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Tim Mitchell

Tim Mitchell is a business intelligence consultant, author, trainer, and SQL Server MVP with over a decade of experience. Tim is the principal of Tyleris Data Solutions and is a Linchpin People teammate. Tim has spoken at international, regional, and local venues including the SQL PASS Summit, SQLBits, SQL Connections, SQL Saturday events, and various user groups and webcasts. He is a board member at the North Texas SQL Server User Group in the Dallas area. Tim 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 twitter.com/Tim_Mitchell.

It’s the Process

Unless you’ve spent the last two days hiding under a rock, you’ve heard the uproar around this week’s development in the PASS board election.  The Nominating Committee (NomCom) published the list of candidates who will be on the ballot for this year’s three open board positions.  Five candidates made the cut; two did not.  The buzz – mostly negative – wasn’t around who made the final list, but who didn’t.

Jack Corbett

Let me first give props to candidate Jack Corbett, one of the two candidates who were eliminated with yesterday’s announcement.  I’ve known Jack for a couple of years now, and consider him to be a friend so you can take my commentary with a grain of salt.  I’ve spent a good deal of time with Jack (including rooming with him during last year’s PASS Summit), and I have found him to be a wise person with strong morals who is not afraid to speak up when he sees things out of place.  Jack runs a large PASS chapter, is a frequent speaker and volunteer for PASS and non-PASS events, and has a passion for the SQL Server community.  He is highly motivated and qualified, and I believe Jack would make an excellent PASS board member.  I say that as a reminder to all that, in the chaos surrounding the other excluded candidate (more on that momentarily), let’s not forget that another good man was eliminated yesterday.  I would have liked to had the opportunity to vote for Jack; I hope that opportunity comes up again in the future.

Steve Jones

The elimination of Steve Jones sparked a firestorm around those of us who are, shall we say, vocal in the community.  Based on the rejection letter he received from the NomCom (he has shared it here), it seems that Steve was rejected due to his inexperience engaging with voluneers and PASS committees.  I can’t speak to Steve’s involvement – or lack thereof, if that’s the case – with PASS committees, so I won’t argue that point.  Perhaps he wasn’t qualified according to the rules given to the NomCom for candidate selection.  Based on comments from Stuart Ainsworth (read his blog post on the subject here) and Tom LaRock, the NomCom feels that they followed their commission to the letter.  Maybe they did – again, there’s a bit of secrecy surrounding the proceedings, so unfortunately we may never know how or why exactly this happened.  Still, it’s hard to imagine that a man of Steve’s accomplishment - cofounder of the largest SQL Server community in the world, prolific speaker, frequent volunteer, and industry visionary – wouldn’t be qualified to present to the PASS membership as a candidate for a board position.  Steve is a friend so I confess some personal bias, but for a reasonable person, an evaluation of the facts just doesn’t add up.

NomCom: “It’s The Process”

I applaud Stuart and Tom for standing up and defending their position.  As members of the NomCom, they could have ducked the questions or simply told inquisitive members of the community to take a hike.  They, and most especially Stuart, answered many questions from the community and did not try to assign blame or back away from their decision.  Still, their default position seemed to be “It’s the process”.  This is how things are, so who are they to change things, right?

So if this really is how things are done, at what point do we ask, “Does this process still work for us?”  For those who were engaged in last year’s election, you’ll remember the controversy when at least one strongly qualified candidate was rejected while another was included with little to no knowledge of the purpose or goals of PASS.  It’s hard to describe the last two PASS elections without using the word cluster.  Doesn’t anybody stop to think that maybe, just maybe, these pants don’t fit anymore?  I’d have hoped that last years debacle would have left a lasting impression, but sadly those lessons appear have been forgotten.  When common sense frequently gets overruled by The Process, it’s time for change.

Power to the People

So here’s my suggestion:  For next year, have the NomCom continue to exist, but take a far more conservative approach in elimination of candidates.  Do the candidates have a history of service and experience within PASS?  Do they have a sense of passion, and some level of leadership experience?  If so, put them on the ballot and let the community make the decision.  Remember, the NomCom doesn’t decide who will be on the board; they choose who may be elected to the board by PASS members.  This organization should be focused first on the constituency.  Let’s get back to that place.

For this year, however, we still have a problem.  This will not die; if nothing is done, the election will be the dominant hallway topic at the PASS Summit in November.  So, does PASS admit the flaw in The Process and invite all 7 (or even the original 9) to be on the ballot?  Or do they allow for a write-in vote as others suggest?  In my opinion, the former would go a long way toward smoothing things over with the community.  The latter is a half-measure and would be an insult to the excluded candidates without an acknowledgement that The Process is broken.  These aren’t the only two options, of course, but anything is better than hiding behind The Process.

Comments

Posted by Chuck Boyce on 19 August 2010

Spot on, Tim.  Best post yet on the PASS elections process. Thanks for reminding us not to forget about Jack.

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 20 August 2010

Thanks Tim for an eve-keel post on the topic.  It was a little odd that the NomCom was permitted to accept up to 9 on the ballot but felt necessary to eliminate two of the seven.

Posted by Mike Walsh on 20 August 2010

I agree about Jack for sure.

You hit the nail on the head for me with your Power to the People suggestion. Let's not make the Nominating Committee a mini election club of concentrated power approving who can be on the ballot.... Let them root out the roughage by a strict set of criteria and allow us to get to know folks better ourselves. What's the worse that happens? We end up with ties (we don't get a lot of people voting at these elections, by the way... something else the BOD should be working on) and have to have a run-off. No big deal, just adds a little time.

I mean no disrespect to the Nominating Committee and I trust their ability to stay true to their guidelines. I Just don't like the guidelines. Let's see more candidates make it through next year and let we, the people, ask the questions, see the interviews and decide for ourselves. I have no problem with the people on the nominating committee but I don't need their service to this extreme. I want them to get rid of obvious misses ("What is PASS?, "What is S.Q.L Server?", or "I just graduated and have never led anything") But I'm an adult and can handle having more choices....

Posted by Jack Corbett on 20 August 2010

Thanks for the kind words.  It always feels weird to hear people say nice things about me, especially people I respect.

Looking forward to seeing you in Denver at SQLSaturday #52 and rooming with you again at the Summit.

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