June 9th, 2007

Big Binder of Wisdom

Since I am now an alternate trustee at the library in town, and have attended two meetings as an alternate (one of which went three hours and the other went four) and since there is a second meeting scheduled for this month (let's just say this was more time commitment in the first couple months than I anticipated over the entire year and leave it at that), I have decided it's High Time I arrived with something more than a steno pad and a pen which I then largely ignore.

To solve the problem of Let's Review Document X and the related problem That's Described in Document Y, I am assembling the Big Binder of Board Wisdom. I noticed that other trustees have binders loaded with assorted documents. I now have a binder, and I have loaded it up with all the documents referred to in meetings so far that I was able to find. I'm missing some job descriptions (Clerk II, for one). I used the library trustee book I bought to get some additional ideas for documents to include. I inadvertantly left my car at the library yesterday/overnight (volunteered in the morning, was picked up by R. and Teddy and never got around to retrieving it), which gave me an opportunity today to make several photocopies and pick up some brochures from the front desk. I also talked to the Director yesterday about what should go in such a binder (and for her help in finding the documents I photocopied today). She asked if I'd be willing to make up such a binder for the other alternate. There's also a new trustee. I figure I should probably make an effort to get in touch with them both to find out if they want copies made up, or if they just want the list of documents and where to find them and will assemble them on their own, or if they've been ambitious enough to have already done this on their own.

The process of assembling this binder actually made me feel better about the whole alternate trustee thing. And the process of writing up a wish list of what I want to happen at the library made me feel better still.

musings on management and politicking

I know you can get a degree in political science. I know you can get a business degree. Yes, I know you can get several of each. Whatever.

Most people who are in politics (I think) do not have degrees in political science. And not knowing a whole lot about poli sci degree programs, I'm not entirely certain they cover what someone needs to know who has been elected, say, selectman, or to the school board.

How do new people in these positions -- whether elected or appointed -- learn how to do the/a good job? I know a lot of it is watch what the people around you are doing. I know a lot of it is mentoring. I know there are relevant courses you can take and books you can read. I know you can take what you know in one context (business, parenting) and cross-apply it in a new area (political office). There are probably numerous other strategies I have failed to think of.

When someone is a new trustee/school board member/selectman, which path do they typically take? I'm shotgunning it: I bought a book; I'm talking to other trustees; I've been on a condo board; I know a ton about this particular library and its problems. But it's still a helluva steep learning curve and I'm (as usual) dissatisfied with the huge, gaping holes in my knowledge. And increasingly concerned that I'm not the only person who doesn't know what they need to know to do a good job (and the books and articles I've read suggest that while we aren't the best board in terms of preparedness, we aren't the worst, either).

It would be nice to know how this works when things are going well, so I could figure out a way to imitate that, and show other people that model as well.