By Wesley Ratko

Declining membership in the Chestnut Hill Community Association was a central concern of the Board of Directors meeting Thursday night.  Prompted by a report from Community Manager Celeste Hardester, who identified membership as one of the most important issues to be addressed in 2012, the Board agreed that stepping up efforts at increasing the number of members requires additional focus.

Hardester said that membership has diminished over the years.

“I’m concerned that [membership] is not going to keep going up but it will go in the opposite direction,” she said, adding that she is concerned about the impact this will have on the association.

She said it would require “a counter-force effort” on the part of the Board to find ways to address membership.

“I don’t know the answers to that,” she said, “I’m simply stating that I really feel that I have reached a place where that is at the top of my list of what needs to happen.”

Board president Jane Piotrowski said that a membership roll of 1,900 members would square things financially.  According to Hardester, membership stood at 1,640 when she assumed her role as community manager last September.

Responding to concerns that it was the cost of membership that has decreased the number of members, board member Richard Snowden said he didn’t think the membership cost was the reason for the decline.

“We have done a poor job of re-introducing this organization and all of the things it does to the all of the new neighbors who have moved to the neighborhood in the last seven or eight years,” he said.

Other members of the Board agreed, saying that no one knows the value of the CHCA.

“We have allowed ourselves to be defined by other forces in the community that are unfairly categorizing what this organization does,” Snowden added.

While the Board took no formal action on this, there were several members present who said that the next month or two — during which the association is crafting its next budget — would be a good time in which to strategize ways to increase membership.

Other actions

• The Board approved a minor change to the by-laws that replaced the term “Business Manager” with “Associate Publisher,” a position currently held by Larry Hochberger.  The business manager position no longer exists.  Justification for the change, which was suggested by Community Manager Celeste Hardester, is that the outdated title is not in keeping with the rest of the by-laws.  “It’s confusing for new members to see a title in the bylaws that does not exist,” she said.

• Board members Tom Hemphill and Mark Keintz were unanimously appointed to be co-chairs of the Election Committee.

• Board members Rob Lamb, Lisa Howe, Marianne Dwyer and Nick Yzzi were nominated and approved to the Nominating Committee. That committee, chaired by the CHCA’s past president, Walter Sullivan, will nominate candidates for the CHCA’s Executive Committee.

• The Board nominated and unanimously approved the appointment of three new members of the Budget and Finance Committee.  Board member Mark Keintz will be joined on that committee by Bob Fles, a former head of the Upper School at Chestnut Hill Academy and resident of Chestnut Hill since 1970, and Laura Lucas, a financial services consultant and Chestnut Hill resident since 2005.

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