May 28, 2015;Telluride Daily Planet

In Telluride, Colorado, community radio station KOTO (with the motto, “Community Radio at its Purest”) had its executive director, Dina Coates Koebler, resign earlier this week after she had by one account been figuratively “beat to a pulp.” She had been in place for a year and a half, following an interim director who had followed a long-term director.

Newly installed board president Amy Peters, who appears to have been elected on a reform agenda after a board member recall vote, did not have any comment about the reasons for the resignation—which is in and of itself a silent message of sorts.

Koebler, who was hired for her extensive experience in nonprofits and management, said, “I think community radio plays an important role and I wish KOTO all the best in the future.” Perhaps she was not prepared for the odd governance world that some community radio stations live in.

During the public comment session of Wednesday’s regular KOTO board meeting, attendee Karen Patterson said, “I’m sad that Dina has resigned and I think she was beat up to a pulp. It’s a sad day for KOTO.”

Ingrid Lundahl pleaded for the board to put aside the pettiness and egos that had characterized KOTO for the past two years. “Going forward, we really need to be aware of the public’s perception of who we are and what we are up to,” she said. “[The public] is tired of KOTO because KOTO has been acting like a child.”

D.J. Jim “Jimmy Jazz” Berkowitz weighed in on process steps, saying, “I believe we should find ways for the entire membership to have input on who we bring in as executive director. That could frame the process of looking for a replacement.” That actually makes some sense to us in the situation.

But board president Peters said she’s pretty committed to the idea that KOTO may not need a full-time executive director since there are only three full-time staff members to manage. On the other hand, she said, someone needs to write the grants. “I myself feel pretty strongly that we do not need an executive director,” Peters said. “I envision a grant writer plus a part-time administrator…. One thing that really concerns me is we do not have a grant writer, yet we have grant deadlines.”

Apparently, the last eighteen months were marked with many resignations, both of board and staff, along with financial difficulties, accusations from community members of inadequate notices for meetings, demands for board member recalls, and a special election.

So-o-o, if you are up for a challenge, there may be some kind of position open at this Telluride Radio Station. The right someone just might be able to make it work, since there seems to be a lot of energy in the mix. But personally, I might go with the suggestion of D.J. Jimmy Jazz. Leadership in a more engaged system takes something more, something different than leadership in a more hierarchical structure, but it can also be a heck of a lot more fun if managed properly.—Ruth McCambridge