This is a milestone year for the New Town Residential Association (NTRA). On April 1, the developer-controlled Board of Directors (BOD) will relinquish authority and responsibility for governance of this community and a homeowner-controlled BOD will be elected.
This transition period is a very important time. The work to audit documents, review status and recommend action, continues. One of the most critical tasks is recruiting qualified homeowners to serve on the new BOD; another, seeking additional volunteers for openings on all committees, including those newly formed.
Two residents, Lisa Trichel-Beavers and Bill Voliva, who formerly served on the RAB shared their experiences.
Lisa had never lived in an HOA community before becoming an early resident of Chelsea Green. “It was around 2011 when John Wright talked to me about getting involved. I knew that as a homeowner I should know more about HOAs. Serving on the RAB might be a good way to learn. So I pulled out the HOA docs and started reading,” she said, and added, “Everyone should do that – they explain a lot.”During her time on the RAB, Lisa says, she learned a great deal, but asked so many questions. “Too many, I thought. But then, other RAB members told me that my questions helped them look at issues from a different perspective.”
When Bill Voliva accepted a position on the RAB, he brought with him a great deal of experience. Before moving to Charlotte Park he was an executive manager at Kings Mill, a large, complex community. “I’ve had these responsibilities before, so I knew what I wanted to do as an RAB member.”
“Some people think they don’t have the right skills to be on an HOA board. There is not any one resume or set of credentials that mark an ideal BOD candidate. There are many ways to be an asset. One member may be a financial genius; while another is a speedy note-taker who can draft minutes within minutes of leaving the meeting. Having an appealing personality and the ability to engage another person in a frank, but fruitful discussion of issues, is a valuable quality that is sometimes overlooked,” according to Bill. “Right now we need to have as many people as possible become involved in various ways in running New Town, from its governance to its social activities. That would be one of the strongest links that we could have as we transition to managing our own community,” he asserted.
When the BOD was initially devising committees to carry out some of the management work, Lisa was part of an energetic campaign to recruit volunteers. From the beginning, according to Lisa, the BOD wanted a broad representation of residents and neighborhoods on the NTRA committees.
“Quite a few of us went out two by two and knocked on doors to make sure everyone knew what efforts were underway and what kind of help was needed. It was a great way to enlist people,” Lisa recalled. “We also held open meetings to discuss issues like those involved with building the community pool. Homeowners were encouraged to plan neighborhood events that would bring people together. Chelsea Green had great picnics with games for the kids. It was fun and we got to know each other. This would be a good time to do more of that.”
Lisa still uses every opportunity to sound out newcomers about their interests and skills, and persuade them of the rewards of volunteering. Upon learning that one young father she spoke to had agreed to serve on the RAB, she called him to offer babysitting services during meetings, should he need help. “It’s hard for parents to free up time for committee responsibilities, especially meetings — I thought babysitting might help,” she said, “and, I was really glad he stepped up.”
The Board’s decision in 2010 to create a Residential Advisory Board (RAB) proved to be an excellent step. The RAB has been able to foster communication throughout the neighborhoods, cultivate leadership and encourage greater involvement of NTRA members. In some ways the RAB actually served as an unplanned training ground for BOD service. But the RAB can only make recommendations; the BOD has the responsibility and the authority to make decisions.
“What I encourage people to do if they have any thoughts of putting themselves forward for BOD consideration, is to come and sit through a meeting. By simply watching the action that takes place they’ll learn what it is like to participate. Sitting there will also help that individual determine whether being on the BOD is something he or she wants to do, . . . or not,” Bill suggested.
He usually advises a community member who is interested in “getting started” with some type of involvement, to begin with one of the NTRA Committees. For someone who really enjoys gardening, the Landscape Committee would be a natural choice. “It’s an easier way to get comfortable with the process and learn how to work in concert with others,” Bill explained. “While committees are focused on projects or issues, the BOD is all encompassing. You can’t just think about part of the agenda. You have to care about all of it.”
Lisa and Bill, who have both remained active in the community, recognize that when homeowners are part of the process, they start to take ownership of the community and become invested in working out solutions to problems. There are many other personal benefits: new friends, better grasp of issues, being in the know. Best of all, it is very rewarding to help make changes and work towards solutions.
One of the main responsibilities of the BOD is to protect property values and maintain a sound community. For some NTRA members, this might be the main reason to step up as a BOD nominee. Others, remembering what caused them to buy a home here in the first place, may be motivated to protect the quality of life that we all enjoy. Both areas are important.
Under homeowner control many changes could be proposed: for example, rules and regulations, committee size and meeting time, use of common elements that belong to all NTRA members, and more. Members that want to have input in certain areas, should get involved soon with the committees and boards concerned. There will be important meetings to update NTRA members and help everyone understand issues as they arise. Be sure to attend and listen.
What we can all do is: Get informed (read the Docs, Committee minutes, Crier articles); Attend meetings (BOD, RAB, Transition or other Presentations); Persuade capable people to serve; Volunteer to serve in some capacity. Or maybe, . . . offer to babysit?