Many of our posts have served as a place to make recommendations and point out our perceived deficiencies in the way a tournament is run or a decision was made. For a change of pace, we are congratulating USA Fencing on running, and Patrick Webster winning, the election for the VP of Domestic Development on the Referee’s Commission. (Full disclosure, Patrick serves as a Regional Member of the Ombudsman Committee) We also want to take this space to congratulate all the candidates who raised their hand to serve.
For those unclear on the process of how the VP of Domestic Development was selected, a respected nominating committee was formed. It consisted of three active referees, members from the Athlete’s Advisory Council, and a person appointed by the President. The interested applicants were screened and rated by the nominating committee. Two finalists were selected and put forward to a vote. Referees with at least a five rating who have officiated at a Nationals or Regional event in the last two years were eligible to vote.
As referees, our response rate to the ballots was incredible!! The ballot was sent to 600 referees, opened by 462, and 235 referees voted for their representation to the Referee’s Commission. If that number sounds underwhelming, some perspective is due. The average voter participation for non-profit Boards is typically 7%; send out 100 ballots and seven people will take the time to vote. When we have elections for USA Fencing’s Board, we sent it to 9000 members and we get about a 14% response rate. For the Referee’s Commission, close to 40% participation of those who were sent the ballot and 50% of those who opened it. If you took that as a measuring stick for engagement, that means that the referees are almost three times more invested in fencing’s future than the average member. That is amazing commitment from a dedicated group of people!
Could there be improvements to the entire election process? Of course. There were fruitful discussions held at the RC meeting this last weekend, which was attended by members of the National Office, with a promise to continue the talks. Remember, this is the second election we’ve have held specifically for the Referee’s Commission and that is significant.
The next step is to convince the Board to make this official. Patrick, while elected by a large percentage of his peers, must be presented to the Board by the President, and the President is under no obligation to allow him to serve. This is a handshake deal, and the true decision still rests in the hand of the President as our by-laws require it for serving on any Committee.
I ask you to take this opportunity to reach out to our Board, either face-to-face at a tournament, or via email and urge them to allow us to directly elect our representatives to the RC. That is the only way we get a true representative who answers to the referees they serve and manage, and not to the President who holds their future in his hands.