J. Clair Witwer
J. Clair Witwer - Millersville, PA
1. Please describe the skills you posses (which you believe are stronger than the other candidates) which would make you an asset as a board member, in dealing with the challenges facing KCBS, and give an example of how those skills would serve the KCBS Board of Directors and its membership.
My name is J. Clair Witwer of Millersville PA, most people call me Wit. My hat is being tossed into the ring for a position on the Board of Directors (BOD) of the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). CBJ certification at New Holland, PA in 2012 was my introduction to the wonderful world of BBQ, and although I only judged two competitions that year, the BBQ bug bite me hard. Early in 2019 a rep in Humble TX will sign my form for my 150th competition. Cooking with a team for my MCBJ lead me to cook with eleven different teams, learning something new every step of the way. After retiring as an Agriculture Educator of 39 years for the Pequea Valley School District (PVSD), my education and training helped in the transition to the next phase of my
career; running the family business as a dairy nutritionist serving dairy farmers across the United States and Puerto Rico. During my tenure at PVSD, my role constantly evolved due to the changing needs of my students. I have coached individuals and teams for the Pequea Valley FFA Organization in competitions at the county, state and national level. In 1996-97 I served as President of the PA Association of Agriculture Educators (PAAE). A ten-year stint as the PAAE Legislative Chair allowed me to collaborate with our lobbyist and State
Legislators on a variety of issues involving education and agriculture. For fifteen years I served as President and Chief Negotiator of the Pequea Valley Education Association (PVEA). This role involved interfacing with the School Board, administrators, educators, and parents on various issues.
2. If you are a Cook, Judge, Rep or Backyard Cook, please identify the major KCBS issues concerning one of the areas in which you are involved. Describe the major issue, your strategies to correct or improve the issue, and what you see as the biggest challenge to the success of your plan.
As a MCBJ/CTC with 148 comps under my belt, a major problem at the table deals with scoring issues. As there are multiple CBJ instructors, not all stay on the KCBS playbook for what the numbers mean, and I feel strongly that all the CBJ’s receive the same information to make informed decisions. Perhaps the BOD needs to review how the information is disseminated and by whom. Do we need to retrain current instructors and retool the CBJ training program to address this issue? When CBJ’s downgrade scores due to sauce on the box top or because they don’t see what they are expecting in the box, reeducation is warranted. The biggest challenge is re-educating those CBJ’s who have been doing this for so long, that perhaps they have forgotten some basics. Requiring a re-certification test every third re-enrollment or every three years for Life Members could be a viable way to solve the problem. 3. Identify your major short term goal and the major long term goal, if elected to the Board of KCBS and your plan to implement change or improvement in order to carry out each of these goals. In addition to the short-term goal discussed above, MCBJ’s qualifications should be altered to the following: CBJ’s first cook should be within the first 10 comps, then, cooking with a different team, in the last 20-30 comps. Being part of a cooking team twice will provide insights into their own scoring in the tent as well as seeing two different teams approach to the same event. This addition to the requirements to be a MCBJ could easily be voted on and approved in short order. A list of teams willing to accept guest cooks could be maintained on the KCBS website.
Long term goals include every team, Pro and Backyard, having at least one CBJ on their roster, with that person judging a competition at least once in a given number of years. The purpose of this proposal is to keep the teams aligned with the process in the tent and to decrease some of the division between teams and those judging them. I believe becoming familiar with all facets of the process, including turn-in and grazing tables, will bring us closer and make the organization stronger. An additional long term goal would be to look at how to encourage Backyard Teams to move to the Pro ranks. In talking to those teams there is a reluctance to lay out the money to upgrade equipment and purchase the expensive meats to compete with the big boys.
4. If elected please explain, “your level of commitment, time and energy” for committee projects and monthly reports, board meetings and attendance, as well as representing KCBS to the public and being responsive to our members. Please understand that “whatever time is required” is not an acceptable answer. Executive Committee members typically volunteer 8-10 hours a month and Committee Chairs typically volunteer 3-5 hours a month. “No Report” often means no activity. Will you be an active board member or inactive board member?
As my autobiography noted, I have served or chaired committees throughout my tenure at my day job. Being a very organized person, I delegate time, so all is taken care of, I am not known for leaving a project before finishing. Once committed to a project, rest assured it will be done thoughtfully, thoroughly and to full completion. Depending on the committee activities it may be possible that on one month there would be no report. Many months of no activity are a major concern. Communication is the foundation of any committee and all minutes will be completed and turned in according to KCBS guidelines.
5. What new ideas would you have in regards to marketing or new ideas that would benefit membership?
People ask me all the time about KCBS and what it does to benefit the community. I discuss the various scholarships and that KCBS is a non-profit organization that does good works. However, this needs to be expanded to encourage and solicit potential members. One way could be to invite interested persons into the tent under the supervision of the Ambassador to watch what we do and ask questions either before or after the judging takes place. For our current members, I would also like to have a contest in the Bull Sheet with the winner receiving a basket of KCBS branded items. The question “How would you market KCBS in 100 words or less.” This is a great way for member participation as everyone likes a contest with great prizes.
6. Please describe your previous participation in KCBS activities and years of experience.
To recap, since 2012, I have judged 148 events east of the Mississippi from Vermont to Georgia and cooked with 11 different teams. Last spring I helped organized a CBJ class in New Holland Pennsylvania. Organizing the class took communication, team work, not micro-managing but coordinating all the different components and we ended up certifying more than 75 new CBJ’s. My job was to secure CBJs to help with the training. I had more people wanting to help then positions needed and the day went like clockwork. Looking forward I plan to expand my judging nationwide and possibly internationally. I have been accepted to judge in Humble TX
in February 2019.
7. Please explain why you want to be a member of the KCBS Board of Directors.
BBQ people are the salt of the earth and they are always there for each other. KCBS, as strong as it is, has a few cracks they need repaired properly to make the organization stronger. When I am installed on the BOD, KCBS gets my commitment of 110% and my solemn promise to serve in any way necessary to the best of my ability.