Candidates for the Board of Trustees

This article was originally published in May 2001

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When the PCC elections begin on May 5, you may vote for up to four of the following candidates to fill four open seats on the PCC Board of Trustees. The three candidates receiving the most votes each will serve three-year terms. The fourth highest vote-getter will serve a one-year term.

The candidates were asked to respond to these questions to help members make an informed choice.

  1. Why should we vote for you? What difference will you make to the PCC Board of Trustees?
  2. What is PCC’s critical difference in the marketplace?
  3. The recent closing of the Ravenna store highlighted the difficulties of informing and involving members in complex and sensitive decisions. As a board member, what specific changes would you advocate to better include members in these decisions?

Here are the six candidates, their statements, and answers to the questions:

Chantal Stevens (candidate by nomination)

Chantal Stevens

Currently Executive Director of People for Salmon, a statewide effort supporting community-based salmon recovery. Previous experience: Environmental Division Manager for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, seafood QC Inspector, and a variety of field or research positions. Fish biologist with years of management and environmental policy experience, raised in Europe and Africa, I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for 21 years and graduated from UW. Married, two children (16, 20). Love to hike, travel and garden.

Question 1
Sustainability and social equity are important issues to me. Both concepts, embodied in the mission and values of PCC, help maintain and improve the regional and global quality of life. As a board member, I will use my skills, energy, experience and power of persuasion to keep both at the forefront of many of our decisions by ensuring that PCC: (1) supports and promotes the sustainable production of food and other goods, with particular emphasis on supporting small scale, community-based farms and businesses that meet and balance existing environmental, economic and social needs without compromising the well-being of future generations; and (2) pursues social equity policies that, among other considerations, uphold and improve workplace conditions and benefits to promote a secure and pleasant work environment for its employees. Because of my 10 years involvement in one of the most divisive issues faced by our region — how to balance the need of the salmon with those of a vibrant regional economy — I can help PCC balance its social and environmental responsibility with the business necessity of remaining a profitable, flourishing competitive enterprise.

Through my education and employment, I have gained a deep awareness of environmental issues, laws and economics, and have a good understanding of fisheries, agriculture and the seafood business. I am also well-traveled, multi-lingual, and very aware of and interested in international food and market trends.

I have served on boards and reported to boards, giving me insight on both perspectives. I can be a strong team player to move good ideas forward or an assertive advocate who will stand up for what I believe to be right.

Question 2
Like many newer grocery stores, PCC offers a good choice of products and a pleasant shopping experience. PCC is fairly unique in its ability to offer the following under one roof:

  • Good value
  • A large choice of products that are healthy and green
  • Adherence to social and environmental principles
  • Good service by knowledgeable and caring staff
  • Educational opportunities.

PCC has two other advantages:

  • In a world where bad news about the food supply and the environment seem to strike almost daily, PCC offers the comfort of a reliable, wholesome fare. It seems intuitive that, as more horror stories surface about the effect of chemicals on people and potential contamination of the food industry, consumption of safe, organic products will become increasingly mainstream. PCC is poised to capture a large percentage of that emerging market.
  • Because PCC is a cooperative, members feel ownership in it and tend to be more loyal and involved than the average grocery shopper. PCC has a strategic advantage with a large pool of lifetime members, who have invested in the membership and can participate in the decision-making process.

Question 3
The PCC Ravenna store was an important part of life for some 50 families who were still faithfully shopping at the little store after 25 years. As a board member, I expect to be faced with difficult governance decisions such as balancing the interests of the Ravenna families with the more general responsibility of remaining profitable for the benefit of the broad membership. I will advocate for more forums, such as breakfast forums, at the seven stores where PCC members can informally and routinely provide input to the board and management and learn firsthand about board and management decisions. The website and newsletter can also be used effectively to convey important information, and the website could be modified to allow better two-way dialogue. I commit to participate in as many events as I can, listen closely to the membership and strive to make decisions that best meet expectations and satisfy the needs of the customers and staff.

Pat Gibbon (candidate by nomination)

Pat Gibbons

I have 15 years of experience managing programs focusing on commercial, industrial and residential energy conservation and sustainable design and construction. I have a strong background in personnel management and budgeting for multi-million dollar programs. I have managed energy conservation programs for both the City of Seattle and the State Energy Office. Currently, I am finishing my last quarter of graduate school in landscape architecture at the University of Washington. During the past three years, I have been focusing my studies on sustainability and green marketing. Enjoy gardening, biking, yoga and reading.

Question 1
There are four areas I want to work on if elected to PCC’s Board.

  • First, business vitality — PCC must remain competitive and expand its community base through gaining both new members and new regular shoppers. PCC must evaluate its current business line (i.e. natural and organic goods) and determine what mix of goods and services are being demanded by consumers and how to meet that need. This may mean, for example, expanding product lines to include items not currently sold or buying more locally grown organic produce. I want to help PCC strengthen its business vitality through new strategic planning and green marketing/advertising initiatives.
  • Second, sustainability — PCC should continue to embrace sustainability principles and strive to apply them in all aspects of business decision-making and day-to-day operations. PCC has already begun using sustainable practices and technologies in many of the stores and on projects such as the Farmland Fund. I hope to expand PCC’s use of renewable energy technologies, sustainable materials and construction practices, and other principles of sustainability.
  • Third, local products — PCC purchases a lot of local products ranging from organic produce, vegetable and flower starts, to candles. PCC needs to expand its local purchasing and look for new product lines. Buying locally and supporting small businesses is a major part of sustainability. I hope to encourage PCC to find more local products to meet their members’ and customers’ wants.
  • Fourth, community outreach — PCC works on and supports a wide range of community projects such as stocking food banks, preserving farmland and granting funds to nonprofit agencies. Many of these activities are not well known within the Puget Sound community. I believe more people would shop at PCC if they knew more about what PCC does for and in the community. Getting the word out to our members and the community will be a top priority of mine.

I want people to vote for the candidates they believe best meet their expectations and express their ideas, concerns and interests. I know I will work very hard to represent members, nonmembers, store management, and employees in board decisions. I plan on regularly visiting and talking with people as they shop at all of the stores. If you believe I am your best candidate, please vote for me. The most basic and important part of being a co-op member is voting.

Question 2
I believe PCC’s critical difference in the marketplace is its integrated approach to buying, selling and sustaining the community — a community of co-op members, regular and new shoppers and businesses which the co-op buys from. This integrated approach involves surveying shoppers to know exactly what they want and need, meeting these needs through stocking such products and finding new items which shoppers may not know about. Buying and selling local business goods helps sustain not only the individual businesses, but the whole natural goods and organic foods industry. Buying and selling locally also attracts customers who shop at PCC for specific farmer’s or producer’s goods. PCC, as mentioned before, also supports the community through numerous projects and activities.

Question 3
The closing of the Ravenna store came as a complete shock to me. As a PCC member who shopped there intermittently, I knew nothing about the potential closure until I read about it in the newspaper. I do not want to second guess either the board’s decision to close the store or how it notified the community of its closure. Instead, I want to suggest some ways the board could inform the community, if a store has to be closed again. Hopefully, this will never happen. Well before a store is closed, both the immediate surrounding community and PCC’s overall membership must know that a store isn’t doing well. This could be done through a community meeting or a newsletter or even a special PCC membership meeting. A special marketing/advertising campaign could be done to increase sales volume.

The board and PCC management must turn to the community and to its membership for ideas on how to change such a situation. I would advocate forming a task force made up of surrounding community people and business, PCC members at large, store management, employees and board members to monitor the situation, to recommend changes and to keep the full board apprised. I strongly believe that neighborhood residents and businesses are the experts at getting the word out. It is also imperative that the co-op involve its membership in such a decision. A fundamental part of a cooperative is that all the members have a voice in the organization. Using hindsight as a guide, I would review how PCC’s efforts to inform members could have been more successful. I would also research how other co-ops have dealt with similar situations.

Linda Dickson (candidate by nomination)

Linda Dickson

When the board of directors for one of our state’s largest-ever capital campaigns wanted the best leader, the best communicator, and the best manager, they chose Linda Dickson. Linda has significant senior management experience in the not-for-profit and marketing fields, which included starting and managing two major foundations, serving as a regional VP for a national health leader, advertising management, and re-nomination as co-chair of the largest American Philanthropy Day celebrations. Her current work as Campaign Director focuses on environment and education. Linda holds an MBA and is passionate about animals, the environment, and the importance of making our world a better place.

Question 1
I have a fortunate history of making every organization I have been a part of a much better one than when I arrived; that is one of the main reasons why I believe I can make a major contribution to PCC. Working with our other PCC trustees will give me a chance to use the same qualities which have served me well in the past. These include a very high work ethic, innovation and new ways of looking at things, great team-building abilities, and a strong motivation for the organization’s success. I also have experience in serving membership organizations, have extensive work with boards, and a personal commitment to the same values which PCC stands for. With your vote, these skills will allow me to help PCC achieve its mission.

Question 2
PCC’s critical difference in the marketplace is what will allow us to grow and better serve our members and that is our emphasis on quality — quality in our products, quality in the service we provide to our customer, and the emphasis PCC puts on quality of life via improving our environment. In this fast-paced era when there is often a value attached to getting something done faster, not better, I know the importance of quality is what will make us a leader. If growth in our membership is one of our goals, this importance and pride in quality — and properly communicating that to our audiences — is what will set PCC apart and allow us to meet that objective.

Question 3
I think there are some positive lessons that can be learned from the closing of the Ravenna store. First, it reinforced the degree to which our membership does care about what PCC does, and does want to be involved. For future major decisions, we need to allow more lead time to convey information and request input on decisions and we are reminded not to be hasty in making significant decisions. I also look forward to maximizing use of the technical tools available to all of us, such as website and email, to improve this two-way flow of communication. Using more than our newsletter and print materials should significantly enhance our ability to communicate with members and get them involved in decisions.

Lori Babcock (incumbent, candidate by nomination)

Lori Babcock

Currently working in the quality assurance department for Timeline, Inc., a software company that specializes in reporting software, financial and business reports for executives; educated at schools in Pennsylvania and England. A member of PCC and a Seward Park shopper since moving to Seattle several years ago. Lives in south Seattle with partner Ruth and Ruth’s daughter, Casey.

Question 1
I was elected to the board four years ago and then appointed to the role of Board Chair for the past three years. It has been an honor and a pleasure and I thank you for making it possible. I am running again because I am very interested in being part of the co-op’s future and I feel that my work is not finished.

I believe we need board members who have visionary capabilities, coupled with business and communication skills, and the desire to lead PCC to be successful.

The visionary skills are needed for designing the future of the co-op. The business and financial skills are needed to ascertain if the co-op is being properly managed. The communication skills are needed to create the link between the members and the board, which fuels the designing of the future.

As the PCC Board Chair, I have been pursuing more efficient ways of doing this work for the last three years. My business and educational background is in accounting and software engineering. I am part of a small, tight-knit software company that provides financial and business reporting software solutions for medium to large companies. Software companies, especially small ones, face heavy competition in the marketplace where the large, and sometimes totally unrelated, companies are merging and buying each other out.

PCC is also facing ever-increasing competition from large corporations with deep pockets. It is the job of the board to provide leadership to management for future endeavors that are based on what the PCC membership will need. These are the skills that can be honed further by a comprehensive board education program, which I support.

Question 2
PCC has a rich history and has been instrumental in making organic and natural products available in the Puget Sound region. Due to increased competition and the need for increased board performance, the board has redesigned the way it does its work and has become more focused on outcomes and why the organization exists at all. We are not just another business, which exists solely to make a profit; however, we need to be profitable to be able to improve our services to members and grow our membership. I want to see the membership grow.

The co-op model can be a successful business model and must compete in the marketplace by serving its members well. I do not think it is an easy task, but it is a worthy pursuit. The structure of a co-op promotes working together for a common good rather than just for the maximization of profits, for the benefit of stockholders who may be far removed from the company itself. It is healthy for all to have an alternative business model.

Compared to other consumer co-ops, PCC is unique given its size and success, but has come under a great deal of pressure to develop its niche in order to be able to grow and be successful. The board needs to be obsessed with discovering the future needs of our members and determining just what that niche will be.

Question 3
Closing a PCC store, especially the first PCC store location, has got to be one of the toughest decisions before a board. Involving the membership in such a decision is very challenging as well. In the Ravenna case, the sustainable store team (a group of PCC members living in the Ravenna neighborhood) was formed and then virtually disbanded immediately. I do not think they even had three months to deliberate. They were given false hope and no chance to be effective. This team should have started up about two years ago and really given an opportunity and support to effect change. Maybe a sustainable store team at each location would be a great way not to just support a store that needs it, but to make a better co-op.

PCC should never underestimate the value of member participation and support for its co-op. Members deserved more out of PCC in the way of communication about the pending event of the store closure, rather than a bland media release. And the members deserved to hear it before the media did.

Carmelita Logerwell (incumbent, candidate by nomination)

Carmelita Logerwell

More than 20 years experience in public accounting, serving as a trusted advisor to owners of closely held businesses and individuals. Strengths in analyzing complex problems and collaboration. B.S., Accounting, University of Washington; M.S., Taxation, Golden Gate University; CPA licensed by the State of Washington. Served as director and presiding officer for the boards of professional organizations, PCC Natural Markets, an environmental learning center and a liberal church. Avid kayaker, mountaineer and supporter of the arts.

Question 1
I ask you to vote for me for a number of reasons. As an incumbent, I am only now reaching my full stride, knowledgeable in PCC’s operations and competitive environment and the tools it has to meet current and future challenges and what needs to be added to the management’s skill set. I have been part of a metamorphosis. The board, in committing to adopting the Policy Governance model, has moved from a dysfunctional group micromanaging a business in an industry in which it had little or no operational experience, to a cohesive group of professionals that allows management to do its job and focus on the larger, more far-reaching decisions of the company. I want to see PCC move through the current financial crisis and regain a positive bottom line. The board needs to select a new CEO and make some decisions about structure of the upper management team. We still need to flesh out the Ends Policies directing management and refine the Financial Limitations Policies, which set Executive Limitations on management. I want to see the board and the organization so committed to and knowledgeable about the Policy Governance Model that its ongoing relevance to PCC is without question.

Recently, Kathleen Beamer, VP of Public Affairs for REI, spoke to us about REI’s governance and Board selection process. In 1982, REI, a co-op, was very comparable to PCC now — sales of $66 million, 7 stores. The organization experienced a dissident campaign to elect a slate of directors, which was a clear threat to the co-op’s stability and future. With growing size and complexity, increasing external threats and opportunities, the board realized there was a need for truly strategic, visionary leaders. PCC’s Board of Trustees has made great headway in the last three years in strengthening its process and putting in place a process for evaluation of the board. We have much more work to do if we are to assure PCC’s vitality and growth in today’s challenging marketplace. PCC is much more to the communities it serves than a merchant. To continue to provide leadership to such projects as the Farmland Fund and influencing the regulation of organic food labeling, we must be a healthy and profitable business. Board excellence is a key to attaining those goals. My goal as a continuing member of the board is to work toward board excellence by strengthening the trustee selection process. We need to review our bylaws to identify ways in which they make the co-op vulnerable to disruptive behavior and inhibit excellence.

Question 2
I don’t know what PCC’s critical difference is in the marketplace. I thought I knew — I know what is the difference for me personally — but with a recent survey, we discovered that a large portion of our market area population does not think of PCC as a grocery store. The way we have structured membership and the choice to give member discounts are seen as barriers to potential shoppers.

The board and management not only have to grapple with an intensifying competitive environment, but we also need to figure out how to communicate clearly the advantages to shopping at PCC. Do we diversify the services that we provide, such as adding restaurants, pharmacies and bookstores? Can we add some higher margin product lines? How do we solidify our brand in the perception of the market-place? These are just a few of the questions that need answers and they need answers soon.

Question 3
The Board of Trustees represents the members and acts on their behalf. PCC is growing in size and complexity. As the board and management make decisions, there is no efficient and safe way to involve the larger membership in those deliberations. We have to assure that our competition does not have access to information that they could use to harm PCC. In electing a board, you are delegating the responsibility of governing PCC to them. The board uses surveys, focus groups and feedback from management to stay in tune with the membership. We are currently scheduling a breakfast per quarter in different stores as a way to link with members in a more intimate way. The board works very hard on PCC’s behalf — we are currently meeting twice as frequently as initially projected. As we raise the bar and recruit people who meet more rigorous candidate criteria, we will have to be even more judicious of the demands we make on trustees. We must guarantee that the people we have elected to represent us are able to concentrate completely on the tasks at hand.

Currently, board meetings are open to any member who wishes to attend. We tightly schedule our meetings, but have frequently made time to hear members over the time I have served on the board. I ask for your trust and your vote.

John Brennan (candidate by petition)

John Brennan

I have been involved in cooperatives all of my adult life. I currently work as a Project Manager for a small development company in south Seattle analyzing multi-million dollar budgets. Educated in Wisconsin. I have been a PCC Ravenna member since 1993. Live in Ravenna with my wife and son. I am a tutor and mentor for Seattle schools, I coach at the community center and have served on educational advisory boards for local museums.

Question 1
My candidacy has been spurred by the closing of the Ravenna store. Many co-op members that I have spoken to express extreme disappointment with the board’s handling of the issue. I am running because the board seems to have forgotten that a co-op is a member-based organization. We are the owners of the stores and the board is our representative. As a board member, I would look to change the way the board communicates with the members. Currently, there is no way for the average member to find out information about important issues facing the co-op. I would actively survey the membership to see if the co-op is working for its mission. I would consult with the membership about what they want to see done with the Ravenna property. Perhaps most important, I would take the time to actually answer the questions that the members asked the board following the Ravenna store closure. Members took the time to go to a series of meetings following the closure of the store and asked many heartfelt questions. At the time, the board asked the members to be patient and their questions would be answered. The board has yet to answer any of the questions asked of it. The difference I would make would be to have those and any other questions answered. Only 12 PCC members attended the last yearly membership meeting. If I am elected to the board, one of my goals would be to have the yearly meeting become truly relevant to the organization. An attendance of only 12 from an organization of over 40,000 members reflects poorly on the board’s ability to involve members in the workings of the organization.

Question 2
Perhaps the single largest difference that PCC possesses in this marketplace is that it is a cooperative. This makes us unique among most food stores in the area. Because we are cooperatively owned, we can make decisions that a large out-of-state retailer might not make. The ability of the co-op to make decisions that are not based on the profit motive is one of its greatest strengths. When it was not profitable to sell organic produce we persisted and our vision won out. I envision a cooperative that can position itself as a small community resource. I believe we can never undersell large mega food chains, but what we can do well is deliver local service. There is a need for small local food stores that sell quality wholesome foods. Cooperatively, we can band together and have small stores in our neighborhoods that reflect our values and sensibilities. After all SMALL is BEAUTIFUL!

Question 3
I believe my candidacy is the primary reason that this question is even being asked. PCC members concerned with the store closure and distressed with the board’s actions successfully petitioned to have me put on this ballot. The board of trustees took the controversial decision to close one of the seven PCC stores without informing or involving the membership. For me, it is not a question of the difficulties in informing the membership of the closure of PCC’s oldest and original community-based store, but rather the complete lack of information about the closure. The board took the decision to close the store with no involvement from the member-owners. Nor was there any mention of the store’s difficulties in the official voice of the co-op, the Sound Consumer. What concerns me greatly is that we appear to have a situation that the board has surrendered its management role in favor of a purely advisory role over the co-op management. This must stop. If the co-op is to succeed, it must involve its members, otherwise why is it a cooperative?

In retrospect, the board could have done many things to insure that the membership was fully informed about the store. The board could have started by asking co-op members about the mix of products at the store. If the store was indeed losing money, why were the product lines continued that were unprofitable? The board could have informed the membership through the Sound Consumer that the store was in danger of closing if sales didn’t pick up. I know and trust our membership that, if fully informed, many would have gone to great lengths to ensure the Ravenna store’s financial well-being. The board could have drastically slashed the store’s non-productive inventory to help alleviate any losses. The board could have gone to the membership and discussed possible alternative co-op uses of the property. The board could have sought to rent part of the store space while maintaining a smaller community food store. All of these ideas and many more could have been tried yet it appears none were. We are a cooperative. Let’s start acting like one. Together we can make PCC a great local store.


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