American Kennel Club delegates will meet on March 13, 2012, in New York to vote for three of seven candidates to fill openings on the AKC Board of Directors, resulting from the departure of Thomas M. Davies, D.V.M., of the Springfield Kennel Club, Walter F. Goodman of the Skye Terrier Club of America and Chairman Ronald H. Menaker of the Rockford-Freeport Illinois Kennel Club, who are at the end of their terms.

Three of the candidates, William J. Feeney of the Sir Francis Drake Kennel Club, Thomas Powers of the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills and Lynn Worth-Smith of the Vizsla Club of America, appear on the ballot at the behest of the nominating committee. The other four candidates are there by petition: Patricia M. Cruz of the Heart of the Plains Kennel Club, John L. Ronald of the Samoyed Club of American Kennel Club, Robert A. Schroll of the Clarksville, Tenn., Kennel Club and Larry Sorenson of the Dachshund Club of America.

The AKC provided the following information from the candidates, who also spoke at the December meeting of delegates. Their quotes from that meeting appeared in the minutes and in the January 2012 issue of the online AKC Gazette, starting on page 34. To read the candidates’ complete presentations, click here.

Patricia M. Cruz of Coram, N.Y.

The former president of the civilian employee union of a large police department on the East Coast and secretary of a countywide union representing more than 10,000 employees, Patricia Cruz has spent 40 years in the dog world. She says the AKC Board needs “problem solvers, innovators and communicators to achieve the success that is so necessary for our sport, our breeders, our puppy buyers, and our dogs.”

“I know how to create solutions that eliminate barriers to success and enlist the strong support of all parties,” she says. “The AKC needs more outcomes like those.”

One of the founders of the Owner Handler Association, Cruz is also a professional journalist and author, a former AKC Field Representative, an active member of the Afghan Hound Club of America, an officer of Ladies Kennel Association of America and Riverhead Kennel Club, the Heart of the Plains KC Delegate, and an internationally experienced judge.

“I know how to effectively address the issues we face in the sport we all love so dearly,” she says.

She told delegates in December: “Today the American Kennel Club, our sport, our clubs and our breeders are under intense pressure. The challenges will not be solved by simply talking about the problems. We know them all too well. They will be solved by creating innovative solutions and energizing people around them. I can help do both. I have a unique combination of hands on experience, specialized expertise and a proven track record.”

Cruz outlined three things that need to be done “right now”: “First, we must be more innovative in selling our sport, our clubs and our purebred dogs in general. Second, we must mobilize large groups of people to stand with us for our sport and in our legislative efforts. Third, we must better communicate amongst ourselves and with the public.”

William J. Feeney of Cotati, Calif.

Bill Feeney, of Birnam Wood Golden Retrievers, has been breeding for 33 years. He offers neither business experience nor his expertise as a lawyer to the AKC Board. Rather, he wants to bring “different thinking” to the organization, he says.

“Part of the AKC’s business model needs to change,” he says. Because efforts to “cast a wide net” to increase registration have failed, he wants to make registrations “more exclusive by a stronger commitment to quality control points. A concomitant marketing program would tell the world the AKC doesn’t register every dog, only those meeting its high standards.”

He explained to the delegates how his registration scheme would increase income. “…this may at first appear counterintuitive, that if you make registrations exclusive, the AKC won’t make as much income. However, if the AKC demands higher quality in exchange for registration, then demand is going to be higher. People will want a dog with AKC registration because it is the best indication of parentage, health and quality.”

Feeney says that a new class of “non-voting, individual membership” could bring in additional support and that a “true ear to constituents’ concerns, and vigilance for fair and equal discipline will confirm for all that the AKC is a dependable ally.”

He also told delegates: “…the AKC leadership and we, ourselves, need to be open to new ways of doing things and new ways of approaching things. In other words, we all need to think a little differently.”

Finally, Feeney read an article excerpt, written about him “long after” his presidency of the Golden Retriever Club of America: “Every organization needs a visionary, someone who has a notion that things can be better and that problems can be solved by taking positive action. But lucky is the organization when that visionary has the ability to define the problem precisely and do the detail work necessary to lead people in the right direction. These are the people who begin a tide of action that makes a true difference.”

Thomas S. Powers of Northridge, Calif.

Both of Thomas Powers’ parents were breeders, exhibitors’ club presidents, show chairs and delegates. He, too, has held those positions, as well as serving on the board’s Constitution and Bylaws Committee. Powers is currently the chair of the AKC South West Trial Board.

“My wife and I continue to breed and exhibit Irish Wolfhounds and have exhibited and finished a number of Dachshunds, Beagles, Mastiffs and Harriers, including the number one Harrier in 1990, Ch. Powerscourt Patience DeAmo,” he says.

Although a lawyer and former business owner, Powers says he has reduced the volume of his law practice, so has the “time and energy” to serve on the board.

He told the delegates: “I was not born in a whelping box, but I was born very close. When I came home from the hospital as a wee child, I was greeted by my father’s Collie. As a kid, I had a Beagle from the Du Ponts. But about 50 years ago, our family got its first Irish Wolfhound. We’ve been happily stuck in that breed ever since.”

It’s not his dog-centered life that makes him a prime candidate for the board, though, he says.

“…I’ve counseled both as an attorney and as a consultant in a number of businesses, many of whom were in financial straits. We haven’t saved all of them, but we have saved quite a number of them. That experience, I think, is very important. When I come to make a decision or make a vote on the Board, I take my lawyer training and I try to emotionally detach myself and give a reasoned judgment that’s best for the organization.

“Yes, I have a very deep emotional commitment to this. What I try to bring to this Board is reasoned, sober, detached judgment. Our problems that we all talked about all morning are very difficult and very hard to solve, but I think we can do it.

“We have to do things that allow this corporation to survive for the next 125 years.”

John L. Ronald of Myersville, Md.

John Ronald has served in elected positions for the Samoyed Club of America for 36 years and has been its delegate for 24 of those years, having served on the Bylaws, Coordinating, Strategic Planning and Parent Club committees. He edited Perspectives, the delegates’ newsletter, for six years, chaired the Special Committee for the Future Nature of the Delegate Body and is a member of the All Breeds Committee.

A retired naval officer and bank executive, Ronald has experience in not-for-profit corporation management, analysis, investments, employee benefits and asset allocation.

He is an AKC Breeder of Merit, a Working Group and most Non-Sporting Group breeds judge, and a board member and treasurer of American Dog Show Judges.

“My professional experience in management, finance, employee benefits and supervising the administration of nonprofit organizations gives me a unique skill set to contribute as AKC’s Board manages the current decline in AKC’s financial health,” Ronald says. “My management experience will complement the existing Board in its decision-making process in a collegial and consultative manner.”

“I love dogs,” he told the delegates in December. “I love this sport and AKC. This is an important election. We’re losing our Board’s top management and most experienced member. AKC is servicing its customers with a reduced staff level at a time when we are trying to attract more registrations and entries. Because of the challenges facing AKC, whoever we elect needs to be able to join the Board and contribute immediately.”

Speaking as a delegate, he said, “When I cast my vote in this election, I’ll look for candidates who will have a short learning curve once they join the Board, especially in finance, marketing and customer retention skills. I want my vote to elect someone who’s been successful in the sport and has deep roots with AKC. Someone who’s still active in the grassroots dog show community. Someone who will keep your club’s and customers’ needs in the forefront, because that’s where our revenue comes from – our customers.”

Robert A. Schroll of Clarksville, Tenn.

A breeder/owner-handler of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for nearly 40 years, Robert Schroll is a founding director of the breed’s parent club, wrote the breed standard with two others, wrote the club’s bylaws with Hazel Arnold, filmed the breed video at Giralda Farms and was the first Judges Education coordinator for the breed. He has belonged to his local kennel club for 30 years, held every office except treasurer, has been show chairman for 15 years and has been the club’s only delegate. Schroll says he has not missed a delegate meeting for 12 years and has served on the Dog Show Rules Committee for 10 of those years.

Schroll’s showing career began with Morgan horses when he was in eighth grade, moving on to Saddlebreds. When he was Ted Young’s farm manager, he met many AKC breeds. At Tedwin, he met John Gammon. They got their first Cavalier in 1977, launching Ravenrush Cavaliers.

He explained his take on the AKC’s current state to the delegates. “In the early 70s, the AKC was in its heyday. It was basically the only game in town. Now there’s so many registries and so many new breeds, almost one a month, and I’m too familiar with the problems this presents, as Cavaliers did not come in willingly, but were dragged in kicking and screaming every step of the way.”

Schroll said that he is a typical delegate, yet there is no one like him on the board. He knows that “every single decision the board makes, every nickel it spends, be it in registration, entry fees or dwindling memberships,” affects the average dog fancier and small kennel clubs. He’s just “trying to stay afloat while I breed and show my own dogs,” he says.

He said he would like the chance to help keep the American Kennel Club the “premier registry in the world. We’re doing a good job and it would be my honor to keep it moving into the future.”

Larry Sorenson of Clayton, N.C.

Larry Sorenson has been showing dogs since 1962, as well as titling dogs in obedience, field trials and earthdog. A former PHA member and AKC-licensed handler, he is a Breeder of Merit who judges conformation, field trials and earthdog, and will soon judge obedience. He has held leadership positions in the Dachshund Club of America, local specialty clubs, all-breed kennel clubs and a group club.

Retired from the U.S. Navy as a master chief petty officer, Sorenson was the AKC Director of Public Education and Director of Club Education for 10 years.

“It gave me the opportunity to work closely with hundreds of dog owners, breeders, exhibitors and handlers, the people who make up the backbone of our sport,” he told delegates. “I learned a lot.”

Now he says the AKC “must re-imagine our direction as an organization, increase revenues and revenue sources, and become more relevant to dog owners, breeders, and handlers who are our customers and followers…we are at a crossroads, and the next two years will make a fundamental difference in the life of AKC. I want to bring my fresh ideas, leadership experience and strong respect for the history and traditions of AKC to the organization I love. If we are smart and strategic, we can both honor the past and change with the times to meet our challenges.”

Sorenson told the delegates, “The decisions made during this class of board members will determine whether or not we remain a successful, strong, respected brand. In the last 15 years, we have seen our sport erode and a sharp decline in revenue, while other organizations have taken our rightful place in the public’s heart, mind and pocketbook. We can turn this around, but we must act soon and with determination.

“I want AKC to be known as the go-to organization, promoting the joys and responsibility of dog ownership,” he said.

“Finally, we must be more relevant to the individuals and the clubs who made us who we are. We must ask clubs, hundreds of clubs, and thousands of members, who toil at the local level, how can the AKC be more valuable … and then listen to the best of their ideas.”

Lynn Worth-Smith of Clarksville, Va.

A Vizsla breeder and exhibitor since 1970, Lynn Worth-Smith has served on the Vizsla Club of America Board of Directors since 1979, as an AKC Delegate since 1993, as secretary of the AKC Delegates Field Trial & Hunting Test Events Committee and on the editorial staff of Perspectives. She is a former president of the Vizsla Club of Greater New York, the Vizsla Club of America Welfare Foundation and the Connecticut Valley Vizsla Club, which she founded.

The editor of the Virginia Hunting Preserve Association newsletter, Worth-Smith is a licensed AKC Field Trial and Hunting Test judge and has chaired three VCA National Field Championships.

She has written for Dog and Kennel, The Sporting Life, The Vizsla News, AKC Pointing Breed Field Trial News and Gun Dog, as well as penning the Vizsla column for the AKC Gazette. Formerly with Time magazine and related publications, Worth-Smith has done publicity for the League of Women Voters, Girl Scouts of America and the Silver Hill Foundation.

At the delegates’ December meeting, she said that the “interests of the board of directors should reflect AKC’s major activities,” pointing out that no current board member represents performance events.

“My priorities are honest and open communication with AKC’s customers and delegates, keeping AKC financially sound, assuring the health of purebred dogs and working to encourage younger people to become involved in AKC activities. I feel the future growth of the AKC lies in companion and performance events. Activities such as agility, obedience and the new Coursing Ability Test, when done by a healthy and conformationally correct dog, are good examples of fun and stimulating activities.

“While conceiving and implementing new activities can be difficult, I feel this is an area that needs emphasis. We must respect our traditions, yet at the same time meet the demands of today’s dog owners by providing enjoyable activities or activities that apply their dog’s instincts in ways that are socially relevant. The new therapy dog program is a good example of a socially relevant activity.”