Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thoughts on the Candidate Forum

St. Paul’s is to be commended for staging a candidate forum before the Vestry election. It is also encouraging that we have six candidates for four positions. Parishioners do actually have a choice to make.

I attended the session Sunday after the 10:45 service. Choir rehearsal precluded me from attending the earlier program. Unfortunately, only four candidates were available, Eric Linn, Erin Morey, Louise Cannon, and Mark Tranquilli. Ansley Westbrook was apparently on vacation, but Tranquilli did a fair job of making the case for his candidacy. Barbara St. Clair had no similar advocate.

Jon Delano was supposed to be the moderator for the session, as he was for the earlier one. He had to addend a funeral, however, and his job was amply handled by Bob Johnston.

Each participant offered a personal introduction, after which Johnson asked about goals for the parish. Nothing very remarkable was said, and the overall sense was that St. Paul’s is doing well and needs to continue in the same direction.

There were three questions from the audience. My question was
As specifically as possible, what is the one thing at St. Paul’s you would like to change or fix? Do not simply name something we can do as we are now, only better.
I wanted to know if anyone was running due to a passionate desire to initiate change. Tranquilli talked about getting more people involved. Morey spoke of listening to everyone as a representative of the congregation.Canon wants to get children more involved in donating their time and talent. Although no one was willing to admit that there is anything wrong with what we do, Linn came closest to offering a potentially useful innovation. He talked about defining measurable goals. (I think that St. Paul’s is better at doing new things than it is at evaluating whether they work.)

Charles Coleman, when called on to offer a question, rambled on about our medical system, citing an issue of Consumer Reports in his hand. I assume he was trying to suggest that this was an issue the parish should be talking about. If he had a question in mind, he never got to ask it, as both Michelle and Lou shut him down on the basis of irrelevance. The admonition was not gentle.

Finally, Preston Shimer asked what commission the candidates would like to serve on. Candidates didn’t really get a chance to answer, as Lou explained that he speaks to Vestry members and tries to match members to commissions as satisfactorily as possible. Tranquilli managed to get an answer in, namely, that he would serve as needed. This is something of a safe, standard answer, of course, but he offered the example of serving as a judge in the Family Division, where he had no special interest or expertise, because that’s where he was needed. (He is a Common Pleas Court judge.)

I think it fair to say that all the candidates seemed credible, and no one said anything foolish. Louise Cannon is notably for having been at St. Paul’s for nearly her whole life. Erin Morey is a fresh face clearly committed to making the world a better place. Eric Linn is an experienced member of the Vestry who wants to be more analytical regarding what works or not at St. Paul’s. Mark Tranquilli appears thoughtful and is impressive as a speaker.

I was a bit concerned that both Tranquilli and Morey seem committed to the 8:45 service, which I do not see as a mainstream Episcopal service. I hope their perspective is broader than that suggests. Also, Tranquilli mentioned having participated in the Alpha Course, which is likewise out of the Episcopal and (I hope) St. Paul’s mainstream. Both candidates have other redeeming qualities, of course.

Cannon has never been on the Vestry, but she knows St. Paul’s well and seems to have some interesting ideas about engaging our youth. Linn is on the Vestry now and is probably in the best position to understand the nuts and bolts of parish administration.

I am not endorsing anyone for the Vestry, but I think we can be confident that, whoever wins, St. Paul’s will be the winner.

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