In a special work session on March 17, the Board of Directors of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority in Alabama took a giant step forward on the governance front. Six of the seven Board members present (there was one abstention) voted to adopt the Board’s first detailed “Governing Mission,” a high-level description of the Board’s major governing responsibilities (for example, “periodically updating BJCTA’s core values, vision for the future, and mission”). Even more important, they voted to establish a contemporary structure of three standing committees to assist the Board in carrying out its highly complex governing work: Governance & External Relations; Planning & Development; and Performance Monitoring & Operational Oversight.
This wasn’t the traditional work session of yore. No outside consultant stood in front of the room urging BJCTA Board members to take these two momentous steps that laid the foundation for a number of other governance improvement initiatives outlined in the Task Force’s Action Report: “Taking Governance to the Next Level at BJCTA.” Instead, the four Board members making up the Task Force – with Board Chair Dr. Patrick Sellers at their head – served as highly effective “governance change champions,” using PowerPoint slides to describe the recommended Governing Mission and new standing committee structure, and addressing Board members’ questions before the votes were taken. Board members presenting to their colleagues – peer-to-peer – signaled that a new day had, indeed, arrived at BJCTA.
The March 17 Board work session was the culmination of the second phase of the BJCTA High-Impact Governing Initiative. The key milestone of the first phase had been a daylong High-Impact Governing Work Session in early January, at which Board and Executive Team members familiarized themselves with developments in the rapidly changing field of public transportation governance, identified governance issues, and explored practical solutions. During the second phase, the High-Impact Governing Task Force appointed by Board Chair Sellers worked with the Authority’s governance consultant in fashioning the recommendations that were presented on March 17. The third phase of the High-Impact Governing Program, just now getting underway, will focus on putting the new committee structure firmly in place and moving on other recommendations in the Action Report, under the leadership of the Board’s new Governance & External Relations Committee – for example, strengthening the Board’s management of its own governing performance and of its relationship with Executive Director Ann August.
Stay tuned for a progress report as Executive Director August works with Chair Sellers and the two other Board members on the new Governance & External Relations Committee to translate the Task Force Action Report into concrete action in the coming weeks.