Moderator candidates address General Assembly

Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex, the two candidates for moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association, presented their qualifications for the post at a Candidate’s Forum Friday morning.

UUA President Peter Morales also spoke at the event, although he is running unopposed for reelection as UUA president. Both the moderator and president elections will be held at the 2013 General Assembly in Louisville, Ky. (People can announce their candidacy be petition for either position by Feb. 1, 2013.)

Key, winner of a coin toss, was the first of the two moderator candidates to speak. Key stated plainly, “I want to be your moderator,” and “I run a damn good meeting.” He is former president of his congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort, S.C., which he helped found. He has also been president of the Southeast District of the UUA, which changed its name from the Thomas Jefferson District during his tenure. And he has served the association as chair of the Audit Committee and member of the board task force that proposed a smaller UUA Board of Trustees and of the board’s Linkage Working Group.

Key described himself as a “governance wonk.” He has spent his professional career as a consultant for IBM and then in his own consulting firm, The Shenandoah Group. He is married with three adult children and two grandchildren. Read more about Key in a UU World profile of him and on his website.

Payne-Alex said she is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist who began serving in leadership roles in the denomination as a youth. She has served on the Black Concerns Working Group, the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, and for nine years as an at-large UUA trustee. Her professional work is as an area manager for a large educational company that provides on-site learning programs for children. She lives in San Jose, Calif., with her husband and two school-age children, where she is an active lay leader at the First Unitarian Church of San Jose.

She spoke of first wanting to be moderator as she watched Denny Davidoff, who served in that position from 1996 to 2004. “I watched Denny Davidoff greet each delegate as if they were a guest at lunch,” Payne-Alex said. “I totally wanted her job.” She added, “I want to be moderator, the person who presides at GA, chairs the board of trustees, and acts as chief governance officer of the association.” Read more about Payne-Alex in a UU World profile of her and on her website.

The Rev. Ken Sawyer, senior minister of The First Parish in Wayland, Mass., presided over the forum, which included audience questions submitted on note cards to the candidates. Each candidate also made brief closing statements.

Morales concluded by thanking the audience and thanking Key and Payne-Alex. “I get how hard it is to put yourself out there and campaign. It is an act of courage and an act of service to all of us that they’re doing this.”

Morales concluded by saying, “I hope you’ll enthusiastically vote for me even if I’m the only candidate.”

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