There’s always the possibility of a vacancy on the board, and sometimes it’s a planned event, and at other times it’s unexpected. In either case, it’s important to have a backup plan or a process for replacing people if necessary. This was something the board of Wheatsville Food Co-op in Austin, Texas, learned when they were faced with three vacancies, one that was expected, the others not. Foremost for board president Rose Marie Klee was the concern that the process for appointing new board members was fair and transparent. The board wanted to respect the democratic election process while also balancing the board’s need to get its work done. “When one-third of your board is vacant that brings up a big capacity question,” Klee said. “Even one person gone can have an impact on board work, especially if the person was working on committees or involved in the annual meeting.”

Klee said in their situation the board looked first to its bylaws regarding appointees, and then searched for who might be interested in board work, and who may align with what the board does. While it was tempting to just look at the people who ran for the board and didn’t get elected, the Wheatsville board knew it should appoint the strongest potential directors. They looked to gain a diversity of voices on the board. Klee also noted that filling a vacancy is different than recruiting for an election process, in that time is of the essence. “You have to keep your options open because you need someone who has the right attributes for board work,” she said, and Wheatsville did this by holding interviews with potential appointees. “This is the right thing to do when you need to appoint directors, especially when doing so allows the board to perform its highest work.”

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