The JAAA election: lessons and the way forward
Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
The new Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) executive, led once again by Dr Warren Blake, has had a moment to breathe. Its campaign to win last week's election ended in a resounding victory and taught some lessons that simultaneously confirm and oppose conventional wisdom. It was as decisive a victory as any Jamaican has won on the field of play.
On one hand, Blake's success in the race for the JAAA presidency over Lincoln Eatmon and Grace Jackson runs against the grain. In a country used to charismatic political leaders, the quiet doctor beat Eatmon, a lawyer, and Jackson, track star-turned-administrator, 177-121-28. If the JAAA electors voted on charisma alone, the result might have been reversed.
Simultaneously, the revolutionary idea of a female JAAA president was postponed.
Initial expectations were for voters to cherry-pick the new executive from all three slates. That never happened as, except in one case, the Blake group thrived on devastating voter support.
It was one-way traffic for 16 of the 17 offices available. In one display of voter power, little known Ewan Scott swept past well known incumbent Charlie Fuller and retired 2006 Commonwealth 110-metre hurdles winner Maurice Wignall for the post of director of records. Slate voting ruled.
The odd case concerned the second vice-presidency. Right after Blake got 177 votes and Dave Myrie took 195 of 311 ballots for the post of first vice-president and just before Olympic team captain Mike Frater captured 204 of 281 for third vice-president, Deon Hemmings lost to Ian Forbes of the Eatmon team. The 1996 Olympic champion got 136 to the Forbes total of 151.
Though Forbes has a fine record of service to the sport as meet official, organiser and World Junior team manager, the numbers lead to only one conclusion. Hemmings must have been deserted by some of those who loyally installed Blake and the rest of his team.
National elections have led us to expect snazzy advertising campaigns and lively public debates. In the JAAA election, the campaign with the lowest public profile won.
We'll never know for sure, but the key may have been the stormy departure of Don Quarrie from Blake's team. The super sprinter, named second vice-president by Blake last November, left that team just before the election. That may have given our two major clubs leave to vote for the Blake slate since both MVP maestro Stephen Francis and Racers guru Glen Mills have well known discomforts with the Q.
Moreover, given Mr Quarrie's televised comments about Dr Blake's leadership, it's hard to see him getting back into good graces very soon. That will be a real test of the olive branch offered by Blake to all concerned.
THINGS MAY CHANGE
By the time you read this, the president may have already called Eatmon and Jackson to talk things over. The objective wouldn't just be to engender goodwill. The real goal would be to graft their good ideas into the proposal he put to the voters during his campaign.
Both his rivals proposed regular reporting to the JAAA membership to promote inclusiveness. Eatmon had plans to address youth and women's athletics and Jackson had a target of 20 medals in the 2020 Olympics. Add that to the plan by the Blake team to boost middle-distance running with a Jamaica-Kenya exchange programme, an athlete's pension scheme and a bond issue to raise funds and the JAAA has some good ideas to build on.
Additionally, the elections presented a wide group of persons willing to serve Jamaican athletics. These include Jackson, Eatmon, Hemmings, Wignall and others like Neil Gardner, Juliet Cuthbert, Juliet Parkes, educator Wayne Robinson, Jon Jones and Joe Taffe. They have skills and knowledge that can help.
If the new executive makes things work, perhaps discomforts expressed during the campaign will subside. If Jamaica's Olympic and World Championship medal counts remain high or improve, no one will care who is in office. Perhaps that's how it should be.
Hurbert Lawrence is co-author of the Power and the Glory - An illustrated history of Jamaica in world athletics.