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Board service: The next chapter

By Doreen Sutton

Serving on a state association board gives us a greater understanding of the issues concerning our state with regard to the reporting industry. Learning about how the state association works is one of many benefits. Some others include becoming educated about state governance at some level, networking at events throughout the year, and getting to know colleagues within your area along with dipping your hand into the budgeting and fundraising “pots” in order to run the most efficient association possible.

Serving on an NCRA committee and/or the Board, in my opinion, takes service to another level. I know without a doubt that my years on committees as well as Board service changed me. I met many wonderful reporters across the country, made some lifelong friends, and developed a new respect for what we do and the challenges each state might face in a given year.

What comes next after Board service? I had a chance to interview two individuals who have finished their Board service: Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Yolanda Walton, FAPR, RPR.

Doreen Sutton (DS) | For how long were you on the Board and how did you serve?

Debbie Dibble (DD) | Ten years. I have served on the NCRA Board under nine NCRA presidents and three U.S. Presidents as Director, Secretary-Treasurer, President Elect, President, and Immediate Past President.

Yolanda Walton (YW) | I served five years. I basically filled in when others left the Board, so I did not do my three-year term.

DS | Tell me a highlight or two of your service, perhaps during your visits to states as an NCRA rep.

DD | My personal shining star highlight was pulling a “fast one” on the Director of Governance, Laura Butler, CAP, OM. Through Board approval, Laura was awarded the Meritorious Service Award. It took a full year of trying to hide something so monumental from the most detail-oriented and thorough organizer of all time.

The highlight of my professional service is undoubtedly NCRF Career Launcher. It has now been four-plus years since beginning this project, and it broadened my industry knowledge while working with industry greats to create this legacy program.

YW | Recently I was able to attend the Florida Court Reporters Association (FCRA) conference, and I got to install my dear friends Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Michael Scire, RPR, CRMS; Sheri as president and Michael as president-elect. I got choked up and Michael got tears in his eyes! When you consider them friends, it’s an honor and privilege. I love doing the installation of officers. You get to showcase them because it’s a big deal to take on leadership in an association and to be able to highlight that.

DS | Do you feel that in some instances the state-level board service leads to NCRA Board service?

YW | Absolutely. I’ve made several recommendations of individuals. It’s a great opportunity.

DS | What was your favorite state to rep?

YW| Oh, that’s a tough one. I don’t think I have a favorite.

DS | Was there a memorable rep assignment? How about your first one?

YW | My first rep assignment, I went on the Board in August of 2018. I ran from the floor to fill a position. In September I went to Indiana. I had been on the Board for less than a month, and I remember being nervous, tearing up, and the president had a very difficult last name. I remember rehearsing it multiple times, and I said the wrong name! I was devastated, but the incoming president was very gracious. It was a small but great association. It was also my first time doing a seminar.

DS | Do you have a funny story you can share?

DD | So many fun stories, and so many of them include Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC. The true pinnacle was the honor and privilege I was given to swear her in as the President of NCRA and to serve under her great leadership.

DS | Did you have a mentor, a person to whom you looked up, asked for advice, either on the Board or a past Board Member?

YW | I am very fortunate, being from Ohio, that there are so many. So on the Board, several members were helpful, but I always had Sarah Nageotte, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Bruce Matthews, FAPR, RDR, CRR (Ret). I never felt like I was alone and that I could reach out to any number of people from Ohio.

DS | How do you feel about joining state and national associations?

YW | I joined both OCRA (Ohio Court Reporters Association) and NCRA. They became my “go-tos” whenever I had questions as a new reporter. I’ve been a member since 1986.

DS | What is your area of practice?

YW | Right out of school I took an officialship and have been there since.

DS | What is your takeaway from your time on the NCRA Board?

DD | Immediately prior to my service on the NCRA Board, I spent ten years on my state board of directors which was very hands-on. I came onto the NCRA Board expecting to do the same. The needs of NCRA have changed during the past ten years. We used to need cheerleaders. Now we need warriors. The breadth of my understanding, comprehension, and investment in this career has grown exponentially and helped me develop my talents and increase my knowledge in ways that I can use to continue to contribute and serve myself and others as we protect our profession.

I didn’t understand the complexities of our industry and how every small decision affects so many, from picking a location for the national Conference, how to improve testing … the list is endless.

The greatest change to my personal life would be the thousands of amazing individuals whom I have come to know and love in our industry. These professional associates, many now dearest friends, have taught me, nurtured me, supported me, and challenged me.

YW | I’ve had the privilege of working with so many people, and my life is so much better because of this Board service. It’s eye-opening serving on the Board. Members are so important — they’re who we answer to — but sometimes they are not aware of how careful the board has to be when making decisions.

DS | What is your next step?

YW | I have done all of the committee chairs and was president of OCRA. I do know that I love NCRA and OCRA – I’m going to tear up – and love the reporters, all reporters. I look forward to the Conference every year. It is truly my favorite time.

I’m also looking forward to going on vacation!

Nominations are now being sought for the NCRA Board of Directors. Nominate yourself or someone you admire by Jan. 9, 2024.

Doreen Sutton, FAPR, RDR, is a freelance court reporter based in Scottsdale, Ariz. She can be reached at