There is an SMRO in every state, and over 40 of them use “ABATE” in their name or as an acronym. Although no two of these groups are exactly alike, the organizational chart of every SMRO has members at its base, and state leaders at the top. In between, there may be zero, one or two layers of subdivisions referred to as regions, districts, counties, charters or chapters. Where these middle layers exist, the membership elects (or less preferably, the local leadership appoints) delegates to represent them at the state level. One SMRO summarizes the role like this:
“Chapter input discussed at chapter meetings is taken to the Board of Directors by State Board Reps to be communicated to the other chapters. Information concerning your freedom to ride is brought back to you from these meetings.”–ABATE of Illinois
For those of you who serve or aspire to serve as an SMRO State Delegate or State Rep, I offer the following Seven Rules of Representation:
Rule #1: Learn the Ropes
“Knowledge is power.”–Francis Bacon
How you perform your role as a state delegate literally determines whether the members you represent have an effective voice at the state level. So take your job seriously, and learn the ropes. Your constituents have rights to be protected and interests to be advocated, and it is your job to act on their agenda within the framework of the state meeting. Such meetings are usually governed by two primary sets of rules:
- Your SMRO’s Articles and By-Laws, and
- Robert’s Rules of Order
You may be able to download a copy of your Articles and By-Laws from your state website. If not, request a copy from your State Secretary. As for Robert’s Rules of Order, I recommend you get a copy of the Plain English version by Doris P. Zimmerman (ISBN 0062734768).
Read them. Learn them. Know them. Recognize when they are being applied incorrectly or to your detriment. Leverage them when they can be applied to your benefit.
Rule #2: Show Up
“90 percent of politics is showing up.”–Author Unknown
SMROs typically schedule their state meetings monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. Find out when and where the meetings will be held, and be sure that you can expect to attend all or substantially all of them. If you cannot, it is probably in the best interests of your member constituency to let someone else serve instead.
If you commit to serve as a state delegate, then commit to attend every state meeting. If you must miss one due to illness or emergency, make it your job to see that a qualified alternate shows up in your place. Do everything you can to help them prepare for the meeting, and get with them afterwards to learn what transpired, and assure that all your bases are covered.
Rule #3: Show Up Alert
“Alertness must be bred into every soldier. I don’t give a fuck for a man who’s not always on his toes.”–George S. Patton
An SMRO is a political organization, and promoting any political agenda entails a certain amount of schmoozing. A gathering of bikers like your SMRO’s state meeting is also likely to entail a certain amount of … socializing. Remember that you are there to do a job, and your brothers and sisters back home are counting on you to do it well. That’s not likely to happen if you enter the meeting with bloodshot eyes, exhausted from the prior night’s camaraderie.
You owe it to your constituents to show up alert, so save the socializing for afterwards.
Rule #4: Show Up Early
“The early bird gets the worm.”–Author Unknown
One reason the South lost the Battle of Gettysburg, and consequently the war, is because Union General G.K. Warren took the strategic high ground of Little Round Top before the Confederates realized it was unmanned. Yes, showing up early offers advantages in many situations, including SMRO state meetings:
If your SMRO Board of Directors meets immediately prior to the general meeting, be sure to sit in on the their session. This may give you invaluable insight into the issues and agenda for the general meeting to follow, and time to prepare your related questions and responses. It will also double your exposure to the issues, and thereby decrease the chance that you might overlook something important when reporting back to your constituents.
Rule #5: Speak Up
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.”–Winston Churchill
Once the SMRO state meeting convenes, doing your job as a state delegate requires a lot more listening than speaking. And, you need to keep in mind that waiting to speak is not the same thing as listening. Nevertheless, there will be times when advocating the interests of your constituents mandates that you speak up. And when those times arise, SPEAK UP!
When I say “speak up”, I don’t mean “blurt out”. SMRO meetings have a structure, and knowing when and how to say something is crucial. When your constituents give you questions, issues, motions or resolutions to present at the state meeting, review your By-Laws and Robert’s Rules of Order to make sure you know when to raise your hand, and what to say when you stand.
Rule #6: Take Notes
“The old forget, the young don’t know.”–German Proverb
Shaved heads and skull caps do not hide the fact that there’s a lot of gray hair at most SMRO state meetings. And the grayer the hair, the more likely that the head growing it is suffering from CRS (Can’t Remember Shit).
I have always been amazed at the number of delegates I see walking into state meetings without so much as a gum wrapper and dirty fingernail to take notes with! Maybe they’re all loaded with ginseng … or perhaps even gifted with total recall….
Unless you are one of these gifted few, I urge you to stick a pen and pad in your saddlebags, and take them out and USE THEM to jot down every important item covered at your state meeting. That way, the only thing you’ll need to remember after you ride home is where you put the pad.
Rule #7: No Excuses
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”–Robert Burns
Let’s face it, folks. Sometimes, shit happens. If you forget to strap your saddlebag, and the state meeting minutes you painstakingly took are caught by a gust of night wind as you ride across the bay bridge … or, if you couldn’t take those notes because five minutes into the meeting you sprained two of your writing fingers trying frantically to change the battery in your hearing aid … or, if you missed the meeting altogether because faulty wiring for your new XM radio speakers caused your faithful GeezerGlide to lose fire five miles outside of East Jesus, and ten miles short of cell phone range … don’t give up, for all is not lost.
If disasters like these ever befall you, simply ask another state delegate who attended the meeting to share their notes with you. Notice that I said “notes”, not recollections. It has been my experience that notes taken by females tend to be more complete and easier to read than males (and I don’t mean to offend either gender by sharing that). You might also consider calling your State Secretary and ask for their notes as well. That way, there won’t be any surprises when the official minutes for the state meeting are published.
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!