meeting began with the Trustees turning over the meeting to an official from National, who read a list of 10 conditions for ending the Trusteeship. We had all heard they were coming but didn't know what they were, and were worried. There was nothing to worry about; the 10 conditions were all things that we should be doing and should have been doing all along, such as getting the Service Officer Program regularized, with posted and official hours. In some cases the conditions appeared to be direct responses to things in the reform slate's letter to National, such as emphasizing that the Chapter exists to provide service, not merely as a social club for its members. Maybe it was a coincidence, but anyway the conditions were welcome, at least by the reform group.
The next step was the election, presided over by National in a professional but good-humored way. The Bylaws in effect were from several decades ago and included several provisions no longer in common use at DAV (such as including a Judge Advocate on the executive board); one of the conditions was to bring the Bylaws up to date which would almost certainly eliminate the superfluous positions, but in the meantime we had to follow the rules in effect. Whenever there was a question, the official would read the pertinent section from the Bylaws and that was a pretty professional way of handling things. It certainly made it impossible to disagree with the ruling!
During the election, there were several moments of humor. Whenever there was a problem with the voting or a lost pen or anything, someone would say "The Russians Did It!" and everyone laughed.
The first balloting was by writing names on slips of paper, which sounds straightforward but don't worry, there were ways for there to be problems. Three candidates were nominated for Commander - one candidate was "Ron Bryant" and another candidate is "Roy Brimley". Some people wrote R scribble Br scribble had to be decyphered. The reform slate had intended to nominate Mr. Bryant but when snap elections were called he was on his annual residence out of state. The reform posse then picked Mr. Williams but word didn't get around so both reform candidates got nominated, splitting the vote. Fortunately for reform, Williams got one more vote but it was a near thing.
But that didn't end it. The list of all members included 23 who were present. 24 ballots were counted. We were all surprised. It seemed inconceivable that anyone would vote twice, but a count is a count.
The National official conducted a second balloting. This was complicated because one more Member had come in the door; the official admitted the member and ruled that the doors were now closed; anyone else coming in couldn't vote for the rest of the meeting.
For the second ballot, there were 24 members present on the membership roll, and 25 ballots. Now we were REALLY confused; it just not seem possible that someone would cast two ballots both as a matter of fairness AND now with everyone watching what was going on. The National guy ruled we needed to go with a raise-hand ballot; he pointed at each of the Members in turn, who then voted. Result: 25 votes, out of a list of 24.
More puzzlement. Finally by comparing the names on the list to everyone in the room it was figured out that one long-time member, who had a valid Chapter ID card and everything, had have been assigned to Chapter 23 Wyoming instead of Chapter 23 Washington State. Since he'd never lived in Wyoming the National officer ruled this this was a clerical error, the member's vote was counted, and the tally finished at 25.
Since I'm in the Auxiliary I did not vote, but the Officer running did not necessarily no this nor would it have been prudent to make assumptions, so when he pointed at me, at first I waved him off but, when he asked if I was abstaining, I said "Not Eligible" - more words than I've spoken aloud at the last six meetings.
The Reform slate took the positions of Commander, Senior Vice Commander and Treasurer; the old guard retained Junior Vice Commander and Chaplain. The other positions - which would be eliminated when the Bylaws were reformed - were tossed around like hot potatoes until various people agreed to hold them, just to satisfy the rules. The election the adjourned, and new Commander elect held a brief meeting. He made it a point that everyone was allowed and encouraged to speak up, and several people made various comments. That seemed to be a good start; we will not agree on everything and that's actually a good thing, but open conversation is the basis of a healthy organization like this.
The meeting adjourned and then people just hung out talking for a long time after - another good sign. Upstairs the Department of Washington was conducting a training of some sort, making good use of this building for the first time but surely not for the last time.
All in all, this was a good day. The Chapter is on its way to health and service. I am proud to have helped with written advocacy, putting the ideas of the reform group into a written form that the national office could understand. Often people who are experts in their subject matter area are just not great at expressing their facts and intentions in a way that effectively advocates for their position, but that's ok - that's what I do when I can.