Board welcomes Morales, asks about new relationship

Board welcomes Morales, asks about new relationship

Introductions and statements by board, new president.


After each trustee briefly introduced himself or herself at this morning Board of Trustees meeting in Salt Lake City, UUA Moderator Gini Courter said, “I don’t know if you’re as excited as I am, but please welcome our new president, Peter Morales.” The trustees applauded and cheered.

Morales offered a few reflections on the campaign. “Happily,” he said, “the discussion was not about competence nor was it really about personality. I’m delighted about that.” He said he interpreted the election results as a mandate for ambitious action. Unitarian Universalists “really want us, as their leaders, to be ambitious about moving into the future.”

Morales said he would be traveling to Boston next week to hold initial conversations with Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery, to look for an apartment, and to begin setting up a travel schedule. “My head’s still spinning,” he said, “but I’m anxious to shift gears and make this transition.”

He then invited questions from the trustees.

David Friedman, the trustee from the St. Lawrence District, asked how Morales planned to respond to travel invitations. Morales replied that he hoped to be “as strategic about it as possible, looking for ways to move the vision forward.” He said he would be accepting invitations from diverse regions and speak in “venues that have some leverage to them,” but added that this would not restrict him to large congregations or gatherings.

Tom Loughrey, the new UUA secretary and trustee from the Pacific Southwest District, asked about staff anxieties about a new administration. Morales said he would meet soon with the UUA’s staff and Leadership Council. “I’ve been through this drill before,” he said. “There’s always some anxiety—and it’s not all bad. There’s a kind of anxiety that brings heightened awareness. My style is, I don’t come in with a submachine gun and shoot the place up. But there will be some changes.”

“I like to talk about the distinction between anxiety and panic,” Morales continued. “A certain kind of urgency can be invigorating and healthy. I want to bring some of that atmosphere into the Association.”

Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery said that the staff has been anxious on two fronts: feeling grief about former President William G. Sinkford’s departure, and feeling relatively unfamiliar with either of the candidates for president. “I want to affirm Peter’s comments that a certain amount of urgency and anxiety will be healthy,” she added.

Linda Laskowski, trustee from the Pacific Central District, asked Morales what makes the relationship between a board and chief executive work well.

Morales replied that he saw no conflict between his and the board’s values and goals. “I see Policy Governance as a means toward our ends, a way of achieving certain values.”

He continued: “The values that appeal to me are real clarity about roles, transparency and accountability—I’m totally committed to that. I’m someone who believes that secrets are terrible things; one has to have a compelling reason for something to be confidential—personnel issues, litigation—and I am committed to this administration being as absolutely transparent as possible.”

Morales said, “I don’t believe there are any significant differences between the values I’ve been campaigning for and the values the board is focused on. I don’t see any misalignment with the board.” He added that, in general, “a lack of disagreement bothers me; I see it is not as a sign of health.”

John Blevins, the trustee from the Prairie Star District, asked how Morales intended to begin a conversation about arriving at shared vision with the board. Morales replied, “One advantage we have is that Laurel and I have been [attending board meetings] for a while. I feel like I’m part of the board culture. I kind of know what you think already. Also, I don’t pretend to have all the answers.”

Nick Allen, the youth trustee, asked about Morales’s plans to meet with UUA leaders. Morales said he and Kay Montgomery will sit down to talk next week. Courter said she and Morales will talk by phone next week as well.

Lew Phinney, trustee from the Mountain Desert District, responded to the Rev. Will Saunders’s concern in his opening statement (mentioned in the preceding blog post) that the board was too invisible. “Unfortunately, we disagree. I see the role of the board as being largely invisible if everything is going well. If something is not going well, the board has dropped the ball or something has intervened and we have to get involved.” He asked, “Should we be out there in front leading the parade, or sitting back and watching the parade we launched?”

Morales replied, “That’s the board’s to talk about and decide, not mine.” He added as an observation that he knew who was the president of each college his children attended, but did not know who was on the board of either school. “I hope the board doesn’t set a target that’s unattainable.”


7.1.09: As originally published, this blog entry left out part of the name of the district represented by trustee Tom Loughrey.