US Coins

Guest Commentary: Bowers: some personal reflections on the ANA election process

I have read with interest the current news about the American Numismatic Association. First of all, I wish Kim Kiick, the latest executive director, the best of success in her new position. I’ve known Kim ever since 1982 when I was vice president of the ANA and she was a new hire at the reception desk. It is really nice when someone can start with a company or organization, work hard and rise within it to achieve a top position. For Kim the executive directorship is hardly a new experience. She’s filled that position on an interim basis before. She will not need a training period or any explanation of what to do!

It seems to be policy in recent times that the ANA Board, who hires the executive director, backs and even praises him, then, bam! Out he goes, typically without any details given to the membership as to what happened. Hopefully, Kim will do well and remain in the post for a long time.

I have enjoyed being a member of the ANA since I was eligible in 1956 at the age of 18. At the time, anyone younger was not wanted, as he or she could not make contracts and was viewed as irresponsible. Today school kids can be members. I like that. Nearly all of the leading dealers active today started in the profession as teenagers. In youth there is vitality and an eagerness to learn.

In 1955 I applied for a bourse table at the annual convention, held that year in Omaha, Neb. Lewis M. Reagan of Wichita, Kan., was general secretary and ran the operation — giving out printing contracts, booking convention space in hotels, answering correspondence, assigning bourse tables and more. There was no headquarters building. In essence Reagan carried the ANA in his briefcase.

Since the 1960s we have a beautiful headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a full-time staff.

In time, I had opportunities to participate in many ANA activities. I was an instructor at the Summer Seminars for a number of years, ran for a position on the board of governors, served there, and then was vice president from 1981 to 1983 and president from 1983 to 1985. I love the ANA and try to continue to be of service.

In view of the revolving-door situation with a string of executive directors, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on lawsuits as a result, and a lot of bad press, it may be time for the board to take a long, measured view to see if procedures can be changed, perhaps starting with the election rules — to attract more talent and a measure of longevity in service and lead to enhanced management.

When I was on the board there were no term limits for the position of governor. There were one-term limits for the vice president and president. Some board members had been there for a long time. This was good and this was bad.

The result was change in the election process. First, in 1979, the idea of numbered seats became policy. In this way John Doe could run for seat No. 1, Susie Smith for seat No. 2 and Sam Jones for seat No. 3, continuing for seven positions. The vice president and president were the eighth and ninth board members.

It was thought that in this way, if disliked long-term board member Mr. X opted for seat No. 4, those who disliked X could back a candidate to run against him. Unseated, Mr. X would no longer be a “problem.” This did not work. Name recognition came to the fore, and Mr. X either had no problem being reelected or, alternatively, he was recognized as a powerful name, and no one wanted to run against him.

Then in 1995 came the present system of limiting service to 10 years. My great long-time friend (since I was a teenager) Ken Bressett, editor of A Guide Book of United States Coins and a past ANA president, was and is an advocate of this. However, to me this seems to have its problems. Today the board of governors is composed of fine people, but none with experience in ANA governance that dates back to even as recently as the year 2000. Also, anyone aspiring to be president (traditionally running for vice president first), has to start scrambling a few years after joining the board, or else he or she will run out of time.

Another challenge is that the ANA is a multi-million dollar organization with tens of thousands of members and dozens of employees. Keen leadership and management skills are needed. I would think it desirable that three seats on the board be specifically reserved for people with proven professional experience in law, management, and finance.

I would consider it desirable to extend the term limits, if not open ended, to more than 10 years, say 16 years. Further, I think that rather than having to run for reelection every two years, perhaps a four-year term would be better. The terms could be staggered so that in each election, currently held every two years, three seats would be open in one election and four in the next. This would help with continuity.

Some thoughts to ponder.

Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC.

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