A condominium, cooperative or homeowners’ association is only as efficient as the elected board that oversees its day-to-day operations. Considering how difficult it can be to find time for family, leisure, and sleep amid work and assorted other obligations in today’s increasingly hectic world, just finding the requisite number of volunteers to make up the bare bones of a board can seem like a big task – never mind finding folks who can bring a mix of professional experience, empathy and a can-do attitude to his or her positions, and best promote the interests of their communities.
The traits that characterize a reliable board member are similar to those that might help a person excel in local government. Vibrant communicators who are equally adept at listening and can forego the impulse to prioritize personal gains make for dream board candidates – and indeed, they help set the tone for the board itself as a governing body once they’re in position and carrying out community business.
Build a Better Board
“I think that open communication with the homeowners is essential,” says Tina Straits, vice president and general manager of Baum Property Management in Aurora, Illinois. “A thoughtful board listens to and considers the opinions of the homeowners. And it’s helpful if they educate the homeowners on the process that an association goes through in regard to items such as modification requests, courtesy notices, and the responsibility of the association as a whole versus that of the individual homeowner.”
It’s crucial that a board member not be jarringly impacted by any development within his or her association. “Certainly a thick skin helps,” says Frank Anastasi, manager of the Riverwood Community Association in Port Charlotte, Florida. “Also understanding that you wear multiple caps, and have to put personal feelings aside. You’re working for the common good of the entire association, so you need to do what’s right for the whole – not what’s right for you. You need to be dedicated, and willing to understand many different issues.”
Bob Keegan, vice president and managing partner of Dirigo Management Company in Portland, Maine, opines that the ideal attributes of a board include “consistency in handling items; not allowing emotions to influence decision-making; strong communication skills; and working knowledge of governing documents.” On an individual basis, Keegan says that board members should exhibit “selflessness, a sense of fair play, honesty, a sense of humor, and a tendency to macro-manage.”