Committee System

Some time back, WWALS adopted a committee system. I think it was at the suggestion of Bret Wagenhorst: thanks, Bret!

How Committees Work

Each committee has certain topics and certain members to deal with them. Each committee has its own googlegroup email list, and sometimes its own facebook group. Each committee may hold its own meetings, by telephone or in person. People not on the committee may attend those meetings, but are not expected to. This way not everybody has to deal with everything.

What to Do

Read your committee’s purpose and membership.

Participate in your committee. The more each of us does in our committees, the less everybody else has to see everything. If you don’t participate, the Committee Chair or the Board can remove you from the committee for non-participation.

Most committee activity takes place online, because WWALS is a distributed organization, across 10,000 square miles of territory, with active members even farther afield. Most committees use a google group for that committee. A few also use a facebook group for that committee. Committees can hold in-person meetings, as long as there is telephone dialin for those who cannot attend in person. It is the responsibility of the Committee Chair to ensure that committee business gets done online, and that any in-person meetings have dial-in participation.

Help compose the monthly committee report to the Board (or Executive Committee, acting for the Board). This avoids the Board (or Executive Committee) having to take a lot of time in meetings to listen to each committee report, and it avoids everyone having to get all emails and other communications for every committee. It also enables having non-Board members on committees. It is the responsibility of each committee chair to turn in a report for each Quarterly Board Meeting, and for the Annual Report.

Especially since many committee members are relatively new to WWALS, committee members need to familiarize themselves with the WWALS name, Mission, and FAQ. Sometimes a committee member may need to represent WWALS, and then they need to stick to what has already been approved by the Board.

What Not to Do

Don’t make up names. The name of the organization is WWALS Watershed Coalition, or WWALS for short. Do not make up any other name for it. If you want to expand the acronym to explain it, feel free, but please get it right by including the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers.

Always spell WWALS in all caps. The final s is not to indicate plural: it stands for Suwannee. But the names of the rivers are not the name of the organization.

There are not just four or five rivers in WWALS territory: there are fifteen or more, plus many creeks that are just as important to their inhabitants as the rivers. Easier just to say WWALS, no?

Committee members may not create new facebook groups, meetups, or other forums using the WWALS name or that of any of its associated entities, such as the Water Trails, without approval from the PR Committee. Similarly for banners, billboards, painting on the side of boats or wheeled vehicles, etc.

Committee members may not make up answers to policy questions: those are the purview of the Board and its specifically delegated representatives. If you need to represent your committee or WWALS, for example at some other organization’s meeting, it’s best to read from the WWALS Mission or some other prepared statement, unless you’re specifically delegated by the Board to represent WWALS. If you’re asked a policy question, say you will ask and someone will get back to whoever asked.

Assume everyone else is just as busy as you are, when posting to a committee list or facebook group, or talking on a telephone call or in-person meeting. If you want to tell everyone about all the many other things you are doing, please save it until the end of the meeting, so those who need to go do other things may do so.

WWALS is an IRS 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit charity, which means WWALS may not support or oppose any specific candidate for political office. WWALS can and frequently does express support or opposition for issues, but not candidates or elected officials. So while your relatives or friends may enjoy your political posts about specific elected officials or candidates, keep them off the WWALS lists and out of the public WWALS forums.


As an example of how the committee system works, the Outings Committee decides on outings, which is then puts in the Outings Spreadsheet, and the Outings Committee Chair declares that outing decided. In principle, the Officers, Board, or Suwannee Riverkeeper can reject, alter, recommend changes, etc. in those outings, although that seldom happens.

Then the Public Relations Committee proceeds with posting publicity (on the WWALS blog, facebook events, meetups, press releases, etc.). The PR Committee can and sometimes does reject an outing because its entry in the outings spreadsheet is incomplete or inaccurate, until those issues are corrected. The PR Committee usually augments the details from the outings spreadsheet with relevant pictures, history, or other information about that outing or its path.

The PR committee usually informs the Board of such publicity when posted, which gives Board members an opportunity to review, recommend changes, etc. Usually the Board makes no changes, but it could. And the original committee chair (Outings, in this example) could relay the PR back to the original committee for comment.


WWALS more than doubled its membership in 2015, and we seem to be adding new committee members weekly. We’ll probably have more committees as WWALS grows, and we’ll need to stick even more to this kind of reporting structure, so not everybody has to deal with everything.

The committee structure will still be useful, and probably even more used, when there are paid staff. The staff can handle a lot of things, just like the acting executive director and acting waterkeeper do now, dealing with much correspondence and issues that neither the Board nor the committee members ever see in detail. But nobody’s an expert on everything, which is why we need committees, each focused on areas where the committee members have expertise.

For the rivers and the aquifer,
John S. Quarterman, President
WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.,
the WATERKEEPER® Affiliate for the Suwannee River
including its tributaries the Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers.
Member, Georgia River Network, Georgia Water Coalition,
Waterkeepers Florida, Floridians Against Fracking,
and national River Network.
PO Box 88, Hahira, GA 31632