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Understanding AAPOR’s Executive Council Nomination Process

by Mollyann Brodie, Past President and Nominations Committee Chair
On February 15, the newest slate of candidates for AAPOR’s Executive Council will be released to the membership in advance of voting which begins in early March. I am following a new tradition established last year by Michael Link to ensure transparency and continuity by providing you all a step by step look at how the nominations process unfolded this year.  Given the importance of this process to our organization, I think it’s important that everyone understand how it works.
 
As Michael stated last year in these pages, the goal of the nominations process is to identify the best candidates who will serve AAPOR well in whichever roles they are nominated. The best slate is one in which either candidate for each office would serve as excellent leaders for our association  – a “win-win” situation for AAPOR. To arrive at this point takes a lot of input, effort, and good judgement by our members, the Nominations Committee, and AAPOR Council.
 
Our nominations process involves multiple steps, including a mix of prescribed actions and flexibility at the different stages:
 
Step 1: The Nominations Committee is formed. The charge of the committee is to conduct the nominations search process, ensuring that as wide a net as possible is cast for potential nominees and to provide AAPOR Council with a list of potential qualified nominees.
 
The current Past President chairs the committee and, by tradition, the current President sits on the committee as well. Like many AAPOR committees and task forces, the chair has fairly wide latitude in choosing how many people and who serve on the committee, but all members are ultimately approved by your Executive Council. Efforts are made to find a diverse set of individuals to serve on the nominating committee, including those from various sectors of the membership as well as considerations on the basis of gender, age, race, geography, stage in career, and other considerations.
 
The 2016-17 Nominations Committee included: Roger Tourangeau, Mandy Sha, Paul Braun, Jolene Smyth, Ginger Blazier, Mario Callergo, and Mollyann Brodie (Chair)
 
Step 2. A call (and several reminders) goes out to our membership with a description of the open positions and a request for nominations – either self-nominations or the nomination of others. There is no screening done at this stage of the process – the goal is to develop as deep and wide a pool for each position for the committee to consider. To be honest, few nominations come in through the official request for nominations process.  This is a stage where you can all have greater input in the future if you choose to. Towards the end of this period (which typically lasts about a month) the committee reaches out to encourage additional potential nominees for roles where nominations from members may be few. Vice President and Associate Conference Chair are the two roles which historically have had fewer nominees than desired at the outset of the process.  Additionally, the Nominations Committee reviewed lists of all AAPOR committee members, previous candidate lists, regional chapter officer lists, and recommendations from current and former Council members.  At the end of this stage we had a list of more than 200 names to consider. 
 
Step 3. The Committee reviews and discusses the list of individuals for each open position. Information such as volunteer service on AAPOR committees or task forces, past service on AAPOR Council, activity in the field, and other potentially relevant factors are considered. While service activities are certainly not mandatory for serving on AAPOR Council, they do tend to be differentiators when there are numerous potentially viable candidates.   Additionally, the committee looks for diversity of perspectives in the lists they develop, and pays attention to pipeline issues for both seeding committees with candidates who understand the specific scope of work of that committee and for AAPOR’s long term leadership options for the future.  Those who are viewed as qualified for the role for which they are nominated are then contacted by a committee member to ensure that, if selected by Council, they would indeed be willing to run for that office.
 
Once the committee has a list of confirmed potential candidates, the list is rank ordered in terms of the committee’s views on each candidate’s fitness for office. In the end, the goal of this phase is to identify 4-7 of the best potential candidates – any of whom would make great leaders in the roles within which they have been nominated. This rank-ordered list is then sent to the AAPOR Council.
 
Step 4. AAPOR Council meets annually in-person in January with an agenda item being the determination of the final slate of nominees for the members to consider. Each office is discussed in turn, with all Councilors offering their views on each of the nominated candidates in an effort to determine which two would make the best Councilors at this particular time if elected. Although Council has a proposed rank ordering from the Nominations Committee those recommendations are not always followed (nor should they be). At this stage, Council also pays a great deal of attention to ensure that the slate a whole, and any resulting Executive Council, is representative of the broader membership in terms of sector, gender, age, race, and geography.
 
Once the top two candidates are identified and Council believes they have a slate of candidates in which anyone who wins would make an excellent leader for the association, the final slate is then voted on and approved. For the 2017 slate, there was unanimous approval for all of the candidates running.
 
After the slate is approved, in an effort to make sure that the process is as transparent and as respectful as possible to all those who were willing to be nominated for AAPOR service, the members of the Nominations Committee reached each person contacted to report on the outcome, and to connect potential candidates who weren’t slated to run this year with appropriate Committee Chairs to assure that other available volunteer opportunities and leadership opportunities are filled by people who are committed to those arenas.  This helps to ensure the pipeline for future in that those most interested in serving in certain roles, have had an opportunity to gain the committee experiences necessary to help prepare them to be Associate Chairs and Chairs. 
 
After that it’s up to you -- the members -- to vote and determine who will have the pleasure of serving our organization on Council. So please, remember to vote this year when the ballots are made available in March!
 
One note about the offices and the candidates for this year.  The work of AAPOR’s Executive Council continues to evolve as the our organization continues to grow and our programs and offerings for our members expand.  For the past few years, Executive Council has discussed the idea of thinking about the office of Councilor-At-Large in a somewhat different way than it has been perceived historically.   Historically, while the role has some particular tasks and responsibilities assigned to it, it has been seen as a spot for a very experienced past leader of the organization (often past President) to provide guidance, historical context and “wise counsel” to the newer leaders who typical filled the other spots on the Executive Council.  However, with a more professionalized staff structure to help keep the historical context front and center for Executive Council and with more and more Executive Council members coming from committee service with more experience about how AAPOR functions before they arrive around the table, there is an opportunity to think about the Councilor-at-Larger position in a new way.  As a place for an emerging leader to get experience working with the organization on the national level.  To use a sports analogy, seeing the role as a  ‘utility player’ and an opportunity to expand the pipeline of experienced leaders working for AAPOR’s future.  You will see that the slate this year includes two fantastic nominees that fit this “newer” vision of the role, and Executive Council is excited to see how this vision works for AAPOR in the coming years.   Of course, some years, the more traditional vision for the role maybe the best way to proceed and for other years maybe this other perspective works well.  Future Councils, of course, have the flexibility to decide what is needed around the table in a given year.
 
Please join me in thanking the members of the Nominations Committee for their hard work, and of course, all the candidates who are so willing to spend their time and energy serving our community.
 
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE STARTING MARCH 9TH!
 
Mollyann Brodie
Past President and Chair AAPOR Nominations Committee