Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: No one in our co-op building wants to run for the board. What can we do?

Start by talking to lawyers, accountants, and business people who can leverage their skills. But anyone who is willing to give their time and learn how the board works should be welcome.

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Question:

The board in our co-op has been in place for quite some time. Each year we are re-elected without opposition. Now, however, several board members would like to retire, but no one in the building seems willing to run. What can we do? Signed, Getting Tired Myself

Answer:

Dear Tired,

Congratulations on doing a great job. Clearly, your shareholders are happy with your performance or they would be running against you.  

My experience is that people are actually more hesitant about running for election than actually serving. It’s time consuming to make contact with people you may not know and try to convince them that you would be a good candidate. And, of course, there is always the chance of losing. Nobody likes that—especially adults!

What we have done in this situation is to start talking to people who we think may be good board members. We especially like to speak to lawyers, accountants, and business people who could bring their skills to the board. But anyone who is willing to give their time and learn how the board works is always welcome.

I would also suggest that a current member who is contemplating leaving do so in the middle of their term. That way you may appoint someone of your choosing. When election time comes, that person will have some name recognition and will not have to work as hard as someone that nobody knows. Of course, you should always inform people a few months before the annual meeting that there is an opening if anyone wants to run.

It is up to the entire board to find someone to join. The biggest advantage to stress is that a board member is not only looking out for the building in general, but in their own interest as well. And since your apartment is usually your biggest investment, this is a very good idea. Approach each potential candidate in an upbeat fashion (try to avoid talking about long, boring meetings and shareholders attacking you in the elevator).

If nothing else works, you might consider bringing your current board down in size, say from nine to seven people, or from seven to five people. But, usually if someone is approached in a positive manner, you will be able to find a replacement.

Ms. Demeanor


Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.