This Old Board The Upsides and Downsides of Long-Serving Board Members

Rachel recently bought a condo in Chicago’s bustling Lakeview neighborhood—and from the outset, she didn’t take the process of purchasing a home lightly.

“I’m a first time homebuyer,” says Rachel, “and I was pretty specific about the neighborhood I wanted, the amenities I required, and the amount I could afford,” she said. After looking at more than 60 properties with her realtor, it was the charming foyer, the in-unit washer and dryer, and the spacious master bathroom in her new home that sealed the deal for Rachel. “Everything about it was pretty much perfect,” she says. “Once my offer was accepted, the process went pretty fast and I was moved in by the end of the month. I love it here—for the most part.”

The Value of Veterans

Unfortunately, the comforting hum of the washing machine does little to soothe the turmoil that churns amongst the board members in Rachel’s building. “There are some problems,” Rachel admits. “And they mostly stem from the old school members of the board.” In Rachel’s 15-unit self-managed building, some serious interpersonal issues between board members are causing strife. “The building is only about 16 years old,” says Rachel, “but some of the residents have been here since the beginning, and I think they can’t move past the ‘old days'—or just don't want to. They either want it to be like that again, or they dredge up old war stories and gripes about what they have been through and how they feel like we are backsliding as a building. They fight amongst themselves too, and I feel like I have to take sides. I talked to another newer owner in the building who felt the same way—he said it was like watching his parents fight over ancient history.”

We’ve all been faced with the old guard; in our buildings, at our jobs and in our communities. While their long history and experience can be beneficial and informative, when clung to for too long, however, it can also hold back improvements, new ideas and uncensored communication. Even worse, these senior members can create a despotic atmosphere, with a single member making the whole building feel like their own little fiefdom.

As Kurt R. Kojzarek, vice president of marketing at Property Specialists, Inc. in Rolling Meadows explains, there are benefits to having a veteran board member running a condo building or homeowners association.

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