Stand Your Ground
“Bring them out and let them look at each other!”
The words give me chills.
I love everything about the notion of sparring Terriers. Their steely gaze. Their posture. Their self-possession and inherent confidence.
As one friend describes it, “You want to see them pull themselves together and ‘own’ the ground they stand over.”
I consider those of you fortunate enough to be at Montgomery this weekend, immersing yourselves in all things Terrier, and especially enjoying the sparring, to be the perfect audience to which I submit my latest proposal to save the Great American Kennel Club.
If you are a regular reader of my columns, you are aware that I have long advocated that the organization put its focus on the mission rather than the money. Alas, that has proven to be a non-starter.
If you are a recent follower, you are aware that, in advance of the September meeting, I warned of the risks of the delegates voting to do away with term limits for board members. Whether my words weighed on those voting or not, alas, the delegates wisely chose to leave term limits in place.
So, arguably, I stand 1-1 at present.
Let’s see if we can break that tie, shall we?
With the most classic of dog-show tie breakers: sparring.
I propose that going forward, for board elections, for each slate nominated by the Nominating Committee, the same number of delegates obtain the requisite number of signatures on a petition (by November 15) and run from the floor as an opposing slate.
And then, the two slates square off and spar. In an actual debate. Not that lame, staged Q&A traditionally held at the December meeting. No, I mean a true debate, where a moderator poses questions, and the candidates answer and debate, to enable the delegates to actually determine whether the incumbents, who are almost always the choice of the board’s Nominating Committee, should be returned to office, or should be replaced, wholesale, by a new group, committed to new ideas, new approaches, and with a new vision for the organization.
The Nominating Committee has already announced that they have selected the three incumbent members of the Class of 2023, Charles Garvin, Steve Hamblin and Dan Smyth, as their nominees for the March board election. I’ll set aside the predictability of the board-chosen Nominating Committee selecting the incumbents as nominees, except to say, I told you so, and remind you that the likelihood that incumbents will always get the board-chosen Nominating Committee’s blessing was one of the reasons I advocated not eliminating term limits.
Instead, I’ll point out that Garvin was on the board when I came to work at AKC in 2008, 14 years ago. At that time, he was part of the class of 2009, which means he was elected in 2005. I don’t recall whether his service predated that term or not. But I am guessing it did, because he sat out the election in 2009 (presumably because of term limits), and then was re-elected in 2010. He then served two consecutive terms, until 2018, after which he again sat out the obligatory one year. Re-elected in 2019, for the class of 2023. And here we are, with his being nominated to run again. Add up the years.
That’s not owning the ground you stand over; that’s staking it off, clear-cutting it, scraping it clean with an earthmover, and erecting yourself a concrete bunker to hole up in.
Hamblin and Smyth were elected to the board originally in 2019. Hamblin earned his seat after three ballots. Smyth had run for the board previously, most recently in 2017, when the election went to five ballots, and he never garnered more than 53 votes. But notably, in 2019, both their wins kept current chairman, then vice chair, Tom Davies from being re-elected that year.
Can someone who wins only as the result of the delegates’ intentional rejection of someone else truly own the ground he stands over?
Surely there are three delegates out there who believe they are qualified to step into the ring and spar with these three for the opportunity to help lead the AKC?
Delegates who don’t see nonprofit board service as a lifetime vocation or an entitlement?
Delegates who don’t see the organization as a for-profit revenue generator or marketing machine?
Delegates who don’t want the sport, breeders or, most especially, our beloved purebred dogs, made obsolete while those charged with the responsibility to protect them are too busy trying to figure out how to stay in power, for power’s sake?
As Terrier folk are fond of saying, “Sparring is not fighting.”
But it begs the question, if you’re not willing to fight for the future of the sport, your right to breed, and our dogs, why are you still a delegate?