Saturday, May 23, 2015

Condominium Musings - Different Perspectives

Those of you who are following this blog, but are not my friend or neighbor may not know I am the president of our condo association.  I've not included much of that part of my life in this blog, but that is about to end.

This week I told the board that when my term expires in October, I will not be running again. With the terms of three members ending, it is impossible to predict that makeup of the board for 2015-2016.  We spoke about what I can do to make the transition as smooth as possible and the need to recruit good candidates, as well as the systems we've already put in place to make things easier for future boards.

Though I am not going to be on the board, I fully intend to remain active as a resident and member of the building and grounds, and conservation committees, as well as the Sherwood Samaritans.  I will also be more active in terms of communicating with residents on this blog, the Sherwood Beavers blog, and the website, something I have been unable to do as a board member, because time did not allow it, but more importantly I found there were things that I wanted to say as a resident, that I couldn't say as a board member. That ends today.

First a little background for folks who are relatively new to Sherwood Glen or don't know me.  In 2009, my wife and I moved to be near my grandson.  Shortly thereafter, I was asked to fill the term of the Board Secretary who was resigning.  While I didn't really want to do it, I've always had a problem saying no to anyone who asks for my help, and I felt that it was a good way to immerse myself in my new community.  So began my 6 year stint as a board member.

Then in October of 2013, the then president resigned.  I became president, not because I wanted the job, but I was the one best prepared to take over.  (If I had a nickle for every time I told Jill Coppi I would never want her job, I would be retired on an island somewhere.)  For me. accepting the role of president was the beginning of the end.  This was a job I knew I did not want as far back as 1970, and if you had asked me then if I would want to be the president of a condo association, I would have said NO in a heartbeat.  Nothing has changed since then and nothing will change in the future.

Flashback to 1970...  My 40 year teaching career was anything but typical.  During my first three years, I worked closely with administration and saw more aspects of the school culture than most classroom teachers experience in a lifetime. 

For three days a week during my senior year in college (I only had classes two days a week), I was a substitute teacher in Philadelphia.  After graduation, my first teaching job was as a permanent sub in a new junior high of 1700 students.  In my second year, they offered me a special class they were establishing. I would have a self-contained classroom of the 13 worst discipline problems in the 9th grade.  They gave me carte blanche to run the class as I saw fit, and told me that I would handle grades, all subject, parents, and anything else that came along.  They didn't want to be involved unless it was a police matter. 

For that year, I ran my own mini-school within a school, and experienced the full spectrum of the school culture.  I was principal, guidance councilor, mentor, and teacher.  It was the toughest year and most rewarding year of my life. If my writing skills were up to par then, or my memory up to par now, I would have a best selling book. On the other hand, if I did today some of what I did in 1970, you wouldn't be reading my book, you would be seeing me on news at 11:00.

During the year, the principal and assistant superintendent kept encouraging me to go back to school for my administrative certificate, but having had a taste of administration, I knew it was not for me. I can remember what I said to Jim Moran when he suggested it.  "No way, Jim.  I would never be able to hold a job.  I've seen the way you have to bite your tongue at board meetings.  I would never be able to do that."

I proved that point later in the year, by being one of the team leaders in one of the second teachers' strikes in NJ. I did it with the knowledge that I would be "fighting city hall", and would not have a job the following year. Boards tend to frown on non-tenured teachers being strike leaders.  I did it because I had the tools to do it and it was the right thing to do.  

As my teaching career progressed I added to my skill set and became an association vice president, member of the negotiating team, and member of the grievance team.  As time progressed, I honed my skills at being able to see conflicts from the perspective of both parties.  It served me in my job and it was a skill I stressed in my teaching.

None-the-less, there were two other times during my teaching career where I was forced into leadership roles when my heart and soul said, "Don't do it. It's a job you hate," but my brain said, "You have the tools and skills to help those around you and if you don't do it, it will bad for your heart and soul." 

That's the position I found myself in when I accepted the role of condo association president. Probably, the main difference between now and 1970 is that I've mellowed, can bite my tongue, and have been able to view things from the perspective of all parties involved.

I could go on for pages about, but I won't right now.  I will do that in future posts.  For now, I'll try to provide some insight into why I'm not going to continue on the board.  

One reason is that as president, I have to do things considerably different than I would be doing as an individual resident.  For example, I sometimes get complaints about things that are clearly home owner responsibilities.  A case in point would be the clearing of snow around cars parked in the driveway.   Depending on the circumstances, as president, I have to explain (sometimes in vain) that it is not an association issue.  Seldom does it leave me (or the other person) feeling good.  On the other hand, if that same person had come to me as a neighbor and said, "Art, can you help me clear my driveway?"  I would be out there in a heart beat and we would both feel better about the situation.  In my capacity as neighbor AND a past president, I could even help them see why it isn't an association issue. The net results is that we will probably both walk away happier from a conversation with Art the neighbor, than Art, the president. This is taking a toll on my spirit.

Another thing that is contrary to my nature, is the way people view imperfections.  When some of us look in a mirror, we are not happy with what we see.  We see the pimple in the middle of our forehead and allow it to dominate our self perspective.  We might think, that everyone who sees us will zoom in on that imperfection and judge us for it.   Others see the pimple, deal with it, forget it, and let it clear up and heal as it always does.

Yesterday, we had mulch spreading and landscape work.  Those who focus on the imperfections will who look out to their yard and  see only the dead shrub that was reported last week.  They lose sight of the fact that this is just one of 1400+ shrubs in the development.  No one is judging them for let the small blemish dominate their perspective. It's just the way some people are wired, but while focused on the blemish, they ignore the immense beauty around.

Before you go trying to figure out, whose plant this is, it is not a plant from Sherwood Glen and I'm not referring to any one plant or any one incident.  As always, some complaints are legitimate and others are not.

The reason this kind of incident bothers me is because if this plant was in front of my house, here is how I would handle it.  I know that each year, the board walks the property with Outdoor Pride to see what needs to be done during spring clean up and planting.  I would take a picture of the plant, send it to Great North and ask them to check it out.  That would be the end of it.  If it got replaced, great.  If it did not, it's not a big deal unless this kind of thing was also happening all around the development. I know that people visiting Sherwood Glen will not judge me or our development based on the dead plant.  They will judge us by what they see as they drive through our property.

Is your glass half empty or half full?  Mine is half full and even at that level, there is more water in it than I need.  I don't fault those who see the glass as half empty, because their perspective is different that mine. I consider myself lucky that I'm happy with what I have.  When I look at what I have, my feelings are tempered by a constant view of those who have less, rather than a view of my neighbors or those who have far more than I.

So there you have my first Condominium  Musing.  Feel free to leave your comments and perspectives and I hope you'll continue following my ramblings.