A couple of years ago, the UUA reviewed employment policies and decided that some changes were needed. Up to that point district staff were simultaneously employed by both the UUA and a district. This co-employment caused some legal sticking points, so under the advice of employment attorneys the UUA became the full employer of the staff. The staff are still assigned to their respective districts but are now clustered into regions—for example, the Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star District employees are clustered into the MidAmerica Region. They continue to serve as the main staff contacts in their original districts, but can also serve across the region, allowing each to play to their strengths. For example, one UUA field staffperson might specialize in conflict resolution and another could be strong in the area of growth and both are available to all the congregations in the region. The staff are already living in and embracing this new reality.
How can we remake our region’s governance structure to strengthen our congregations and other spiritual communities to more visibly live our UU faith, create connections, grow our membership, and welcome all persons who share our UU values in what is a new era in Unitarian Universalism? In late August 2012 members of the boards of Central MidWest, Heartland, and Prairie Star districts, along with lead staff from each district, and the UUA Director of Congregational Life, met to explore exactly these momentous questions. “How” was the frequent focus. “Why” was a given -- to enrich our congregations in MidAmerica.
In her recent article, writing for the MidAmerica Steering Committee, Amy Taylor described the extensive preparatory work being done in the MidAmerica region, work on bylaws, on communications, on finances, and on smooth transitions to this new structure. When a family decides to build or remodel a home, the best architectural structure is one which supports the the lifestyle of the residents. Decisions are made about creating welcoming spaces, cozy spaces, spaces for work, and spaces for play. As we restructure our region, we are making similar decisions. How can we use our staff’s skills and abilities, our available finances, our shared areas of interest to provide a structure which will enrich the congregations?
While our Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star District Boards are moving forward on a timeline that will lead to votes next April on forming a new regional Governance structure, the Field Staff are working to create new Program Delivery and Administrative structures that will begin July 1, 2013, regardless of the outcome of the votes about the Governance structure.
As part of that work, we've made some hiring decisions and want you to know our news.
When our Prairie Star District Web Coordinator Ben Stallings let us know he'd be moving on over the summer, we decided to hire a regional Tech Coordinator now to serve all three districts - Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star. We are delighted to announce that we have appointed Gretchen Ohmann as the Technology Coordinator for the MidAmerica Region! Gretchen has worked as the webweaver and communications person for the Central Midwest District for seven years, but as of July 1st, that position was expanded to cover web and other technology solutions for the entire MidAmerica Region. Her initial work will be with us as we design and create a new MidAmerica website, and she will also be responsible for keeping the current web sites of the three districts running. Her webwork both for Unitarian Universalist sites and in other venues provides her with the skills to work on the three differing platforms we now have, and help move us to a unified site. Gretchen will also help us learn about new technology, and we expect that she will also be able to work with congregations in MidAmerica to help them answer questions about their technological future. Stay tuned for more details on that aspect of her work to be revealed sometime later this fall.