The Tower Handbook

7.2: Officers

a: Do we need tower officers?

There are many jobs to be done in the tower and unless you decide in advance who is going to do them the chances are that they won't get done at all.

b: What if we don't have any experts in our band?

You don't have to be an expert to be an officer. In fact if none of you are experts, it is more important to make the best use of the talents you have between you by organising yourselves and sharing out the responsibilities. Very often people become more expert by doing things.

c: How many officers should we have?

That depend on many things. You need enough people sharing the load to ensure that all the jobs get done. No single post should become so demanding that no one is prepared or able to do it. Sharing jobs out among several people has a number of other benefits. You don't become totally reliant on one person, other people gain experience and you (usually) get a better team spirit.

d: What needs doing?

There is more to running a tower than most people realise. Here are some examples:

e: Can one person do everything?

One person can try to, and a few exceptional individuals have done virtually everything in their tower. But most of us are not that exceptional. How much one person can do depends on how much time, energy and talent he or she has. How much needs doing depends on how active your band is [59]. Doing everything in even a moderately active tower is more than one person should be asked to do. If you do expect the same person to do it all, don't be surprised if none of the jobs is done as eagerly or diligently as if they were given to different people of comparable enthusiasm.

f: Which jobs is it sensible to combine?

Tower captain and ringing master are often done by the same person, so are secretary and treasurer. The job of instructor is often carried out by one of the officers (usually ringing master), but it does not have to be an officer. In fact it is a very good idea to train others in the skill of teaching, so that more than one of you can competently teach new recruits.

g: Do we need deputy officers?

You always need someone who can stand in if one person is unavailable. How rapidly this will be needed depends on the job. Running a practice needs someone else to take over if the ringing master is held up an hour in traffic, whereas most of the secretary's jobs could wait a week without harm. You don't need to have a deputy as such - another officer could stand in - but many towers do have a post of deputy tower captain. As well as being a stand-in, the post of deputy is a useful way for someone to gain experience of doing the job without having to take the whole responsibility straight away.

h: Should we elect officers?

Ideally officers should be elected annually by the band, since this ensures they will carry the respect and support of the majority of ringers. On many occasions people will be re-elected, and often only one person is nominated for each post. But the mechanism is there to allow change to take place naturally when either the individual or the band wants it. Being re-elected every year is also a salutary reminder that as officers we are there to serve the band rather than to command it.

Not all parishes have a tradition of electing their officers. People become officers in many ways. The priest may ask them to take office. This is most likely if there is no band and someone must take the initiative to get one going. Sometimes the outgoing office holder will nominate a successor, though this is usually undesirable because it may not have the full backing of the band. Sometimes, there is no obvious process.

The ultimate authority for what happens in the church rests with the churchwardens and priest, but normally they will be guided by the wishes of those involved. You need the consent of all concerned and you need the most suitable people to take office. The ideal is to elect your officers at the annual meeting chaired by your priest or one of the wardens.

i: How long should the same person hold an office?

There is no specific limit. Someone may hold an office for as long as he or she feels a commitment to the task, and the band (and church authorities) are satisfied with the result. But sometimes people stay on for longer than is good for either them or the band. A change of officers from time to time is a very effective way of bringing in new ideas, and to keep the band alive and active. It is also a good way of ensuring other people gain experience. If only one person can do a job, what happens if he or she moves away, gives up ringing or dies?

j: Should we have a 'maximum length of service' rule?

Some bands have a rule that one may only be re-elected to the same post for say three or five consecutive years. You could of course be elected to another post straight away, and you could be elected again to the same office after a break. But it does provide a guarantee that there will be some turnover in the longer term, and prevents anyone getting 'locked into' a post.

This can easily happen. Everyone gets so used to the status quo and there is no obvious successor, so the same person stands out of loyalty and is re-elected out of politeness. It can be a vicious circle that prevents anyone else gaining experience of running things. Meanwhile, imperceptibly the flow of ideas and energy reduces, and the band weakens.

There are notable exceptions to this picture. Some outstanding individuals have led active, successful towers for decades. But they are in the minority. There are also many loyal, less than super-human people trapped by circumstance in jobs which they do out of a sense of duty while others either wish they would hand over to someone else [60]. Far better to go out on a high, and perhaps come back later refreshed, than to wait until you cannot do the job.

k: Who should be an officer?

Someone who is willing and able to do the job. A volunteer is worth ten pressed men – see picture. But also someone who will form an effective part of the overall team (assuming you need more than one officer). Each post need not necessarily be done by the person most suited for it. The overall mix matters too.

Even if you only have limited options, it is still worth thinking whether it is better to have all jobs filled by people who will do them adequately or one job filled by someone who can do it perfectly while other posts are not filled, or talents go unused.

Someone who is good at one aspect may not be so good at another part of the same job.

Think about who should be your officers before you get to the AGM. Twisting arms in the meeting because no one will take on a job is not the best way to ensure success. (A volunteer is worth ten pressed men - see picture).

Of course in a voluntary organisation, a person will only be effective in an office if he or she has the confidence of the rest of the band.

l: When should we start preparing new people for office?

All the time. You can develop people's experience by involving them and delegating tasks at any time. Very often no one gives much thought to new officers until just before the AGM (or even at it). This may not lead to the best result. The person who gives in to arm twisting at the meeting might not be the best person, who with longer to think it over could have been willing to take the job on. Normally the main trigger is that an existing officer decides to stand down. The sooner you know this the better. Responsible officers will always try to ensure that there is at least one person willing to follow them when they stand down [61].

m: How can I prepare to be a tower officer?

Think about what the job involves and how you would do it. Talk to the existing holder about the work. Decide whether your temperament is suited to the role. You may decide you already have enough relevant experience (perhaps from work) to do a job like secretary. Where you don't have experience, you could offer to act as an understudy. In some cases you could attend a course, eg on tower leadership or maintenance. You could go on a ringing course as a helper and learn from the way the tutor handles things. This can be an extremely effective and enjoyable way of learning the skills required.

Of course, you should let someone else know that you are interested in doing the job, or you may not even be proposed, let alone elected.

n: Who should hold the tower keys?

Ideally all officers will have a set of keys (eg church key, tower stairs, ringing room, bell chamber). This means if the tower captain is absent someone else can take over without the added problem of getting the keys. If keys are limited, it is normally sensible for the steeple keeper to have a set as well as the tower captain, since he or she will need to make trips up the tower at non standard times (especially if the job includes clock winding and flag raising).

The church authorities should have keys to all parts of the church, including the tower. This may be a single set in the church safe, or the priest and one of the wardens may have a set. It depends on whether the tower is used for anything other than ringing (eg storing archives in the clock room).

The biggest problem comes from large old fashioned keys - the sort of which you can't get a copy made in the ironmongers. As well as being inconvenient, these keys are usually not very secure so you could discuss with the church authorities whether it would be better to fit modern locks to at least some of the doors to make key holding easier.


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