It has been just over a year since I accepted the role of Regional Coordinator for the Northwest United States, and that makes it a decent point at which to take stock of things. When I first started as RC, I was in "survival mode," trying to simultaneously learn the ropes of being an RC and to learn the people and peculiarities of a region that I did not yet live in (I was in Virginia until June of this year). As my understanding of the region took shape, I identified several regional goals:
1) Develop new L3s. This year, the NW gained a new L3 in March, Jeremy Behunin from Odgen, Utah. This promotion was kind of a cheat because Utah itself was absorbed into the NW in January, something that I negotiated for when I accepted the role, partly because I wanted Jeremy in my region (both because he is an excellent judge, but also a close friend), but also for a longer term goal of mine which I will get to.
Before Jeremy, the last new L3 promotion in the NW was... Aaron Hamer, former RC, promoted to L3 in 2006. So the rest of the L3+ in the region are even older than that. There's nothing inherently wrong with that--their collective experience is a huge boon for their communities--but I believe that it is always better to mix new with old.
However, at the time that I took over, there were no prospects on the horizon. There were a few solid L2s who for one reason or another had not moved from "expert L2" to "L3 candidate." (There's no real line here, but it's more about perception combined with the judge personally deciding to make the jump, but you should definitely be an expert L2 before looking to make this switch.)
What a change a year makes. Looking ahead at 2014, I don't want to name names and place undue public pressure on people, so I will just say that I think we have 3 or 4 strong candidates for L3, and more interest buzzing in advancing. I will say that L3 is not for everyone, and if you're an L2, you shouldn't feel obligated to try to become an L3, nor should you ever feel shame that you are "only an L2." Especially at the regional level, L2s are the backbones of our communities. They do the lion's share of work at Competitive REL events, and serve as leaders of communities. But if you find yourself aspiring for more, or already doing work above and beyond, you should talk to me (or your RC if you are reading this from another region--Hi!) and explore your options.
2) Fill the gaps. At this time last year, Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska had zero L2s. Now Wyoming has 4 and Montana has 1. These are huge steps forward for these states in terms of being able to run more Competitive REL events without having to import judges, and more importantly, in their ability to certify new judges and become self-growing communities. Idaho, a state that started my term with 1 L2 judge (with 2 recently moving away), has also gained 2 new L2s and looks poised for several more. Alaska, you're next.
I've also tried to focus my efforts on developing the secondary cities in various states like Spokane, Washington and Eugene and Medford, Oregon. While the states of Washington and Oregon are doing well by pure numbers, they are severely imbalanced towards their Seattle and Portland metro centers.
3) Conquer and divide. When I first became RC of the "Northwest," I asked Andy Heckt and Cristiana Dionisio to give me the states of Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado (the first was in the Southwest and the latter two in the South). Why? Because I like games of territory conquest like Risk. Also, I wanted to consolidate these states and the current NW holdings of Idaho and Montana under one regional flag. Talking with Jeremy, he helped me see how these states had a lot more in common with each other than other parts of their region.
Ultimately, I would like to see the Mountain Region become its own entity, separate from the Pacific states. (I've waffled back and forth on which side of the divide Idaho should go on.) Right now, that isn't a viable option; mostly the numbers don't work out for a split... yet. However, we've seen some great growth in these states, and we're on the right track, which is why I'm sharing this idea more publicly now. I'd like the judges in the region to be involved in growing this idea and the region.
This isn't just a call to action for the Mountain States. I don't think that the Pacific States have reached enough saturation to be considered for their own separate regionship. The Judge Program has grown by leaps and bounds, but a lot of that has been big getting bigger, by which I mean that the metro centers have gotten a higher concentration of this growth. It's time to spread the butter with the knife.