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               2009 TWHBEA Executive Committee

 

TWHBEA Looks to Continue Progress in 2009

By Jeffrey Howard

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – As is customary at the December meeting of the National Board of Directors, the new board members were recognized and took the oath of office as they commit to help the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA) move forward in 2009.  Stan Butt also asked for a moment of silence in honor of Diane Gueck, a legend in the industry that helped so many experience the Tennessee Walking Horse.
 
TWHBEA has been working with Pulitzer Price-winner Robin Hood  on a book that will celebrate the legendary story of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed.  Progress is being made on the book that will be available in late summer 2009 and that progress was evident by the video shown in the meeting which brought applause from those in attendance.  The greater portion of the art quality, coffee-table book will be a photography gallery portraying the beauty and everyday events in the life of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
 
The standing committee reports were given during the previous day’s general membership meeting but Debra Jack did have some additional things to report regarding bylaws.  Jack informed the national board of two actions taken by the executive committee in their morning meeting.  The first was a code of conduct that would be required for all executive committee and standing committee members to sign prior to serving and also a policy on the distribution of the member list of TWHBEA to current members.
 
The code of conduct came under fire by California member Fran Cole.  Cole is an attorney who focuses on corporate governance.  “We as board members have a fiduciary duty to follow our conscience and this policy goes beyond that,” said Cole.  “Directors should be given these materials in advance in order to do due diligence to make informed decisions.  You are going to also ask us to ratify your actions as an executive committee but that is hard to do when we don’t know the actions you have taken as an executive committee,” continued Cole.  Jack did confirm for Cole that all the actions are recorded in the minutes of the meetings and that she is welcome to come by the office and review any of those she needs.
 
The complaint was noted by Jack and her executive committee as she later addressed the board and told them that the new executive committee would rescind the earlier motion and the code of conduct would be sent to the members for their comments before it would be enacted.
 
Mike Inman then addressed the 2009 budget and gave an overview of where the association stands today.  “When we came into office, we struggled to decide who to pay, today we have turned it around and don’t have to worry about that any longer,” said Inman.  Inman pointed to two major factors that led to financial turnaround of the association.  “We have cut salaries by almost 50% and have spent $1,700,000 less on programs,” concluded Inman.
 
Year-to-date TWHBEA has recorded approximately $800,000 less in revenue than in 2007, yet spent $1,700,000 less which led to this year’s $374,000 profit as compared to last year’s $528,000 loss during that same time period. 
 
As for the 2009 budget, Inman did give his method which he referred to as the “SWAG” method, the “scientific wild-ass guess.”  Inman has repeatedly over the course of the year talked about the importance of the budget and sticking to the reduction in expenses for the association.
 
The 2009 budget calls for revenues of $3,055,990 and expenses of $3,027,300 leaving a profit of $28,691, virtually a break-even budget for 2009.  “Our goal in 2009 is to build three more months of reserves but I don’t know how we are going to do it at this time,” said Inman.
 
Assumptions used to make the budget for 2009 were also revealed during Inman’s presentation which pointed out some disturbing trends with regards to membership and registrations.  The budgeted revenue from membership in 2009 is $695,035, down significantly from the $819,967 in actual revenue the previous year.  The membership in TWHBEA is declining, going from 18,044 members in 2005/2006 to budgeted figures in 2008/2009 of 12,164 members, a 32% decline in three years.
 
Registrations are trending in the same direction but at a higher rate.  Revenue projections in 2008/2009 are $335,397 from 7,445 registrations.  In 2005/2006 TWHBEA registered 13,366 horses, therefore projections are for a 44% decline in the last three years.  Registration projections come from a formula of 50% of the mares bred registering a horse with TWHBEA.  Inman pointed out that “2009 will be a tough year in the breeding business, thus 2010 will see a decline in registrations and the associated revenue.”
 
Transfers fall in line with the above membership and registration numbers.  Projections in 2008/2009 are for 11,330 transfers equaling $420,125 of revenue.  The number of projected transfers is down 32% from 16,703 in 2005/2006.
 
Inman did point out the positive effect of the amnesty program in 2008.  “We have credited over 500 new horses to the amnesty program instituted by this executive committee in 2008 which not only helped revenue but also helped improve the integrity of the registration,” said Inman.  Inman was asked about another amnesty program in 2009 however he felt it was too soon for another amnesty period.  “I don’t think we would see the same type of affect this soon and we don’t want people to expect one each year and wait to register their horse,” concluded Inman.
 
Inman also noted that almost 50% of the revenue from registrations comes from late fees charged to members.  Inman asked for an approval of the budget and received a unanimous approval.  Inman was thanked for his service repeatedly and given appreciation for the return of stability to the association.
 
A big burden was lifted in 2008 with the settlement of the National Walking Horse Association lawsuit over copyright violations.  Chuck Cheek, honored the night before as the TWHBEA Member of the Year, gave a synopsis of the settlement.  He also commented on the resolution of the outstanding legal fees due Bone McAllister and reported that resolved as well.  Cheek donated his time in both cases to the association.  Cheek summarized, “we have closed the final chapter on the lawsuit and I congratulate you on your victory.”
 
The election of the new executive committee was in stark contrast to 2007 when every seat was contested.  In 2008, Darren Gray and the nominating committee presented a slate of officers that saw only two seats contested with nominees from the floor.  Walt Chism was nominated by Charles Gleghorn to run against Robert Thomas for Senior Vice-President and Mary Ellen Areaux was nominated to run against Dee Dee Sale for the VP Breeders’.
 
Chism pointed to his years of service in the industry and to his profession of breeding.  “I am a breeder,” said Chism.  He went on to point out that he had served previously on the executive committee and was on the executive committee that created the position of executive director, instituted monthly meetings of the executive committee, hired a pleasure horse coordinator and restructured the fees.  “These initiatives allowed the membership to grow to over 20,000 members and in the last 10 years we have seen these numbers go down,” said Chism.  He concluded, “I think I know how to stop the downward spiral.”
 
Thomas is one of the few that can match the level of experience of Chism so the election provided a vote between two very experienced and previous executive committee members.  Thomas pointed out “yes, breeding is a problem, but I will focus on a multitude of areas and facets besides just breeding.”  He also commended the current executive committee, “the day you were elected in this room was the best day for the association.”  He continued, “I support this executive committee and agree with its policies and will work with them to continue.”  After all votes were counted Thomas defeated Chism 62 votes to 23 votes. 
 
Mary Ellen Areaux, from the Dallas, Texas area was next to take the podium and spoke to her 40 years of experience in the industry as a breeder.  She commented regarding breeding, “in Texas we breed differently, we breed for trail, color, etc., not just for show ring performance.”  She concluded, “this is still a promotion of the breed.”  Areaux has also started breeding internationally and spoke to the importance of this for all breeders across the country.
 
Sale, just as the others, spoke to her industry experience and pointed out that she owned the 1998 World Grand Champion, Masquerading.  Sale pointed out that she enjoys all facets of the industry including trail, showing and breeding.  “It is all about this one horse and moving forward,” said Sale.  Sale also revisited the accomplishments, such as the iPeds upgrade, membership survey, electronic newsletter, that the Breeders’ Committee accomplished under her leadership in 2008.  Sale won the election 64 votes to 21 votes.

 The 2009 Executive Committee, as elected by the National Board of Directors:
 President: David Pruett, Tennessee
 Senior Vice-President: Robert Thomas, Mississippi
 VP Administrative/Fiscal: Mike Inman, Georgia
 VP Breeders: Dee Dee Sale, Tennessee
 VP Enforcement: Rick Womack, Tennessee
 VP Horse Shows: Bill Stricklend, Alabama
 VP Marketing: Kasey Kesselring, Florida
 VP Owners'/Exhibitors': Kathy Zeis, Georgia
 VP Performance Horse: Wayne Dean, Tennessee
 VP Pleasure Horse: Diana McMurtrey, Florida
 VP Training: Chris Bobo, Tennessee
 VP Member at Large ByLaws: Debra Jack, BC, Canada
 VP Member at Large Youth: Christy Lantis, California
 Secretary: Sharon Brandon
 
Under old business, Cole again addressed the problems she had with the earlier presented Code of Conduct.  “I have serious concerns on the intention of this code of conduct, its limitation of the right of free speech and being censored under it… It is patently unfair to say I have to promote all aspects of the breed including the padded or sore horse…I also wonder where a reference is to law or the Horse Protection Act with this code of conduct,” said Cole.
 
After Cole sat down, many in the room were extremely uncomfortable with the comments made by Cole in regards to the performance horse.  Wayne Dean, newly elected Vice President Performance Horse, said, “I take great offense to your statement.  It is simply not true and we are here to promote the whole horse.”  The room erupted in an ovation at Dean’s rebuttal to Cole’s comments.
 
Debra Jack, under new business, did bring another motion to the board for their approval.  This motion was in reference to the power of the executive committee to leverage the mortgage of the TWHBEA Headquarters.  Jack’s motion read as follows:
 
“The executive committee, any member thereof, or any Officer or Employee authorized thereby, shall be prohibited from any mortgage, lien, or encumbrance of any kind against the title to the TWHBEA headquarters property located at 250 Ellington Parkway, Lewisburg, Tennessee for any amount or time, unless authorized by resolution of the full Board of Directors of the TWHBEA.
 
If any officer seeks to place a mortgage, lien or encumbrance of any kind against the title to the TWHBEA Headquarters, that officer shall present this request to the executive committee, and the executive committee must approve, by motion of 2/3 of the members of the executive committee entitled to vote on any motion, the request by formal motion.
 
Upon approval of the motion by the executive committee, the authorized officer shall casue to be published in the Voice Magazine, and on the TWHBEA web site, notice of intention to place the mortgage, lien or encumbrance against the title to the TWHBEA Headquarters, setting out all the proposed terms and conditions of the mortgage, lien or encumbrance and a rationale for the request to place the mortgage, lien or encumbrance against the title to the TWHBEA Headquarters.  The notice shall also include formal notice of a special vote of the Board of Directors to occur 15 days after the final publication in the Voice Magazine.”
 
The motion passed, however several, including Walt Chism, questioned the validity of the motion and what power it took from the executive committee.  It was pointed out that this motion was potentially in violation of the bylaws.  When questioned, Bobo took the floor to explain that he did not feel that this was in conflict with the bylaws, yet understood the complexity of the argument and agreed in some areas.  Jack later confirmed in the afternoon executive session that the motion was in accordance with the bylaws and thus correct action was taken.
 
The National Board of Directors will have their semi-annual meeting on May 23, 2009 at the TWHBEA headquarters.

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