Leadership and Governance


   TRANSITION: The Changing of the Guard

TRANSITION: The Changing of the Guard

Personal Considerations

(1) Re-assess your own personal goals and priorities. Your personal goals and priorities will usually fit nicely within the larger scope of your council’s; however, when your personal goals conflict with council’s, you will still be expected to represent the majority position. If you cannot comfortably support a position your community wishes to take, allow some other council officer who is in agreement to stand in for you. Remember that as president of the community council, you represent the community as a whole, not just your own interests.
(2) Realize that your council-related priorities will change as you move from being “just a member” to the person everyone looks to for information and guidance.
(3) Develop a good sense of self, self-confidence, self-assurance, and self-esteem; you will need lots of all of them.
(4) Know yourself and your limits. Be willing to alienate some folks if necessary, and, at the same time, be willing to swallow hard and concede to others’ wishes.
(5) Assess your own leadership effectiveness.
(6) Do not take people’s actions or comments personally. They will often just want to vent their frustration(s) and will see you as someone who might actually listen.
(7) Learn to delegate and share responsibility. Doing this will invest other members’ time and energy which will pay off in more involved members and less stress for you.
(8) Surround yourself with willing, capable workers. This is much easier said than done, but it is essential to any successes your council will experience. Thank them publicly every time you get the chance.

Things to do:

(1) Call a special meeting to which all members are invited, complete with refreshments, for the express purposes of
(A) thanking past officers and committee chairs;
(B) welcoming new officers and committee chairs;
(C) sharing pertinent information;
(D) encouraging continued participation;
(E) charting council’s short- and long-term goals and priorities — the more people involved with this activity, the better; and
(F) officially transferring records and materials.

(2) Have a separate meeting a day or two earlier with the outgoing president to reinforce his or her participation and to insure the success of the larger gathering. This is critical for continuity of operations, especially if there is no provision in the bylaws which requires past presidents or other officers to carry over their involvement past their term(s) of office.
(2a) Both (1) and (2) can be especially difficult if the outgoing president and/or other officers are reluctantly stepping down or if there are bad feelings among various members who were not elected to fill positions. Assess the climate of your organization and work to improve it. Remember, though, that time makes a significant difference in how we view things, so allow wounds to heal, hearts to get off sleeves, skins to thicken, etc.

(3) Contact various city representatives — City Council, Department of Community and Economic Development, Recreation Commission, etc., and introduce yourself as the new president of your council. Do this even if you know them personally. Your position as a community council president significantly changes the types and amount of information which will be shared with you. 

(4) Do the same thing with the local media — newspaper, television, and radio. Establishing contact at the outset of your tenure makes future contacts easier and more productive.

(5) Attend workshops, meetings, and other training opportunities. Meet formally and/or informally with other council presidents to gain additional insight.

(6) There are several types of materials you will need to transfer during a changing of the guard:

  1. Community contacts: names, numbers, and brief descriptions of their responsibilities.
  2. A list of related organization meeting dates, times, locations, and sub-committee obligations – your local business association, Invest In Neighborhoods (IIN), Cincinnati Neighborhood Business Districts United (CNBDU), etc.
  3. Names and numbers of council financial accounts, council’s tax ID number, etc.
  4. Minutes, legal documents, and other pertinent correspondence; summaries of earlier activity (archives); current NSP contract; etc.

(7) When your tenure as president is over, be as graceful, helpful, and considerate in leaving the post as you would have liked others to have been when you came into office.


    Once you become president of a community council, lots of mail from lots of people — a partial list follows — will begin to fill your inbox. Ideally, mail should be delivered to the council office it is good practice to have an email address for your council that is president@xxcouncil.org (or presidentxxcouncil@gmail.com). Sometimes that is not feasible, and your address is more reasonable. If you do use your address, expect to continue receiving mailings for quite some time after you leave office.

Mail will come to you from:

  1. City departments — includes required notifications of municipal activity (liquor license applications and renewals, building permit lists, street closings, certain types of businesses locating in your community, etc.), announcements, periodic reports, etc.
  2. Council members — includes copies of motions they may have introduced which they feel have a direct impact on your community, announcements about hearings for committees they chair, etc.
  3. Other non-profit organizations — includes anyone from churches to schools to housing associations to other groups with special concerns — environmental issues, political campaigns, etc.
  4. Other community councils — you will get copies of other communities’ newsletters, in addition to requests for support of various positions.
  5. Profit-driven businesses/groups — includes real estate agents, insurance agents, financial planners, etc.
  1. Position-Related Meetings
    As president, unless you quickly learn to delegate or say “No,” your calendar will fill up with meetings which will have you away from home every night of the week, every week of the month. There will be day meetings, breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, and mid-afternoon meetings. Apply the mail rules to these meetings to determine their significance. There are some monthly meetings which really do require your participation; others can be covered by members of your council. Keep in mind, though, that even when meetings are covered by other members, you should try to attend at least once or twice per year.

Manage your own time better and increase resident participation by spreading around the responsibility and the opportunity for recognition for different projects. Include as many different residents as possible.


A full description of officers and their duties, as well as how they are elected or appointed, their term of office, and any qualifications for those who hold office, should be included in an organization’s bylaws. A generalized overview of the most common offices and their associated responsibilities follows.

Chairman or President:
It is generally the duty of the president to:

  1. Open the meeting by calling it to order after determining that a quorum is present and adjourn it when the assembly votes to do so.
  2. Recognize each member who is entitled to speak.
  3. State all motions, put them to a vote, and announce the result of the vote; however, if the motion is out of order, dilatory or frivolous, he/she rules it so.
  4. Enforce the rules relating to debate, order, and decorum in the meeting.
  5. Decide all questions of order and respond to inquiries relating to parliamentary procedure or factual information bearing on the business of the assembly.

In addition to those stated above, the president will usually have administrative duties such as acting as the official voice of the organization; signing checks, contracts, and agreements, etc., which should be spelled out in the organization’s bylaws.

This person will automatically become the next president of the organization unless he leaves office during his term as president-elect or grounds arise to remove him. The office of president-elect exists only if it is expressly provided for in the organization’s bylaws. This practice eliminates the need to vote for a president; only the president-elect and other officers are chosen each term. When an organization has a president-elect, that person assumes responsibility when the president is absent.

This persons is second in command and serves when the president is absent. Sometimes there are first, second, third, etc., vice-presidents. If the sitting president does resign, they move up and become responsible for presiding in the same order as their office dictates. The first vice-president becomes president, the second vice-president becomes first vice-president, etc. Vice presidents do not automatically become president; they must be elected to fill that office.

This person is responsible for keeping the official records of the organization. These records include the minutes, committee reports, membership roll, etc. Other duties include sending meeting notices, preparing agendas, and notifying officers, etc., of their election or appointment.

This persons is responsible for keeping the organization’s financial records, collecting dues, etc. Writing checks, managing financial accounts, chairing committees, and preparing periodic reports are additional treasurer responsibilities.

Other officers, such as sergeant-at-arms, historian, chaplain, doorkeeper, parliamentarian, etc., also have specific duties. Consult any comprehensive issue of Robert’s Rules for that material.


Community Council meetings are run according to Robert’s Rules.

Minutes must be kept by the Secretary and are approved in the following meeting

The president starts by calling the meeting to order; that is, formally announcing that the meeting will begin. Before any business can take place, a quorum must be present. A quorum is a specific number and combination of members required in order to transact the organization’s business. This information should be in the organization’s constitution and/or bylaws.

If there is no quorum, the only activities allowed are: (1) pre-determining a time to adjourn the meeting; (2) attempting to establish a quorum before that time elapses; and, if no quorum has been established by the pre-determined time, (3) adjourning.

  • Assuming a quorum is present, the meeting should begin with the approval of an agenda which lists the topics to be covered during that meeting. Except in special cases, items may be added or deleted from the agenda at this time. At meetings during which the presiding officer expects rowdiness and/or chaos, rules governing the conduct of business at the meeting (how long and how often someone may speak on a topic, directions on obtaining the right to speak, etc.) may also need to be read and approved.
  • The minutes, which are an official stating of the proceedings from the previous meeting, are read and approved, with corrections as needed. The first paragraph of the minutes should include the name of the organization, the kind of meeting, the date, time, and location of the meeting, the fact that the regular presiding officer and secretary were present or the names of those who substituted for them, and whether the minutes from the previous meeting were read and approved as read or as corrected. The body of the minutes must include the exact wording and disposition of all main motions, secondary motions, notices of motions, points of order, and appeals, along with the reasons given by the chair for his or her ruling. The minutes must also include the names of the maker of the motion but not the seconder, unless required by the body. The last paragraph should indicate the time the meeting ended.
  • Reports from various officers and committee chairs — their responsibilities and the hierarchy of command should be described in the organization’s bylaws — are given next. There is no requirement that every officer and/or committee chair report at every meeting. Only officers and/or committee chairs who have activity to report should do so.
  • Unfinished business — questions which were carried over from a previous meeting because the earlier meeting adjourned without completing its business — is the heading for the next set of items on the agenda. Often there will not be unfinished business.
  • New business — questions or topics which have not previously been brought before the group — is the next set of items. This is the section where any information which may have been received since the previous meeting and requiring consideration and/or a vote by the group may be addressed. It is also where added agenda items will usually be placed.
  • Announcements of importance to the group are normally made following the completion of new business.
  • Following announcements, a formal motion to adjourn is usually requested by the presiding officer. The motion is made, seconded, requires a simple majority vote, and the meeting is over. If the group has previously adopted a motion or a program setting a specific time to adjourn, or if the bylaws or some other governing rules prescribe it, a motion to adjourn is not required.

Fuller, more comprehensive descriptions of how to run meetings are included in any book on parliamentary procedure. http://www.robertsrules.org/


Generally speaking, any member (membership criteria should be in the organization’s bylaws) attending a meeting may speak on any agenda item. Rules governing how often, how long, etc., someone may speak are often set to avoid lengthy, sometimes unproductive, discussions. However, speakers may request additional time, and the presiding officer may put the request for an extension of time to a vote.

To formally have an item voted on:
A member says “I move to . . .

  1. adopt the report,
  2. amend the pending motion,
  3. limit debate on this issue to ___ minutes,
  4. discharge the Nominating Committee,
  5. etc.

Most motions require a second (someone who agrees with your motion or who simply wants to bring the item to a vote should simply say “second.”)

Presiding officers may engage in debate on a topic but normally do not introduce motions or vote, except to break a tie. Presiding officers do have the right to vote in elections.

Once the motion is formally moved and seconded, the presiding officer restates the motion and asks if there are questions. At that time, members can ask questions or state concerns relating to the motion. After questions and concerns have been addressed — amendments to the pending motion are allowed at this time — the presiding officer again restates the motion to be sure everyone knows what is being voted on. The vote is taken, and the motion either passes or fails. Most motions only require a majority vote to pass. Other, more significant motions require a two-thirds vote to pass. When a majority vote is needed, a tie means the motion fails. When their vote will affect the result, presidents may choose to vote and thereby break or establish a tie. They may also choose to abstain.

To reduce conflicts during a meeting:

  1. Encourage interaction and response from the group. Ask for input from at least one resident who does not hold an office or have a key role in the issue being addressed.
  2. Discuss only those items which have been approved for that meeting’s agenda.
  3. Find and focus on the group’s goals. Personal issues and personality differences should not be addressed during a meeting. These issues are best left to the individuals concerned and should be handled outside regular meeting times.
  4. Try to predict situations where heated discussions may occur and ask that your community policing officer remain for the length of the meeting. The mere presence of a peace officer is often enough to discourage disorderly conduct.

For a more comprehensive discussion of how meetings should be run and the rules that govern them, please refer to any book on parliamentary procedure. A common title is Robert’s Rules of Order, available at most libraries or bookstores.


A major challenge related to record-keeping is motivating other officers to be as conscientious about record maintenance as the president and secretary might be. One way to reinforce the need for accurate and thorough record-keeping and retention is to encourage others to do what you want and then to give unexpected rewards for follow-through. Rewards might be nothing more than a public statement of how helpful the person’s behavior is, a small token passed along from a workshop or conference, or an opportunity to represent the community at a special affair. Keep in mind that while you will tire of the increased demands on your time, members who are not as involved will often be quite pleased to stand in for you.

While the secretary may have the official responsibility of maintaining council records, it is a very good idea for the sitting president to maintain his or her own set of important records.

  1. Obtain a four-drawer file cabinet in which to keep council-related materials and other documents from the various committees and boards you will be asked to join or participate with as a result of your being a council president.
  2. Locally produced records, like council minutes, including sign-in sheets; select incoming and all outgoing correspondence and financial records; a current copy of the council’s bylaws, NSP contracts, funded grant proposals, etc.; should be kept on hand for several years. Any records created during your term(s) of office should be retained until an audit occurs or you are no longer president.
  3. State or other government-generated records, such as proof of 501 (c) (3) status, a copy of the Articles of Incorporation, if applicable, and a copy of your council’s Statement of Continuing Existence should be kept on file indefinitely and passed along to the next president.
  4. The secretary should maintain council records — the minutes, including sign-in sheets, all written reports, official correspondence, original government documents, etc. When a new secretary is elected, these documents should be passed to the incoming officer.
  5. The treasurer should maintain all financial records, financial reports, bank statements, etc. Whenever officers change, an audit of financial records is suggested. As with the secretary, all records should be passed to the incoming officer.
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