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PASS Board of Directors Election

Anyone who has an Internet connection has kept up with PASS-related news during the past couple of weeks is keenly aware of the fallout surrounding this year’s Board of Directors election.  I’ve been associated with PASS for a number of years now (though admittedly I wasn’t as connected or involved as I am now), but I can’t recall there ever having been a BOD election that was more talked-about than this one.

Two Problems

At the root of the controversy was one big issue, or if you think like I do, there were actually two.  The first and most forefront was the selection by the nomination committee of Matt Morollo, a media executive with a strong record of success but zero experience with PASS and seemingly little knowledge of the membership.  Much of the discussion occurred in the comments of one of Brent Ozar’s blog posts in which he published an interview of this candidate (as he did for the other candidates as well).   Matt’s responses to the interview questions led many to believe that he was not in touch with the mission of PASS; he referred to PASS numerous times as a media organization but avoided addressing the topic of new media, Web 2.0, etc.  In the flurry of comments that followed, concerns were raised, positions defended, a few accusations were thrown, and the collective blood pressure of our organization spiked for a while.

The other issue that bothered me was the fact that there were 3 board positions but only 4 candidates offered up for the general election.  I’m sorry, but when those numbers are presented, I can’t help but think of musical chairs.  The small number of final candidates coupled with the lack of transparency in the whole process was, for me, more bothersome than the introduction of a candidate who appears to be an outsider.

The Results

In the end, the three candidates selected for the board were new directors Brian Moran and Jeremiah Peschka, and current board member Tom LaRock.  I offer congratulations to the three who were selected, and I tip my hat to Matt Morollo, who underwent a tough vetting process and even tougher trial-by-mob on Brent’s blog.  Whether you supported Matt or not, you have to give it to the guy for hanging in there.

I will say for the record that I don’t have a problem bringing in someone with fresh ideas to the board.  But to do so at the expense of other qualified candidates with a long history of service to the community is a poor decision, in my opinion.  A lot of folks, myself included, have expressed concern about the exclusion of Tim Ford from the final pool of candidates; although he admitted that he had not done well on the interview portion, it’s my opinion that the nominating committee put too much weight on that interview without accounting for his other community contributions and successes.

There were a lot of peripheral discussions on the topic during and immediately after the election, and I won’t begin to try to summarize all of them.  I will point out a blog post by Kevin Kline, who chaired this year’s nomination committee; in his post, he acknowledged the controversy around the process and this year’s nominees, explained some of the current processes and goals of the committee, and offered up the opportunity for the community to have their voice heard on this topic.  This well-worded and thoughtful response did not attempt to take the side of any person or group, but gently offered some insight into the establishment, and expressed a willingness by the leadership to change the structure if the community so chooses.

I’m Not Without Blame

Now here’s the part where I admit complicity in the problem.  I’ve complained about both the lack of transparency and the nomination process as a whole, yet, I must confess that this year’s election is the first time that I’ve paid significant attention to these goings-on.  The only candidate from last year’s election that I could name is Andy Warren, and that’s only because he and I have had a number of conversations about his work at PASS and the possibility of my candidacy for a board position in the future.  As a voting member with an equal voice, I have some ownership in any problems that arise, and if there’s something I don’t like, it’s up to me to either bite my lip and support it or actively work to change it.  I consider this to be a learning experience for me, and I hereby commit to increase my involvement in PASS and will do what I can to improve the effectiveness of this organization and its impact on the SQL Server community.

The Upside

If there is some good that has come from all of this controversy and chatter, it’s that people are actually talking about the board of directors and the organization as a whole.  Those who have followed the conversations know a great deal more about PASS and its inner workings than they did two weeks ago, and my hope is that this heightened interest will carry on for years to come.

Tim Mitchell

Tim Mitchell is a business intelligence consultant, author, trainer, and Microsoft Data Platform MVP with over thirteen years of data management experience. He is the founder and principal of Tyleris Data Solutions.

Tim has spoken at international and local events including the SQL PASS Summit, SQLBits, SQL Connections, along with dozens of tech fests, code camps, and SQL Saturday events. He is coauthor of the book SSIS Design Patterns, and is a contributing author on MVP Deep Dives 2.

You can visit his website and blog at TimMitchell.net or follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Mitchell.


Posted by Brent Ozar on 22 October 2009

I'm excited too about the level of interest in this year's election.  I think even if nothing else, the NomCom did a good thing by offering up a choice of candidates that actually polarized people and excited them enough to talk about the whole thing.  That's making progress.

Posted by Steve Jones on 22 October 2009

Good summary, and I hope to see you helping more. I would like to see more people get involved, even if it's just an opinion.

Posted by Andy Warren on 23 October 2009

Brent, I agree that the results were worth the pain. One of the things I'd like to see is the members engaging year around - not just elections, but reading the minutes of meetings and interacting with the Board too.

Posted by Arie Jones "AJ" on 25 October 2009


Good post. Like Tim, I was in Kevin's dreaded 'bottom 3' group after the interview process obviously. I'll post my deeper thoughts later in the week but I agree with you and Steve that a definite paradigm shift is needed.



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