By Marlis K. Sandwith
When I graduated from junior high, my teachers and classmates presented me with a certificate which read, “Future Mayor of Friday Harbor, Washington.” Mind you, I graduated from a junior high in Kirkland, Washington, as my family had not yet made the move to San Juan Island. I guess my love of the islands was already evident to the people around me, even at that young age. Fortunately for the mayoral candidates of Eastsound, I am not furry, feathery, or scaly enough to compete for the coveted position of Mayor of Eastsound. Hence, I will leave it to my animal friends to represent us all in the important issues facing our little village.
However, I’ve always been very civic-minded, and very interested in the public sphere, on both local and global scales. As a mother, and a former teacher, I’ve been able to be involved with many activities, organizations, and events both in and out of schools. Now, as my three children get older, I am asking myself: how can I give back to my community? Luckily, there are many fine options from which to choose. On Orcas Island alone, there are at least 104 non-profit organizations, in addition to all the public and private organizations that meet community needs. With the exception of serving on my son’s preschool board for a few years, and a year working administratively for the local non-profit, Lahari, board work is relatively new to me.
Last year, after some very positive experiences via my middle child, I joined the Funhouse Commons board of directors, as you may remember from a previous blog post. The Funhouse is a non-profit community center that provides mentoring programs, out of school time programs, teen programs and, in partnership with the Orcas Island School District, education and college preparation programs, as well as facilities for classes and meetings, clubs, and much, much more. Most importantly, The Funhouse Commons is a critical safety net for the youth of Orcas Island–and by extension their families. This is a link to a favorite video of the Funhouse staff members sharing her story of why the Funhouse is so very important. Our mission statement is as follows:
The Funhouse serves the urgent needs of young people and strengthens community bonds by providing a safe and stimulating environment where all can learn, discover, create, socialize and be heard.
This year, I was appointed by the San Juan County Council to serve as a Land Bank Commissioner, representing District 2 (Orcas Island). The Land Bank is a public/county entity, funded by a 1% Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) which all buyers pay when they purchase property in San Juan County. Here is a link to a great piece about the history of the San Juan County Land Bank. The mandate of the Land Bank is as follows:
To preserve in perpetuity areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, historic, scenic or low-intensity recreational value and to protect existing and future sources of potable water.
While some may question why I would want to commit myself to such things when I already have a life filled to the brim with three children, a husband, pets, and my work, I say two things:
1. If you want something done, ask a busy person.
2. Board work is life work.
Though I didn’t realize it before I came to board work, much of what I practice in my board work is surprisingly applicable to my life at large. There are many times when I am sitting in a meeting when I think to myself: What if I applied some of this intention and work to my own family? To the way I work with my clients? To the way I communicate with others?
Here are examples of some things we practice in board work, that are also beneficial to practice in daily life:
- The practice of time stewardship.
- The practice of constructive disagreement and dissent from the majority.
- The practice of staying on-topic and focusing on higher goals/ideals.
- The practice of upholding ethical standards.
- The practice of upholding your organization’s mandate, or mission statement.
- The practice of action-oriented discussions and follow-through.
- The practice of listening & speaking skills.
- The practice of reaching consensus.
- The practice of keeping one’s word/integrity.
- The practice of confidentiality and avoidance of gossip.
This is actually the Short List. And I must add that I know some of you reading this are chuckling to yourselves, or, worse yet—scoffing. Board work is often incredibly arduous and difficult work (or even boring), and the way I’ve characterized it above sounds as if it’s working more toward spiritual awakening than the management, stewardship, and fiscal responsibility for an organization. I know there are many of you who have had less than spiritual (or even tolerable) experiences on boards. I am lucky to have had very positive experiences thus far with the boards on which I serve, though it’s certainly not easy. But as I say to my kids: the things most worth doing are often the hardest to do.
There is another thing I learned from two beloved teachers of mine that I often tell people (and if you know me, you probably already know what I’m going to say): my life is not busy; it is full. My husband and I are both involved in many areas of our community, and though it can be overwhelming at times, we feel it’s important to do our part, to the extent that we are able. We are constantly amazed by other community members who are much busier than we are, and to whom we are so grateful for all they do to keep the wheels turning on our little island.
If I’ve sparked your interest at all about the Funhouse or the San Juan County Land Bank, please contact me. I’d love to talk more with you about either or both, as they are near and dear to my heart.
Marlis K. Sandwith :: Associate Broker :: T. Williams Realty :: firstname.lastname@example.org