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SPJ leaders want to see more candidates, ‘ladder’ or not

By Billy O'Keefe

SARAH ALFAHAM / The Working Press
SPJ President Christine Tatum wants to see more people involved in the organization’s elections.
“Next year, I’m going to be responsible to get people to be participatory,” Tatum said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get them on the ticket.”
In past years, SPJ officers committed to four years, moving up from secretary-treasurer to president-elect to president and ending with immediate past president. President-elect Clint Brewer said this process was called the “ladder.”

How SPJ voting works
— Voting for the SPJ National Board and bylaw changes will be open 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Ticonderoga Room.
— Only delegates or alternates from their chapters may vote. Delegates must register for and attend the conference to vote.
— There is one delegate for every 50 members in a chapter.
— There are 142 chapters (both professional and campus chapters) that meet voting eligibility requirements.
— The Chicago Deadline Club has the largest number of delegates.
— There are two proposed bylaws changes this year:
1) To allow lifetime memberships
2) To extend post-graduate membership from two to three years.

Brewer broke that tradition in February 2006 by announcing he would challenge Bruce Cadwallader, the secretary-treasurer, for president-elect.
“Being secretary-treasurer is not a requirement,” Brewer said. “I feel like that the organization and profession are both at a crucial time. It’s a time of change and uncertainty and I simply wanted to serve.”
The rules changed a few years ago so that people could run from the floor, but nobody ever did it, said Cadwallader. He was the first person on “the ladder” to be challenged from the floor.
“Historically they wanted someone who has served in a leadership position. I had given SPJ 20 years of my life. I got beat fair and square and I’m moving on with my life,” Cadwallader said.
Cadwallader is still an SPJ member and is working with the local chapter on the awards banquet in Columbus for the Ohio SPJ conference.
When elections are contested, Brewer said, they become a marketplace of ideas.
“I would feel better if more people offered themselves for service,” he said. “I think it’s healthy to have contested elections. The people who don’t win should stay involved and continue to offer themselves for service.”
Kevin Z. Smith, who is running unopposed for secretary-treasurer, says he favors contested elections, too, even though he lost two of them before. Smith lost races for secretary-treasurer eight years ago and four years ago.
He knows he could be challenged again this year by someone who meets the qualifications and is nominated from the floor. Generally, SPJ delegates nominate candidates at a business session.
“I would put my credentials and my experience up against whoever challenges me and let the delegates vote,” Smith said.
Smith said that a third defeat would not stop him from being an SPJ member or believing in the things the organization stands for, and that he would continue working for the SPJ regional areas and chapters.
In this year’s election, though, he said: “I am disappointed that there was almost no opposition for all the races. I would like to hope that that is not a commentary on how involved the members want to be.”
Smith said that people also need experience to run for certain positions.
“When I ran the first time, I ran after being the chair of the ethics committee. The second time I ran I’d been on the ethics committee,” Smith said. “This time, I have served on the board. And I think that has helped make me a better candidate for the secretary-treasurer position.”
Smith said that if he wins this year, he would like to run in 2008 for president-elect.
Dave Aeikens, SPJ’s secretary-treasurer, is running for president-elect for the upcoming term. Last year, he ran against two candidates.
“I think the ladder is fine, but it doesn’t rule out that people can run. If somebody wants to run, they have that option,” Aeikens said.
“The idea of the ladder is to give a person experience to run for president, but it doesn’t guarantee them the presidency,” he said.