A Council Development Project
Leaflet No. 8
Building the Extension Council
|Election committees chart the future of the Extension program through the candidates they select. The committee's work represents one of the more important responsibilities of the council. Election committees start that work by considering who should be on the council.|
|Who is Needed?||Today, it is generally accepted that council
members should have diversity in perspectives and experiences. This provides broader
discussions, consideration of a number of alternatives and better decisions. Each person's
background will shape his or her contributions to the discussions. At the same time,
however, the central concern should be for a shared sense of mission on the council.
Extension council candidates should represent various age groups, races, locations throughout the county and city, programs in University Extension, both men and women and special skills such as fund raising, public relations and administration. The first job for the election committee is to use the matrix with this guide to identify how well continuing members represent various categories judged to be essential. The same matrix then can be used as new candidates are suggested. Extension council members and staff should be asked for their suggestions for candidates prior to an election committee meeting.
One word of caution regarding diversity on councils: In order to achieve diversity, some councils will decide to simply enlarge a council. Larger councils are rarely more effective. They often become diffused and uncoordinated, developing an "inner" council as the active functioning center of control. Councils should be small enough to act as a deliberative body and large enough to carry out the necessary responsibilities.
The number of elected positions on councils are set by law with a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 20. The number of appointed positions will depend on the number of farm organizations and towns in the county.
Changing election district boundaries can be a useful tool in achieving diversity and
representation. CPDs can provide information on how this is done.
|Who Will Serve?||Discussions on possible council candidates often
include conversations where someone says: "Mary would be good, but I doubt if she
will do it." If Mary would be good, she should be asked to serve, regardless of the
perception of whether or not she would serve. People join councils for many reasons, and
it is difficult to determine what might affect their decision. People may join for
personal enrichment, fun, prestige, nostalgia, sentiment, friendships and personal
associations, opportunities for business, professional and social contacts, desire for
change and social involvement, honor, privilege, psychic rewards, visibility and societal
recognition, the challenge of governance, and the feeling of accomplishment. If a good
candidate is suggested, recruit them.
|What Do You Say?||Training of the new council member actually
begins the moment the election committee member contacts the candidate. Therefore, the
invitation should never be hurried or casual. The invitation should be a clear, concrete
presentation of the work of the council, the major problems it faces, the general
responsibility of a council member and the particular role the candidate is expected to
fulfill. If the committee has done its work properly, it will know precisely why it is
asking a person to join the council. The special skills and background the person has to
contribute should be mentioned. The guide on Organizing Committees has additional
information on identifying and recruiting candidates.
Occasionally, a candidate will be told the council will not take up much of their time, they will only need to come to a few meetings and they can miss if they need to. This places council activity in the wrong light. If these statements are true, the council cannot be very important; if they are false, the new council member begins his or her service with a misconception. It is important to tell how many full council meetings will be held and how long they last. Committee responsibilities; the number of committee meetings; training opportunities, and the time commitment they require should be outlined.
|Keeping New Members||As soon as the person is elected, formal
introduction to the council begins. The importance of effective orientation to a council is
well known but not frequently done. It takes time to accomplish, and an extension council
might want to delegate orientation responsibilities to the election committee and
Extension staff. Some of the more widely used methods of introducing new council members
to their responsibilities are listed below. A council can choose whatever methods are best
for its situation.