David Varno, the v-p of tech at the National Book Critics Circle and Publishers Weekly's fiction reviews editor, has been elected president of the organization by its board of directors. Varno will replace Jane Ciabattari, who had been serving as acting president, and who will return to her prior position as v-p of events. Varno's opponent in the race, Gregg Barrios, will remain the NBCC's v-p of diversity and inclusion.
Varno was elected president by a vote of 13-8, with two of the board's 24 members not present and one abstaining. He will serve out the remainder of Laurie Hertzel's unexpired term, which ends in March 2021, and will then be eligible to run for the office again, as well as for board re-election in 2022.
Varno returned to the board last month following his resignation, along with those of 14 of his former colleagues, during a tumultuous two months for the organization. Of the 15 members who left the board in June, five have returned as directors.
The minutes of the August 4 board meeting, which were sent in an email to NBCC membership on August 5, paint a picture of an organization still reckoning with internal divisions. Carlin Romano, the v-p of grants whose leaked internal email was at the center of the NBCC's recent controversy, asked Varno to "wait [his] turn" and "be gracious and give Gregg the honor of being president of the NBCC for another seven months,” while board member Ben Olguin took issue with the idea that a white person would be the best candidate to help the organization through a crisis related to issues of diversity.
Board member Lori Feathers, in her statement to the board in favor of Varno's candidacy, praised his “democratic and liberal and transparent approach of dealing with the membership” and his work on the organization's diversity and inclusion statement, the drafting and finalizing of which was part of the controversy. Varno, after accepting the presidency, said he remains committed to improving the diversity of the organization.
Next week, the NBCC will call a general member meeting to discuss proposed revisions to its bylaws. A membership meeting is also scheduled for August 24, at which members will be able to vote on whether Romano will remain on the board for the duration of his term as a director.
This piece has been updated for clarity.