As a staff person supporting advisory boards comprised of people from the community who meet, discuss and recommend to the Board of Commissioners, your role is to ensure that policies and laws are followed by the members of the advisory board. It is also your duty to bring the board's attention to issues of importance, assist the chair with agenda development, provide background information to prepare the board for decisions, and encourage and support the people who serve as members. For more information on staff responsibilities for the management of meetings, review the following areas:
Every group should establish ground rules on how meetings will run, how members will interact and what kind of behavior is acceptable. Because each group member is an individual, each has a different way of accomplishing tasks. At times these different ways can cause friction between members and slow down the process of the group as a whole. Each member is expected to respect these rules, which usually prevents misunderstandings and disagreements. Three to five ground rules are sufficient for most groups. Some of the more important ground rules include:• Attendance: groups should place a high priority on meetings, talk about what would be legitimate reasons for missing a meeting, and establish a procedure for informing the group leader of a member’s absence from a scheduled meeting.• Promptness: meetings should start and end on time.• Meeting place and time: specify a regular meeting time and place, and establish a procedure for notifying members of meetings.• Participation: everyone’s viewpoint is valuable. Every team member can make a unique contribution; therefore, emphasize the importance of both speaking freely and listening attentively.• Basic conversational courtesies: listen attentively and respectfully to others, do not interrupt, one conversation at a time, and so forth.• Interruptions: decide when interruptions will be tolerated and when they will not.• Other norms or ground rules that can be decided ahead of time by the group such as acceptable language, humor, jargon, etc.
One of the best ways to ensure an advisory board is effective is through the use of a work plan. The plan specifies goals for the board, strategies to meet the goals and timelines for completion of the goals. The goals of the board should be closely aligned with goals of the department. A work plan should specify the operational goals of the board for the year. A well-developed work plan can be used by each board member and relevant staff members as a reference for completing his or her portion of the organization's strategic plan.
Staff must work closely with the board chair or executive committee to ensure an agenda is developed for each meeting. The agenda should further the work of the board while supporting the mission and directives. Staff to the board must know where the board wants to go (work plan/goals) and what they need to reach that destination. The agenda provides a forum in which to address issues and accumulate information to assist the board with its work. A balanced agenda should include both action items and discussion items to keep members involved.
Advisory board members deserve recognition for the work that they do for the county. Staff can use several methods of providing recognition to these members. Some examples include:
Citing a member's exemplary work in front of peers
Writing a letter or note of thanks complimenting the member on some aspect of his or her work or participation
Taking a few extra minutes before or after a meeting to inquire about the members family/life/work
Nominating the member or the board for awards for the work that has been accomplished, extraordinary teamwork, or any other reason staff chooses
Periodically, ask how the member feels he or she is doing on the board
Many other ideas are available from the county's volunteer coordinator
Staff should provide background information and statistics for issues or topics that the board addresses. The background information that members need to be able to understand and discuss issues must be provided in advance of the meeting where the discussion will take place.
Staff is responsible for making sure that all aspects of Oregon's Public Meetings Law are met by the advisory board. In addition to adequate public notice and minutes, staff must ensure that advisory board members understand the definition of a public body and the responsibilities of a public official. Advisory board members are only able to deliberate toward a decision when in a public meeting. More information on Public Meetings Law can be found at this link.