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The Best of Times, the Worst of Times?
A message from Dave Brown, President of Mass Bay RRE

Dave BrownOn the face of it, things could not look better for Mass Bay RRE. Our membership, although down somewhat from our peak 3 years ago, remains strong, with over 1150 members in all categories (including 226 additional family members). Monthly program meetings continue to draw about 40 people each month to a variety of interesting programs. The Callboy continues to enjoy the national recognition first earned under the stewardship of John Reading. Mass Bay RRE’s show crew, under the leadership of Bob Popovac and the late Ralph Hawkins, has emerged as a significant activity, representing the club at a dozen train shows around New England each year. The establishment of the Mass Bay RRE Railroad Preservation Fund last year has created a vital new role for us within the railroad preservation community. And our excursion program, the foundation of the Railroad Enthusiasts since the club’s inception in 1934, remains active, although the available options for charter train excursions have diminished greatly with management changes and consolidation within the railroad industry.

So, what’s the problem?

For one thing, our membership is getting older. Ten years ago, when we first introduced the Senior membership category, the split between Individual and Senior memberships was 60-40. Now it’s weighted 30-70 toward seniors. This phenomenon is not unique to Mass Bay – many railroad clubs like ours around the country are facing the issue. We see plenty of young people running the model railroad layouts at train shows, so it’s not like they’re not attracted to trains as a hobby. But how do we get them interested in what Mass Bay RRE does? Or how do we change what we DO to attract the next generation? Serious questions, with no obvious answers.

Secondly, it’s no secret that I’m doing a substantial amount of the work to keep the club functioning at a high level. Now, I’m not complaining – I actually find most of what I do to be quite rewarding (much to my wife’s chagrin). I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with Mass Bay RRE over the years, and grateful for the wonderful friends and acquaintances I’ve made from all over the country.

But nothing lasts forever, as the sudden and tragic death of Ralph Hawkins in February amply illustrates. And while I’m not planning to step down in the near future, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing this, either. At some point, hopefully soon, the club has got to start doing some serious succession planning. It’s unlikely that we will find another individual volunteer willing to take on everything I do. Can multiple volunteers be found, or should the club look to hire an Executive Director to take over the daily management of the club’s operations? That may be the best option for the future, although it would surely require a fundamental rethinking of the club’s finances and fundraising.

And here’s where Mass bay’s Board of Directors comes in. Ultimately, it’s the Board that is the governing body of the club as a non-profit, charitable organization, and one of the Board’s primary tasks has to be planning for the future survival of the club.

I’m not going to criticize individual members of the Board. I have known most of them for years, and they are my friends. But as a body, I have come to the conclusion that the Board needs new blood and a new direction. It used to be that if someone helped out as a car host and showed up regularly at the Callboy mailing sessions, eventually they would be considered for a seat on the Board. The result has been a Board populated almost entirely by avid railfans (nothing wrong with that, per se), but without a lot of the broader expertise, experience and, frankly, fresh thinking that are needed to guide Mass Bay RRE into the future. What happened to all those hotshot 40-something professionals that used to run the club in the 1980s? Oh, yeah – we’re all still here.

The Mass Bay RRE Board consists of the four club officers, plus 11 Directors elected from the membership. Directors serve a one-year term. The Board generally meets six times per year, on the first Tuesday of even-numbered months. Directors are elected at our Annual Meeting in November, primarily by proxy ballot.

The Nominating Committee is now soliciting members who are interested in serving as a Director. We’re particularly looking for people with an interest or background in non-profit organization management, database management and modern computer applications. Having an interest in trains is a plus (you probably wouldn’t be reading Callboy if you weren’t interested in trains), but being a hard-core railfan is decidedly not a requirement.

If you’re interested in being a Director, or just want to know more about what the position involves, please contact me at 978-470-2066 or by email at trips@massbayrre.org. I also invite you to submit a Talent Bank form, using the link below, to volunteer for a range of Mass Bay RRE activities.

Dave Brown
President, Mass Bay RRE

Are you ready to help Mass Bay RRE to even better times?
Fill out the Mass Bay RRE Talent Bank form: TALENT BANK FORM

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Page created June 18, 2018