By: Ed Mortensen, Secretary
The Progressive Line
A natural way to elect officers in a Masonic Lodge is to “promote” the officers into seats of increasing responsibility. This order typically goes something like this:
- Junior Steward
- Senior Steward
- Junior Deacon
- Senior Deacon
- Junior Warden
- Senior Warden
- Worshipful Master
So, after starting out as a Junior Steward, you can expect to be the Worshipful Master in seven years.
But what do you do if a member’s skills don’t progress from year to year and you find someone in an office they are not suited to? This will be a disservice to that member, and this happens no matter what method you use.
The Other Option
The other way of selecting officers in a Lodge is to, along with appropriate coaching, select and elect officers based on their skills and temperaments. This means only choosing members for seats that they are qualified for. Each office has a specific set of responsibilities, not all members are prepared to take on these responsibilities and grow with them as the years progress.
But there is a downside to this, what if a member thinks they are ready, but the Lodge members have seen that they just aren’t? This leads to hurt feelings. This, too, has happened.
The rubber hits the road in the annual election.
This is when the Lodge members elect, primarily, the two Wardens and the Master. It is only the Master that has requirements for election, the Wardens have no prerequisites. In a progressive line, this is a rubber stamp exercise where the Marshall or Senior Deacon becomes the Junior Warden, the Junior Warden becomes the Senior Warden, and the Senior Warden becomes the Master.
The other positions are selected by the incoming Master.
We of Damascus Lodge suggest that you do these members the courtesy of electing only qualified members to these offices.
Surprises or the Lack Thereof
Now, how do you avoid hurt feelings?
When a member is not ready for the “next” office, it should never be a surprise. The Worshipful Master, especially, should be coaching the other dais officers, especially (The Junior Warden and the Senior Warden). This means working on their leadership and execution skills and letting them know when they are falling short. This means having that hard conversation with an officer that is not being ready to advance.
The Secretary and the Treasurer
There are two other elected officers, the Secretary and the Treasurer.
While it is common for the other officers to move seats from year to year. It is common for the Secretary and the Treasurer to hold their offices for several years.
These are vital positions, typically held by Past Masters, that are uniquely suited to the responsibilities of these jobs.
The dais officers and the Secretary and Treasurer form the core leadership of the Lodge and work together to see for a successful year and a successful Lodge. They must be chosen carefully.
A Static Line
If the Secretary and Treasurer can sit in an office for more than one year, why can’t a Master or a Warden also serve for more than one year? This works for the Secretary and Treasurer, and works in the industry outside of Masonry, why would it not work in a Lodge?
Well, there is every reason for this to happen. If an officer has to step out of the line for whatever reason, rather than “promote” someone past a seat and have them in over their head, it may be worthwhile to freeze the top of the line and let a newer officer grow into their next job.
Lastly, there are times when it is a good idea to put a Past Master into a Warden seat to slow down the advancement of the line. When officers just aren’t ready to advance, we recommend either freezing the line as above or putting a Past Master into the hole formed by a missing member or a lack of skills.
Remember that Past Masters are resources for the Lodge. They can sit as committee chairmen, personal coaches, or they can act to fill a hole, letting the others “lower” in the line grow into the next position when they can step out and make the growth of leadership happen.
So, rather than have a progressive line and risk having hiccups due to the advancement of officers that just aren’t ready for that next step, use Past Masters or “freeze” the line to give members another year in their current position or keep them from skipping that next step to fill a void left by a member that may have moved or stepped out of the line to attend to those exalted duties they owe to themselves, their families and their jobs.