Occupation: Education & Outreach Assistant- Butte Environment Council
Candidate’s Statement of Interest:
Chico has a long agricultural history. In contrast to many places, Chico could literally supply all of its food needs with locally-produced food. The co-op is a leader in conscious food purchasing practices; its influence in the community is strong, and getting stronger as more people make better-informed choices about food.
Two years ago when I ran for the board, the Saturday Farmers’ Market didn’t accept EBT for its purchases. Now it does; which illustrates that people are coming to understand the concept of food justice—nutritious safe food available to all. I learned so much from my board mentors in those two years, and it’s just too exciting to leave now—there’s too much work to be done and I feel like I’m just starting to hit my stride.
As a board member, I love to deploy humor selectively for its tonic properties, but I take social and environmental justice seriously. There are many perspectives to consider in a cooperative and it can be dizzying, but the board has the structure in place to be both grounded and visionary.
Experience, volunteer and paid, relevant to BOD job description:
I table for BEC at events and offer workshops for the Alternatives to Toxics outreach program (we make simple home cleaning products recipes with participants, which they then keep). Outreach and education is some of the most rewarding work of environmental activism because it offers the chance to hear and learn from people as well as give them information that can make a difference in their lives. Chico has a vibrant and robust spectrum of community activists and I am grateful and delighted to be part of that spectrum.
Training and education relevant to trustee job description:
• Legal or Financial Background
I received a paralegal certificate from CSU Chico. My focus was public interest and environmental law, but the curricula for that certificate requires enough general legal studies classes to prepare students for basic legal clerical and support work.
• Knowledge of Co-ops or Non-Profits
I have taken John Cannan’s grant writing class, which covers the 501(c)(3) structure and process. I worked with the Butte Environmental Council as a volunteer before working for BEC in a grant-funded position as Education and Outreach Assistant in 2009. The grant is the second from the California Wellness Foundation to educate the community about reducing exposure to toxics. My job includes working on reports for the grant, and I assisted in writing the second grant proposal.
Skills that would directly contribute to the mission of CNFC:
Working in a grant-funded, Board-governed, member-based organization, I am aware of the critical nature of communication in these structures. At any level of the org, miscommunication can result in ineffective work, lost revenue, and internal pressures that can cause the org’s demise. I have been fortunate to receive Board training and understand that the engine of the Co-op is its members. As an outreach contractor, I will use my knowledge to help the Board be focused in its expectations and goals regarding member involvement.
Experience on a committee or with an organization in the past that used active member participation to achieve its goals:
Working with the Butte Environmental Council, a member-funded organization, we have to be receptive and responsive to what members expect of us—we belong to them, and to the community. Being aware of the wishes of the members, and ensuring that sufficient feedback loops exist to give members the opportunity to express those wishes, is essential to everything else that we do.
Experience with making sound financial decisions or operating a successful business and ability to read and interpret a balance sheet and income statement:
Working in a grant-funded position, my primary relationship with the budget is to operate within its constraints. Although Mary, my boss, is the creator and executor of the budget, my job is to track expenses I incur for our work, assess how limited resources are best spent, and again, be mindful of the limitations of the budget overall.
Experience in working on a business or enterprise budget:
Prior or comparable experience on a board or oversight committee:
The last two years I have sat on the CNFC Board has seen a shift in governance style that sets clear boundaries of the Board’s involvement with GM/operational issues. This is a pretty great leap for everyone involved; although the GM has some additional, ongoing reporting that is in the process of being set up (and therefore labor-intensive on the front side), Policy Governance is recognized as a way to make life easier for everyone. Responding to the question, the experience of participating in a transition from a more haphazard governance style to a more structured one was a great Board experience and education.
Experience with long-range planning:
This is really the only type of planning the Board does, and I helped to create the long-term framework for the Co-op’s “Ends”. This part of our governance is the lofty, perhaps unattainable goals that determine the small actions that the Co-op takes. I feel like, on an individual level, this type of planning is virtually non-existent, as no long-range structure currently exists that is not imperiled or undergoing collapse.
Experience in which you used problem solving skills in a task-oriented group:
In this current grant cycle, BEC received funding to test backyard chicken eggs for dioxins in the Koppers superfund area. We had to contact and assuage the fears of the California Department of Public Health (“Can’t have lay people testing eggs for dioxins!”), locate and involve chicken owners, and figure out the protocol for egg collection. The process of meeting these challenges was daunting (especially communicating with a state agency), but as a result of our creativity and persistence we now have our first round of tests back. See www.becprotects.org for a public statement on dioxin levels in South Oroville, coming soon.