Delegates to PRSA’s Assembly came together on Nov. 7 and overwhelmingly approved a new set of bylaws that strengthen the Society. New provisions were adopted that give the Nominating Committee greater flexibility in proposing candidates for Board service, establish a “Leadership Assembly” to focus on issues of concern to the profession, and move the organization closer to the direct election of Directors and Officers for the National Board.
The Assembly adopted the comprehensive slate of changes to PRSA’s bylaws, which become effective immediately, by a final tally of 264 to 20. In most cases, the revisions successfully attached amendments proposed by Assembly Delegates to the original changes suggested by the Bylaws Rewrite Task Force. These amendments were tendered in an iterative and collaborative process that took place over a six-month period leading up to Assembly, which included a series of Assembly Delegate communications, teleconferences and eGroup discussions.
The enthusiastic and positive atmosphere during the deliberative process was a shining moment for PRSA. It demonstrated a tremendous level of cooperation among the PRSA Board, Chapters, Districts, Sections and other communities that comprise PRSA. Assembly Delegates also engaged in civil discourse that showed strong respect for the diversity of thought, interests and opinions within our Society.
Under the newly approved Bylaws, the Nominating Committee will now have the right to convert District-representative Board seats to at-large Board seats, in those cases when no candidates have been identified from within a particular District. This gives the committee greater flexibility to recommend qualified individuals for Board service, especially when multiple qualified candidates for a particular position exist.
Also, the nature and purpose of the Assembly is now transitioning from a purely deliberative body to a “Leadership Assembly” that focuses on issues of concern to the profession. Delegates will now identify and raise issues of importance for discussion by the Assembly and Board of Directors, while retaining their current legislative powers to approve Bylaws changes, Chapter dissolutions and dues structures.
While the Bylaws Task Force’s suggestion that PRSA members be given the power to directly elect the Society’s Board of Directors and Officers was defeated, a resolution was adopted that directs the Board of Directors to develop specific rules, policies and procedures for handling direct elections. This paves the way for the Assembly to reconsider such a change to the Bylaws in 2010, provided that a report on the policies and procedures for direct elections is made available to Delegates at least 90 days prior to the Assembly.
In other changes, the Assembly approved the participation of the president and chief operating officer of PRSA as a nonvoting, non-deliberating, ex-officio member of the Nominating Committee, for the purpose of providing historical context to aid in the nominating process. The Assembly also adopted procedures to solicit and obtain greater input from the sitting Board of Directors on candidates for future Board service; to allow Directors and Officers to run for multiple terms of office; and to require that individuals have previous experience on the PRSA Board, before being permitted to seek an Officer position.
A change that now expressly permits proxy voting by Assembly Delegates and other PRSA members was also adopted, by a 204 to 41 margin, helping to guarantee member representation at the Assembly.
In the final analysis, the Assembly Delegates were empowered to enact a series of Bylaws that they can call their own. There were no restrictions on what they could have proposed — truly anything could have been considered — and nothing was left on the table.
I’m pleased to say that, throughout the process, the Assembly Delegates acquitted themselves remarkably. They came together, tackled and resolved difficult issues, and did so in a way that was passionate, but also thoughtful, collegial and respectful.
While there is always a tendency is to look for winners and losers in a process such as this, I’m certain that those who were in the room today would all agree that it’s the future of PRSA that emerged on top.
*UPDATE: A post-Assembly survey of Delegates reveals an extremely high level of satisfaction with their experience at this year’s Assembly.
Michael G. Cherenson, APR, is 2009 Chair and CEO of PRSA.