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District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

“Snowmen fall from heaven unassembled.”
 –Unknown

ell, Frosty, legions of snowmen parts hit the ground in late January/mid February in the great northeastern blizzard of 2015 that could; just as we were “suffering” through winter here in San Diego ... partial overcast sky, Santa Ana sunsets, and 72 degrees Fahrenheit at 5:00 p.m ... brrr.
Life is good out here, no snowmen, but so fortunate to live in our own Nirvana of rarely changing temps.
Horn Lake, Mississippi, population 26,635 including about 58 members of ACBL management’s  8:00-5:00 day-job army is still another story. Headquarters ACBL’s physical building resides in a riverbed near the mighty Mississippi, one that floods unmercifully in Tennessee/Mississippi springtime mini-monsoons, one of which almost wiped us out last year.
The weather in Horn Lake is often hot and humid in the summer, frigid and wet in the winter. The area sees its share of slick streets and rain-formed ice cycles. Wikipedia lists the city’s major highlight as “The headquarters of American Contract Bridge League ... a related Hall of Fame, museum and library.” Nothing more.
But Horn Lake has weathered another storm since last November; a growling of a few discontents doing their best to accuse board and management of dastardly deeds. Really? I still wonder how they have such misgivings about us. I personally spend days, weeks and months working with both, and can rarely find anything but praise for our leadership. Especially our CEO, Robert Hartman, and his devoted team of care-workers.

Robert’s Rule

In addition to Horn Lake’s office staff, ACBL employs 45 or so full time tournament directors, and maybe 100 part-timers. Not your local club directors, but that cadre of officials who run our sectionals, regionals, STACs and NABCs. These directors are inhouse-rated as to their expertise and tenure, the highest rank being national director and/or field supervisor. And now they have their very own Director University in progress! Here in the Western Conference our three districts are assigned Nancy Boyd and Gary Zeiger (and occasionally Matt Smith from Canada) as regional head directors. Their directorial under butlers are mostly the same favorite faces; we see a lot of Jean Molnar, Arleen Harvey, and Scott Campbell in D22 regionals and our unit sectionals.

Governing & Managing

ACBL is governed by the board of directors (BoD), and managed from those corporate Horn Lake association digs. The BoD is elected by their unit boards in each district. A watchdog of the league is the Board of Governors (BoG); another body of members elected by unit boards, but having no real power to govern. They do have a strong voice in holding the Board of Directors and management responsible for their motions, votes and actions. Sometimes they are right.
The BoD is made up of 25 members called District Directors (me included) who meet three times a year, once at each NABC, to present our own pet motions, and to dissect others’ motions and suggestions to hopefully improve our league. There we make, and hand down, our decisions that management must accept and implement. It’s not a perfect system, nor a perfect marriage, but one that has survived for three-quarters of a century to the enjoyment of hundreds of thousands of our members, past and present.
We District Directors serve 3-year terms, but most are rarely, if ever, challenged, and some have stayed much longer than they should – one member recently retired after 33 years (11 terms!) onboard. I once joined a couple of other Directors in filing a motion for board term limits (I thought three terms – nine years – was plenty, but four was acceptable). We were soundly defeated; seems some Directors choose to stay forever – by their choice or by their district’s. A similar motion may resurface during the New Orleans Spring NABC meetings. I’ll let you know the outcome.

Board Perks

District Directors are not paid salaries, but the perks are very good: we travel free (in the cheap seats) to all three national tournaments, are housed in the host hotels during our 4-7 day meetings only, and receive a per diem allowance in line with IRS standards. We even have our own Hospitality Suite to rest and entertain. Oh, and NABC card fees. The Board of Governors receives none of the above, unless gifted from their districts.
I’m out of words for this column, but will get more into the BoD perks and privileges later, including some juicy international travel. For now I can tell you most of us on the board love our job, are honored to do it, and thank you for trusting us.
But all things come to an end, and, when finished here, I won’t be shovelling snowman parts in retirement. I live in sunny southern SoCal. I represent D22. I like ACBL. Nice.

Peace, my friends.