Executive Committee Meeting 7 March 2020

The Partnership for New Kent Executive Committee
Meeting Minutes
Cumberland Plantation
Saturday, March 7 2020 10:00 am

Attendance: John Poindexter, Deb Briggs, Bill Francavilla, Kate Ferris, Linwood Gregory, Bob Hopewell, Charles and Pornwadee Karow, Linda Martin, George McBeath, Taylor Moore, Joe Phillips, Larry and Patricia Reynolds, and Paul Ross

At 10:01 am, the Chairman of the Partnership for New Kent, John Poindexter, called the meeting to order.

First, Chairman Poindexter told the group about the meetings he had with three New Kent County supervisors (Patricia Paige, Thomas Evelyn and Tommy Tiller) the day before (Friday, March 6, 2020). He was accompanied by Linwood Gregory and Taylor Moore, who gave their opinions about the meetings. Poindexter said that he found the meetings to be grueling but very valuable. They talked about the relationships between the Partnership and the Board of Supervisors, and between the Partnership and the community.

Poindexter offered three options for the future of the Partnership:
1. Determine that our reputation cannot be salvaged nor can we operate successfully and dissolve the organization.
2. Admit that we made mistakes and pivot towards active cooperation and collaboration with the BoS.
3. Refuse to believe that there is animosity towards the Partnership and continue to act independently, with continued criticism and opposition.

Poindexter discussed why the BoS has low trust in the Partnership.
1. The BoS identifies the Partnership with the combat range campaign. They see many people in common between the two groups and think we are antagonistic toward the BoS.
2. They expressed annoyance at the petty sniping on social media. Anything said by any one of us on Facebook is taken as said by the Partnership.
3. They expressed huge annoyance at Joe Dombroski’s actions during the election. Poindexter admitted making a mistake in backing him.

Some members offered that, on the other hand, the BoS had its own problems with trust during the combat range dispute. The perception from many in the community was that the BoS didn’t care about their safety and livelihoods even after some citizens talked to the BoS members privately.

The three supervisors told Poindexter that the BoS sees the Partnership as a group of rich white outsiders. One Partnership member considered this kind of thinking offensive, asking whether that meant new-comers shouldn’t have any voice.

The topic turned to communications. One member mentioned that the problem of communications is a two-way street, and the BoS also has a problem with communications with the public. Another offered that the Partnership could help the BoS communicate with the public. The immediate reaction was that right now, the Partnership shouldn’t take a position on any issue, but, instead, take a longer view in making policy judgments.

Several members agreed that the Partnership has a PR problem, and there was a discussion of the difficulty of getting younger people involved and the preponderance of people who are focused on their own problems while being unaware of the issues of the community and local government.

One member suggested that Poindexter should communicate one-on-one with each supervisor and offer our help.

Poindexter concluded this section with this summary of the themes of the discussion:
1. The problem of rapid growth and the differences of opinion between old and new residents will resolve itself through more inward migration. Thus, there is nothing for the Partnership to do on this matter.
2. There is a need for a policy on public communication by committee chairs.
3. There is a need for a policy on establishing positions on issues; we should decide on a few important ones and determine how we can best help the government and the community.
4. Our communication program is ineffective and needs improvement.
5. Outreach is very important to recruit more than white rich people. The BoS will care more about our opinion if we have a larger and more diverse membership.
6. We need serious PR assistance. The Partnership may hire a consultant.
7. We are not universally disliked as some members of the BoS seem to believe.
8. We must develop a policy for our public meetings.

On the question of the future of the Partnership, all members present voted for option #2, working together with County officials with increased collaboration and cooperation.

Poindexter then opened discussion on the next Partnership town hall (public meeting). He suggested that we should only have our next public meeting if we can be sure of a sizable turnout and that we should wait until we have something to say. Some members suggested that we should invite the BoS and School Board to have a role, billing it as a community event. A public meeting might be centered around the strategic planning process. Poindexter concluded that we should not set a date today, but have more discussion at the next EXCOMM meeting.

The Partnership secretary introduced a proposal for a Partnership newsletter to improve communications within the group and with the community. There was considerable discussion on the advisability of starting such an initiative now, and the content and frequency of publication. The reception was generally positive. A newsletter, sent by email, constitutes a “push” notification that comes to people without requiring any effort; in contrast, messages on our website are only seen by those who take the trouble to visit the site.

In the end it was agreed that the secretary will take charge of setting up a framework and tools to publish a newsletter in cooperation with the Citizens’ Outreach Committee. She will acquire an email marketing tool (~$29/month), get the Partnership email list from Citizens’ Outreach Committee and develop a format for the newsletter. The chairs of all committees will provide the content in the form of summaries of their activities for the period. The newsletter will be reviewed by all committee members, including the chairman. The final draft may be shared with the BoS, and we may solicit their comments for inclusion along with our own content.

The goal is to have a newsletter out every two months. It should be published regularly and the content will be positive in tone. We will have the Partnership mission statement at the top of the newsletter. In addition to informing the readers on what we are doing, we will ask them for their opinions on current issues. Hopefully, the readers will share the newsletter with their friends and neighbors.

The chairman adjourned at meeting at 12:40 pm.