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Ocean Pines GM succession plan ready when time comes

By Greg Ellison

(June 3, 2021) Although the Ocean Pines general manager position remains filled until at least next June, the Board of Directors last week approved succession-planning documents that outlined a lengthy list of qualifications.

Director Frank Daly, who chaired the workgroup that developed the list of qualifications, said the planning criteria would prove useful at an undetermined date in the future. Serving on the group with him were board members Dr. Colette Horn and Camilla Rogers.

“There is no immediate need for this, but that stuff is good to have updated and waiting on the shelf,” he said.

General Manager John Viola’s contract runs until June 2022 and includes an extension option.

“That’s not a hard stop date,” Daly said.

Among the qualifications the board wants to see in its general manager applicants are a bachelor’s degree, ideally in public business administration, while a master’s degree is listed as highly desirable.

The criteria also include 10 years of experience managing a comparable sized community association, business, nonprofit or municipality.

Daly said residents have expressed doubts about finding candidates who meet those marks.

“When you’re searching for a position that’s this high up, you try to get everything possible,” he said. “You shoot for the moon.”

Critical skills for candidates would be evaluated accordingly.

“You write the highest qualifications, and you, in fact, know the chances of you getting somebody that meets every one of those is very slim,” he said.

Regardless, Daly said a few key essentials are crucial.

“The most important criteria will be what experience do they have that closely resembles and approximates what Ocean Pines is in terms of how it’s managed, how big of a community it is, what the job responsibilities are and what they’ve done?” he said.

Daly said an ideal candidate would be someone operating a business that involves working with the public.

“As John Viola has shown, the best general manager might not be in an homeowners’ association,” he said. “They might be in private industry in a company that has a strong customer orientation.”

Daly also stressed that running the Ocean Pines Association has its own set of challenges.

“Ocean Pines is operational, financial and political,” he said. “Private industry and government agencies are operational and financial.”

The general manager also must deal with a revolving board membership and a community of approximately 12,000 residents.

“You have to be able to deal with that in a professional manner and not get derailed,” he said.

Daly also noted the current board would not select who takes the reins from Viola when he steps down.

“If John Viola wants to extend his contract we would be, quite frankly, stupid not to do it because the association is being run so well,” he said. “John could change that date and extend it and so could we.”

With the general manager succession plan completed, the next task involves drafting comparable documents for level one and level two employees.

“John is continuing to develop his staff, both his direct reports and their direct reports, so we have a strong bench strength,” he said.

Last week, Daly reported to Viola that morale among association employees was at an all-time high.

“We have 100 fulltime-equivalent employees,” he said. “Last year our retention rate for employees was 96 percent.”

Daly said the Society of Human Resource Management considers retention rates of at least 90 percent good, while also highlighting the importance of developing staff.

“You develop people and they learn more about the organization,” he said. “As changes happen, there will be people trained to replace them at level one and two.”

Daly said when it comes time to select the general manager, “we will again look at the internal staff, and probably again look on the outside.”