MLT Board swaps Rudder for Duggan
Paul Rudder, who has served on the board of Mammoth Lakes Tourism [MLT] for six years, abruptly resigned and walked out of Tuesday’s board meeting to the shock of his fellow board members.
Rudder held the at-large seat on the board, meaning his seat has no stipulations as to who can occupy it. His two year term was set to conclude at the end of June, and he applied to renew his position on the board.
However, the board nominating committee recommended that Rhonda Duggan, who also applied for Rudder’s seat, should take the spot.
Before the board could vote, Rudder said he appreciated the opportunity to serve, wished the board the best, and excused himself.
Only his term wasn’t over. Chairman Scott McGuire and Executive Director John Urdi told Rudder that he has two more months to serve.
Rudder said in response, “I think it would be just as well if I stepped aside and you put Rhonda Duggan on now rather than wait.”
McGuire tried again to convince Rudder to stay by saying that the board would have to change the bylaws to put Duggan on the board immediately.
Rudder resisted, saying, “I don’t own that seat … The board has made a decision and I respect that and I am going to honor it by separating myself.”
Once more McGuire asked that Rudder stay, at least until the board voted, on who should take the seat.
Rudder said simply, “I’ll let you proceed,” congratulated Rhonda Duggan in the audience, and left.
The board was momentarily dumbfounded. Mayor Cleland Hoff, Town Council’s representative on the MLT Board, put her head in her hands.
“I was ready to cry,” she said.
McGuire broke the silence with, “Thanks, Paul.”
The board voted unanimously to appoint Duggan to the seat. This is the first time that a seated MLT board member has not retained his seat when he submitted an application to reapply.
Since Rudder submitted his formal resignation on Tuesday evening, Duggan will fill his seat effective immediately.
On Rudder’s abrupt exit, McGuire said, “I didn’t expect that… Him leaving stung. That’s not how I wanted this to happen.”
Hoff was not so shocked.
“If I was in his position I would have done the same thing,” she said. “It was not from rudeness or anything like that, it was just, ‘Why am I sitting around making decisions on something that I soon won’t be relevant to?”
After Rudder left, the nominating committee talked about how difficult it was to choose to replace Rudder.
Hoff said, “it was a heinous, horrible decision … Of all the decisions I’ve had to make, this was the hardest”
McGuire said in a phone call after the meeting, “Candidly, that sucked. That was my least favorite thing I have ever had to do with MLT.”
It was difficult, they said, because both candidates were highly qualified. Duggan has worked in marketing for Mammoth Mountain, the Sierra Nevada Resort, and her own private consultancy, and worked for the planning department of the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
Rudder was a career lawyer before going into commercial real estate, and has been the MLT board’s guide as it navigates its lawsuit against Dirk Winter.
MLT’s case took a significant hit last month. Visiting Judge Dean Stout handed down a ruling on that case at the end of April, supporting the defendant’s [Dirk Winter, owner of the Woodsite] motion to “expunge the lis pendens recorded by the plaintiff on real property.”
The lis pendens was a recording against the property’s title, which notified potential buyers that the property was subject of a legal proceeding.
The lis pendens having being removed, Town Manager Dan Holler told The Sheet this week that the Woodsite property is now in escrow.
Nevertheless, Mammoth Lakes Tourism has since filed a motion for reconsideration of its appeal.
The Sheet asked McGuire whether the ruling influenced MLT into valuing Rudder’s legal expertise less now that MLT’s legal ordeal is winding down.
“Just because there was a ruling does not mean the case is over,” said McGuire, channeling Yogi Berra.
“The Winter case and Paul’s involvement never came up during that conversation (the interview deliberation).”
Duggan was simply the superior candidate in the eyes of the committee.
Ironically, McGuire said, Rudder was asked during his interview what qualities an at-large board member should have, and the description he gave fit Duggan to a tee.
“Paul made a comment that the the at-large person needs to be in the community talking about what MLT does,” McGuire said.
“When asked if he does that he said, ‘well …’”
Hoff said that Duggan, “provided the answers in her interview that Paul brought up in his interview.”
Along with Duggan’s marketing background, it was her positive energy and visibility in the town that made her the preferable candidate in the eyes of the nominating committee.
“Her positive attitude about Mammoth is irrepressible,” Hoff said. “It came down to looking for someone who is more visibly out there.”
Board member Michael Ledesma said that he supported Duggan in part because, “We need more gender balance on the board.”
Hoff was adamant that the nominating committee did not discuss gender during its deliberation.
As part of a written statement provided to The Sheet by Rudder, he said, “Service on the Board is not about personal ego, it is about community benefit. With that in mind, if the Board has someone who can be of greater use to the Board and MLT than myself, I have complete faith in the Board’s judgment with respect to such matters, and am happy to step aside.”