December 20, 2019

Views from the Chair

Karen A. Mignone

This is the time of year when the Section’s chair-elect, Howard Kenison, is contemplating the approximately one hundred chair-level appointments he needs to have in place before August. Having been in Howard’s spot just one year ago, I can attest to how challenging it is to identify the appropriate people to take on leadership roles, especially as none of us are able to know every Section member.

In light of this, I am asking anyone who has an interest in a committee chair-level appointment to please contact Howard in early 2020. He will be very busy filling all the open jobs in April and needs to wrap them up by June to have everyone in place before the 2020–2021 Leadership Training program in July. In addition to appointing substantive committee chairs, there are potential leadership positions in programming, publications, public service, and governance. While it is impossible to give everyone their first choice of role, by making your interest known, Howard can consider your request and also pass the information along to the Section Vice Chair Michelle Diffenderfer for the following ABA year. As with most things in life, patience pays off. Speak up and you may find yourself taking an active and critical role moving forward with our Section now or in the future.

Early in the calendar year is also the time when the immediate past chair, Amy Edwards, will convene the Nominating Committee to recommend members for 2020–2021 Council and officer positions. The Nominating Committee is responsible for recommending the five new Council members for three-year terms commencing in August. In addition, the committee recommends the officers, consisting of Membership and Diversity, Publications, Education, Secretary, and Budget. Most people in these roles are renominated for a second year, so not every position is open every year. Other positions include representatives to the larger ABA through House of Delegates and Board of Governors (although these openings are less frequent) and, of course, the Section vice chair position, which is filled each year. Section’s membership votes on the committee’s nomination recommendations at the Section’s annual business meeting during the ABA Annual Meeting, which for 2020 is scheduled for July 29–August 4.

Again, as with Howard’s appointments, Amy and her committee have no way of knowing everyone who might be interested in serving in one of the open positions. Each has its own unique requirements, and, for some, the Section has some informal qualifications. For example, to be an officer, typically a candidate will have already served on Council and chaired a substantive committee or conference planning committee or have held other significant roles in Section leadership. Even if you don’t currently have that level of Section leadership experience, having a discussion and learning the prerequisites will allow you to start down the road to a possible future Council or officer position.

One thing about which you should be aware is that each of these jobs requires a time commitment above that of typical committee vice chair roles. There are frequent conference calls, and Council and officers travel at least four times per year to attend meetings. In-person participation is required, absent an approved reason, and travel reimbursement is provided at a nominal rate.

When I joined the Section, I never thought of having a leadership role, much less that I would be one day be the Section chair. Early in my career I was content with the opportunities to build a network and learn as much as I could about my practice area, and enough about other areas to understand when I needed to ask for help. The unexpected benefit of all this was making wonderful friends from across the country, many with different practices and viewpoints. This enriched both the experience in our Section and my practice. Over time, I became more interested in Section leadership and, when asked to serve on Council, I jumped at the opportunity. It was both challenging and rewarding as our Section has faced a number of challenges and issues over the past few years. I have been honored to be part of the team working to address these issues and move the Section forward. It isn’t always easy, but it is also a whole lot of fun because we work as a team with our dedicated Section staff.

Our Section membership is made up of a variety of people from a wide range of practice settings, with everything from one to 30 years or more of practice. It is important that our leaders reflect this spectrum of its members, so I encourage you to think about what might interest you. I also encourage you to reach out to any officer or Council member to ask about the responsibilities, the opportunities, and, of course, the rewards for contributing to our Section’s success. And if the idea of higher-level leadership isn’t for you, you may like to serve as a vice chair of a substantive committee or program planning committee or as a member of a publication’s editorial board. There are lots of opportunities available and every one of them is important to the Section and its members. So please speak up. We all look forward to working with you going forward.

Karen A. Mignone

Karen A. Mignone is the chair of the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources.