Candidate contests AVMA's electoral system


Chicago - A Michigan veterinarian challenges organized veterinary medicine's method for filling executive seats by campaigning against the establishment's candidate.

CHICAGO — A Michigan veterinarian challenges organized veterinary medicine's method for filling executive seats by campaigning against the establishment's candidate.

Dr. Jeff Powers

The move, while routine in national and state politics, is atypical in veterinary medicine's smaller arena. Dr. Jeff Powers, a 50-year-old mixed-animal practitioner, wants a shot at the American Veterinary Medical Association Executive Board seat representing Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Announcing his plans last month during the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago, he challenges Dr. Janver Krehbiel, the district's approved representative vying for the position.

Among the many AVMA seats that are elected, just one requires votes cast by the general membership. By most accounts, executive board seats represent the association's most revered elected positions. A vote by the district's 6,500-plus members takes place this month via mail-in ballot.

It's an election Powers says he won't allow to go uncontested.

"This is the only position that's totally decided by a membership vote, and I don't think a few people at MVMA have the right to decide for 6,000 when you do have two qualified candidates," he says. "I'm not a good-ole-boy type. I'm the type that looks for opportunities to do something. Every time you try to bring about change, you run into those who resist. I call myself the Joe Lieberman of the MVMA."

MVMA Executive Director Karlene Belyea doesn't approve of the characterization. She considers the process of backing candidates to be careful and structured: "Unfortunately Dr. Powers is trying to make it seem unfair; we have to strongly disagree."

Apart from the system's merits, Dr. Bud Hertzog, whose term as executive board chairman recently expired, considers Powers' "unusual" bid a long shot.

"It's a free, open society; anybody can run if they go through the process," he contends. "But I'd be pretty surprised if Jan Krehbiel didn't win. I don't know of anyone who's run against the system."

How it works

That system somewhat reflects how political candidates are selected nationally. The executive board functions much like a board of directors for a corporation. There are 11 rotating seats, each working for a district containing several states and representing the grassroots of AVMA membership.

In July, District V representative Dr. James Cook's six-year term on the board expires, and an unwritten pact among the four states deems that it's Michigan's turn to offer up a replacement. The Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), serving as the primaries might in the national presidential arena, voted to present Krehbiel as its authorized candidate instead of Powers. All other states in the district have agreed not to offer candidates that might compete against Krehbiel, and no other candidate receives the backing of MVMA.

Clearly the underdog, Powers feels slighted by the lack of MVMA funding and publicity for his campaign, yet he has managed to collect support from some groups, including the Michigan Farm Bureau. Krehbiel, who refuses to comment on Powers' candidacy, has support from all four states in the district.

"I'd be honored to be elected; I think the process is fair," Krehbiel says. "I'll move forward with the expectation that I'm District V's selected candidate."

About the candidates

Both contenders have a history of service within AVMA. Krehbiel, a longtime senior administrator of Michigan State University's veterinary college, has more than 40 years in the profession. Powers' campaign materials show 26 years in practice and, like Krehbiel, extensive service in organized veterinary medicine.

"I'm running upstream, but I firmly believe that this is the right thing to do," Powers says. "My candidacy even opens things up a little bit within AVMA. People need to know what's going on there."

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