by Board President Mary Aiken

As 2015 begins, the East Aurora Cooperative Market is on the cusp of realizing the dream of opening a community-owned grocery that will not only benefit the health of our member-owners but also the broader community – an accomplishment that reflects countless hours of work and incredible dedication on the part of so many people over the past five years.

As we move in to the exciting “pre-opening” phase of our development, the coming year will have its share of transitions in key areas. The board itself will see transitions in leadership, in composition and in its work.

Leadership changes: Within the next few weeks, there will be a change in leadership on the board. While words can’t describe how grateful and excited I am that the collective efforts of so many are beginning to bear fruit, I’m also very sad to say that I will need to step down from my role as board president as my family relocates to southern California to join my husband who has taken on a new job north of Los Angeles. As a founding member and active participant in many capacities since the Co-op’s inception, this is a bittersweet move, to be sure!

Transitions come with succession plans, though, which means that one our most important jobs as directors is to ensure an excellent board now and into the future. To that end, I’m happy to say that although I will be stepping down, the president role will be filled by a wonderfully talented board member, Derek Punaro. Derek’s previous board experience, willingness to learn all he can about the role and responsibilities of a Co-op board president, and firm but gentle demeanor are well suited to the job at hand. To say that he will also be supported by an incredibly dedicated and talented group of fellow directors is an understatement! Although I will be on the West Coast, I will, with the help of technology, be in regular communication with Derek in order to provide whatever guidance I can, to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. (Until the Co-op opens, I’ll also continue to be involved in the Marketing Committee, something I’ve been involved in since the beginning).

Change in board composition: In the coming months, and as part of our annual elections cycle, the composition of our board will also be in transition. While our Nominating Committee has begun the process of recruiting and welcoming candidates for inclusion on our ballot for our board elections in the spring, it has become apparent that some current, longstanding board members will seek to renew their terms and others will decide not to renew, leaving the door open for interested member-owners to learn more and possibly even run for a seat on the board. If participating in the governance of our Co-op is something that interests you, please be sure to attend one of our upcoming Meet the Board events, either on January 27 or February 4. You are also welcome to contact us at [email protected] with any questions you may have.

Transitions in the board’s work: As we get deeper into 2015, more transitions will take place as the board focuses on many important aspects of building capacity toward successful opening and beyond:

  • Currently the board is focused on recruiting and hiring a highly experienced General Manager, having recently launched a national search in anticipation of hiring that key person within the next couple of months. Once hired, the GM will take the reins from our incredibly dynamic and dedicated Project Manager, Sheila Conboy. As this transition takes place, our volunteer committees will begin to be replaced by staff hired by the General Manager. Operating under Policy Governance, the GM will be responsible for all pre- and post-opening operations, reporting to the board on their progress.
  • As we noted, we are also recruiting strong candidates to run for the board during our spring elections. In addition, our board and Bylaw Review Committee are reviewing and drafting proposed amendments to our bylaws to keep pace with us as we grow and develop.
  • And we’re looking further into the future, too. The board, guided by our board adviser,  is preparing for a retreat within the next couple of months, that will be focused on strategic thinking and planning.

On a personal note, words don’t exist to describe what an honor it has been to serve on this board of directors, as we’ve worked toward laying the best foundation possible for the strongest chance of success for the Co-op we all own equally and together. This group of directors is exemplary in supporting one another and in their selfless dedication to the success of the Co-op. Part of that selflessness is embodied in some board members deciding not to renew their seats in the upcoming elections, leaving room for those who might be willing and interested to step up and serve on behalf of the Co-op’s membership.

Last, but not least, what started out as a joint venture among a little group of friends and acquaintances who thought starting a Co-op was a good idea has bloomed into a community full of new friends who all believe in a bright future for this Co-op and its positive impact on our community. I’m so grateful and humbled to have been a part of it and look forward to continuing to help move it forward, although from afar. Thank you so very much to all of you who make this crazy endeavor so worthwhile!