As I discussed in a previous Front Line, we expect SWOG’s board of governors will elect a new group chair next spring. Although my term continues until spring 2025, SWOG will need to submit its next NCTN grant application by early 2024, and our incoming chair should power the development of that application in late 2023. Working backward, this pins the group chair election to our April 2023 group meeting. 

Per group bylaws, SWOG group statistician Mike LeBlanc, PhD, chairs a nominating committee aimed at identifying a slate of candidates to present for a board of governors’ vote. Dr. LeBlanc is now working to staff that committee, and it will soon accept nominations of individuals to be our next group chair. Self-nominations are encouraged.

Details about this nominating process – how, when, and what to submit to the nominating committee – will be forthcoming. But now is the time to start thinking about who. 

Having served as group chair for nine years, I have a few thoughts about what characteristics and qualifications can help make someone a good candidate for this position. 

It’s a complex position, requiring a broader set of skills than might be expected at first glance, including skills in financial management, human resources, and public relations. We need someone who listens, of course, and who can work with our board of governors (they have the final say on big decisions).

While needing some skills at building consensus, the “successful candidate” does need to be prepared to occasionally make hard, and even unpopular decisions (for the good of the group).

But the key determinant of whether the next chair will be successful in this role is whether they can submit highly competitive grant applications.

The chair elect’s first mission will be to knock our NCTN – and soon after that our NCORP – grant application out of the park, so we certainly need candidates with top-notch grant-writing skills and experience. 

Also, advance word on the next NCTN request for applications has it that “cooperativity” will be particularly important, so having a chair elect with a strong track record of substantive collaboration across cooperative and/or other groups could only help.

If you would like to learn more, the process of electing a new group chair is spelled out in SWOG’s constitution, although the job qualifications are not.

Eventually, our nascent nominating committee will send a final slate of candidates to the board of governors. Each candidate on that list will submit a written statement and will have a chance to appear before the board and field questions from the governors.

The board will select the new chair at the spring group meeting. A simple majority vote of the governors is needed. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two will be considered in a run-off. The winning candidate in that vote will be group chair elect and will select a deputy chair to serve with.

I have almost three years remaining in my term as SWOG group chair, and I’ll continue to devote myself fully to this role every day until the very last day of my term. But it’s time to start thinking about who’s next. I look forward to it.