Beth Neher, BFC Board of Directors
The 2021 Board year has begun: we have had our first Board meeting of the year, seating the 3
newly elected directors, and we have had our annual Board retreat. It is my last year serving on
the Board. By next November I will have served 3 terms, 9 years, the limit a Director may serve
before being required to step down, according to our Bylaws. I have been thinking about what I
would like to participate in and accomplish in this last year. There is a lot for the Board to do
this year. It feels like a pivotal year.
I want to thank all of you who voted. The trust you demonstrated in accepting Bylaw changes
and the reduction in our elder and working member discount demonstrated trust in the work
we did during the 2020 Board year, and what we know was a challenging decision especially
given the impact of COVID. I was blown away by the number of votes cast for the Directors.
Whether it grew out of a realization about the importance of democracy in our systems and
lives, or a vote for a shift in Board Director demographics, I do not know. There are
undoubtedly other reasons. Whatever the reason, thank you.
So, where does all this take me in my last year? What do I want to do before stepping down?
First, I am deeply committed to ensuring Directors understand what board work is and how we
carry out our responsibilities to Shareholders. I am mentoring one new, and one continuing,
Director to support their developing understanding about both. Let me be clear on what I see
as my role: I do not believe it is my job to ensure their adherence to proscribed practices. I
believe mentoring is about enabling critical thinking based on a solid, comfortable
understanding of what has been accepted practice. I see mentoring as a means of establishing
solid context for forward thinking, discussion and decision-making that may challenge the
status quo in strategic and positive ways.
I was invited to continue to head the Ends Ad Hoc committee, a group charged early last year
with proposing any necessary changes to relevant bylaws and the Ends Policies, and I agreed.
This committee’s work last year resulted in proposed bylaw changes to Bylaw 1.2 Purpose and
Mission, which was accepted by shareholder vote. Please know how important that vote really
was, as it opened the door for the committee to work on the Brattleboro Food Co-op’s Ends
Policies this Board year. It is hard to imagine more critical work.
At a pragmatic level, the Ends are both the Board’s priorities that guide the General Manager’s
work and the basis for the Board’s evaluation of the General Manager. The Ends are, however,
also a statement of Board and Shareholder values and aspirations regarding our Co-op: how we
as a cooperative business reflect and are open to very real changes in our community, how we
differentiate ourselves from other grocery stores, and how we reach more deeply and
meaningfully into the layers of our community – the BFC community itself, our local
community, and the wider cooperative community.
It is powerful work, and I find myself needing to tamp down my own excitement at the thought
that the committee will craft Ends to bring to you for input and feedback before agreeing them
as a board in 2021.
And finally, I see my work this year as continuing to show up, prepared and willing to
participate in the monthly work that comes with being a member of the Board of Directors. This
may come across as a mundane note to end on, however I don’t see it that way. It is the core of
the Board’s commitment to you and to each other, a commitment of self, thought, time and
energy essential to Board service. I hope you will join us at meetings, and will support our work
by talking with us, giving us feedback and sharing your perspectives.