We've lived in our neighborhood for seven years now. The neighborhood itself is now 20 years old, with our house being one of the later ones to be done, coming in at fifteen. As such it's making the transition from a new neighborhood to an established one.
The economic downturn and the housing market collapse didn't do many favors. We had a handful of foreclosures and prices suffered around 30-40%, which matched the entire region. Luckily, things have bounced back over the past couple of years.
A current (outgoing) board member planted the seed recently that I should consider joining the board. I stay in contact with the board, inquiring about things going on around the neighborhood, and have also pointed out various things and made suggestions.
So, I went into our recent annual meeting thinking that I might join. And I did. I came out as secretary. There were four positions open: President, Vice President, Director, and Secretary. The outgoing president wanted the Director position, and as he's well thought of, nobody would win against him. A guy that's actively involved with a lot of outdoor stuff in our neighborhood wanted the VP position, which is tied to working with various contractors, so that was a natural fit. At that point, if I was interested, it was either to volunteer for President or Secretary. The President job is pretty involved, so I knew that if I wanted to be on the board, I should volunteer for Secretary. I did, and nobody else volunteered, so I won by default!
My official job is to take notes and put out communications, as well as attend board meetings and vote on issues that we are directed to.
I was interested in the opportunity for the following reasons:
- I've done it before – I was a member of the board in the condo association where I lived previously. So, I understand how a board works, and I'm not blind to the challenges that they face.
- It's good experience – Being a board member is something that you can put on a resume as a leadership position.
- I'm in the game – As I mentioned, I was in communication with the board at various times about things going on. Now, I'm off the sidelines and in the game.
- I can meet more people – These days, suburban life often sees neighbors live
without little more than a wave now and then, and even that's considered friendly. Now, I can be more open to people and strike up conversations without people wondering why a ‘stranger' is approaching them.
- I hope to reverse growing apathy – The participation rate of events and annual meetings is dismal. Not that I expect to take it from 20% to 80% just by my presence, I think simply walking around (which my family and I do anyways) and talking to people might help others feel more connected.
- I hope to help change perception – The last couple of boards did a great job of streamlining things, and also addressed complaints pretty rapidly. However, the perception is that it pretty much start and stopped there. As such, the board was seen along the lines as a school vice principal, the ones to enact discipline. If you heard from a board member, chances are you had been pegged for doing something wrong. I'd like to lead by example as well as work with the other board members to make it so that resident interactions with the board aren't always negative.
- Improve communication – I believe that one of my tasks will be to put out the newsletters that go out to residents. While the newsletters in the past were informative, they also tended to focus on the negative. For example, in the latest newsletter some of the major points were: About 5% of the residents were behind on dues. Too many people speed through the neighborhood. Some neighbors with dogs don't clean up as they should. Now, all of these are issues, but I firmly believe that some of the positive things that happened should have been noted as well, and they weren't. There was no mention of last year's block party. There was no mention that home prices are on the rise, or that we currently have no foreclosures for the first time in almost five year. While issues need to be addressed, I don't think they should be the sole focus of what the board presents.
In short, I don't think I'll be joining the board with the expectation that I'll set the world on fire. However, I look forward to making a difference and trying to put forth some minor changes that I think will benefit the neighborhood, and the new board, as a whole.
Readers, have any of you been involved in your HOA board or had any interactions with your board? Any positive experiences to share?