Back in March, in “A Beginning Look at the AKC Delegates,” we looked at how representatives from AKC member clubs are selected to help decide how AKC should be run. Of course, the American Kennel Club itself is made up of more than 300 employees in the New York and Raleigh, N.C., offices as well as representatives and inspectors in the field who perform the day-to-day operations of AKC. But AKC bills itself as a “club of clubs,” and as such, its 500 member clubs exercise their voting privileges through their delegates, who are charged with “making the rules and electing from their body the individuals who serve on AKC’s board of directors.”

To facilitate better decision making, the delegate body includes 10 permanent committees, each designed to cover all aspects of the sport of showing dogs. These include Coordinating; All-Breed; Bylaws; Canine Health; Delegate Advocacy and Advancement; Dog Show Rules; Field Trial and Hunting Test Events; Herding, Earthdog and Coursing Events; Obedience, Tracking and Agility; and Parent Clubs. Today we’ll take a look at the Delegate Advocacy and Advancement Committee.

The DAAC is made up of 11 individuals representing seven all-breed and five parent clubs, serving one-, two- and three-year terms. Daniel Smyth (Burlington County KC) is the chairman of the committee and Jane Ruthford (Havanese Club of America) serves as secretary, and both are two-year members. Three-year members include Catherine Bell (Tennessee Valley KC), Gerry Meisels (St. Petersburg DFA) and Marjorie Tuff (American Shetland Sheepdog Association). Other two-year members are James Dok (Gig Harbor KC) and Marcy Zingler (Sun Maid KC of Fresno), and one-year members include Dick Blair (Huntingdon Valley KC), Whitney Coombs (Catoctin KC), Carole Plesur (Italian Greyhound Club of America) and Ed Sledzik (American Lhasa Apso Club).

Dr. Gerry Meisels.

Gerry Meisels has been a delegate for St. Petersburg DFA for about 15 years, and prior to that represented the Cornhusker KC for several years. He has been on the DAA committee, or its previous iteration, the Delegate Strategic Planning Committee, for 11 years. In addition, he and his wife, Sylvia, have bred champion, Group and Best in Show-winning Westies under the White Oaks prefix since 1962, and Gerry has judged since 1972 and is approved for the Terrier Group. He answered some questions for BISD to help fanciers better understand what this group does.

Meisels points out that the DAAC’s primary purpose is to protect and strengthen the role of AKC delegates so that they, in turn, can help the American Kennel Club find answers for the challenges it faces in today’s world.

Best In Show Daily: What is the primary mission of your committee, and how does the committee accomplish it?

Gerry Meisels: The official charge of the committee is “to review and make recommendations on issues and proposals affecting the future structure of the delegate body, delegate empowerment, changes relating to delegate meetings and delegate eligibility.” The breadth of the committee’s scope is a result of the clause, “delegate empowerment,” which addresses the role and influence of the delegate body. DAAC seeks to identify major issues of concern to the community of clubs and their memberships which delegates represent, and then advance them effectively to the delegate body and the board of directors.

BISD: How long has the DAA committee been in existence?

GM: DAAC had its beginning along with the creation of the entire delegate committee structure. It was originally named the Delegate Strategic Planning Committee. However, strategic planning requires an all-AKC approach and resources beyond the delegates’ authority. Therefore the name was changed in 2004 to more accurately reflect the committee’s primary activities and responsibilities.

BISD: How are committee members selected for AKC delegate committees?

GM: In July of each year, staff distributes a list of committee vacancies and requests self-nominations of candidates for election to all delegate committees. A list of people who have self-nominated for each committee is distributed to all delegates in August. Election to committees takes place at the September delegates’ meeting. No delegate may stand for election to more than one committee; however, the Perspectives Editorial Board, also a group selected from among delegates by delegates, is not considered a committee, and a delegate can serve both on the Perspectives Editorial Board and on one of the committees. Perspectives is a publication by and for delegates only.

BISD: What is the purpose of having one-year, two-year and three-year members on the delegate committees?

GM: Except for the Perspectives Editorial Board, all committee terms are for staggered three-year periods. However, not all delegates serve out their full terms. They may lose their status as delegates, resign for personal reasons, or become ill or die. This creates additional vacancies for the remainder of their terms.

BISD: Have you seen changes in the mission and intent of the DAA committee since its formation?

GM: Over the years this committee has matured and become proactive. Early on it emphasized the role of delegates in the structure of AKC’s governance. It now seeks to advocate that the basic priorities, mission, values and purposes of the sport are given primary consideration in decision making throughout AKC’s operation, leadership and management. It tries to provide a balance between the priorities of purebred dog enthusiasts, sport regulation such as dog show rules, and the business concerns of the board of directors. Of course, the committee cannot do this by itself, but it can be a substantial influence.

BISD: What do you see as the most important objective for this particular committee for the future?

GM: DAAC is the only body that has a broadly defined role to represent the roots of the sport and the roles of delegates as representatives of their clubs and the fancy. DAAC needs to assist and even lead AKC into an effective process to deal with the vastly changed environment we are facing today.

America has undergone a cultural change with respect to the value and prestige associated with ownership of registered purebred dogs. Americans have also placed increased emphasis on assessing benefits returned for costs incurred for every expenditure they plan. In addition, the middle class has shrunk as a proportion of the population, and the recent national economic downturn has further increased sensitivity to assuring that every expenditure is worthwhile. The costs of participating in every aspect of the sport have risen concurrently.

At the same time, the increasing professionalization of competition and the perception that human factors have taken on an increasing role in decision making have eroded public confidence in the sport and reduced its attractiveness to the average citizen and the families that were once at the sport’s core. AKC’s leadership has been slow to acknowledge and react to these changes.

DAAC can contribute greatly by generating a broader understanding of how these changes have impacted the business and the sport aspects of AKC’s operation, and helping to expedite the necessary transitions. Of course, DAAC must also continue its traditional role of explaining and advocating the critical and constructive, but often not understood, role of delegates in AKC’s governance structure.

(In the weeks to come we’ll explore the roles of the other delegate committees. —Ed.)