Time to Vote for the USBGF Board of Directors

Submit your vote by November 30th.
Vote for Board of Directors

The USBGF Board of Directors election is under way. All current USBGF members in good standing are eligible to vote. Members may vote anytime starting now up until 11:45 p.m. EST, Wednesday, November 30, 2022. Each member may submit only one ballot.

The vote will be taken through SurveyMonkey.com. You will receive an email from: john@usbgf.org via SurveyMonkey <member@surveymonkeyuser.com>

The email will contain instructions on how to vote.

We have five board seats to fill and seven candidates to choose from. The candidates are:

Jack Edelson
Ben Friesen (incumbent)
John Pirner (incumbent)
Kara Schultz
Ian Terry
Martin Thurmann
Antoinette-Marie Williams

Candidate bios and photos are below.

Members may vote for 1 to 5 candidates. A candidate may receive only one vote from a member.

The 5 candidates with the most votes and receiving votes from 50% of the voters will be elected. A runoff election will be held if candidates do not receive votes from at least 50% of the voters.

The Board election gives members an important voice in how the UBGF will be governed. Each candidate has a unique set of experiences and skills. When you vote, please be thoughtful of how each candidate’s skills and experiences will enhance the value of your membership and contribute to the growth of the USBGF. You are voting on the future of the USBGF.

This voting process embodies our desire to be an open, transparent, and democratic organization. We value your participation. We hope that all members will take the time to carefully consider each candidate and submit a ballot.

Should you have any difficulties in voting, or if you do not receive an invitation to vote, or if you have any questions regarding the voting process, please send an email to Dan Minardi at: Dan@usbgf.org.

Thank you for being a member of the USBGF.

A not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing the awareness, participation, education and enjoyment of the skill-based game of backgammon.

John Pirner
President and Executive Director
U.S. Backgammon Federation

Jack Edelson

As the organizer and co-director of the Wisconsin State Backgammon Championships, I have demonstrated my ability and passion to grow the game. During my involvement with the tournament, our attendance has increased by 38 percent since 2017, one of the highest rates on the circuit. I know how to attract new players, and I will use that experience to help promote backgammon as a member of the Board.

I previously served on the Board from 2018 to 2021, and I have been a member of both the Local Clubs Committee and Tournament Directors Advisory Committee. I am currently working on bringing the ABT back to Indianapolis for the first time since 2006. Additionally, I have extensive experience as a player both in the US and Europe. My background positions me well to understand the needs and perspectives of players, directors, and organizers.

My priorities are simple. I will evaluate every proposal based on two questions. Does it serve our players and directors? And does it promote the growth of the game? Supporting local clubs, which provide accessible entry points to new players, must be a key part of our strategy. I will strive to find cost-effective ways to promote the game, creating growth without increasing the demands placed on our players. Finally, I will work to ensure that the USBGF meets the needs of all players, whether they are serious players seeking to improve their game, or casual players looking for a fun social outlet.

It would be an honor to have the opportunity to serve the backgammon community as a member of the Board once again.

Ben Friesen (incumbent)

Ben Friesen is a backgammon player, director, and organizer. A member of the backgammon community since age 16, Ben grew up playing with Carol Joy Cole and the Flint Area Backgammon Club. His interest in backgammon started at a young age when his father taught him, and his interest spiked after winning the Pittsburg Novice followed by the Ohio Intermediate ABT in 2011.

Ben started his director career in 2017 with the Ohio State Backgammon Championships and the Michigan Summer Backgammon Championships. He currently organizes, directs, or co-directs 4 ABT events and is a key advisor to many others.

Ben joined the Board of Directors in 2020 and has assisted with various responsibilities including Chair of the Tournament Director Advisory Committee , Treasurer (current), and Director of Tournament Support (Current).

Ben is a Platinum Founding Sponsor and Diamond Mission Sponsor. Ben’s vision for the future of backgammon includes finding creative ways to engage youth, new tournament ideas both live and online, and educating the community on PR and average skill levels in backgammon tournaments.

John Pirner (incumbent)

The USBGF’s mission is to grow backgammon. I believe the USBGF has been effective in sustaining the ABT community but we could do more to include non-tournament players. As we continue to support the ABT, I would like to broaden our reach to non-tournament players.

I became President in April, 2020 when COVID shut down live play. Under the leadership of Ben Friesen we launched ABT Online! and a new ABT points race.

The USBGF was losing access to the OTC (Online Tournament Circuit), a significant member benefit. Under the leadership of Rich Munitz we launched the development of the new OTS (Online Tournament System) which went live in January, 2021. Continued development with new features that benefit ABT tournament play has been possible through the $10 ABT fee.

We recruited Kris Heuer to become the new production editor for PrimeTime Backgammon Magazine. Subscriptions to the paper edition are up 30% since then.

Our website was unstable and could not be upgraded. We launched a Capital Campaign Fund to raise money for a new one. We exceeded our goal, launched the new site last February, and directed unused funds to the development of the OTS.

Our ability to deliver consistent membership services was strained because we relied on volunteers and turnover was a problem. We have built a strong collaborative team. Some receive compensation and others, like me are volunteers. Team members include Dan Minardi, Ben Friesen, April Mesich, Michael Mesich, Ed Corey, Rich Munitz, Harrison Munitz, Julius High, Marty Storer, Kris Heuer, Karen Davis, and Jason Briggs.

USBGF membership is at a record high.

Things that I would like to accomplish are: extend our reach to backgammon players who do not play in tournaments or use the doubling cube; continue to grow our membership numbers; keep the organization on a solid financial foundation; grow and support local clubs; continue support for the ABT; expand playing opportunities beyond our traditional ABT format; recruit, train, and develop new tournament directors; expand our education offerings; add staff to bolster membership benefits.

I have a business background in which I have served as a board member for several organizations. I am comfortable reviewing budgets, profit-loss statements, and balance sheets. While I am a risk taker, I am always aware of my fiduciary duty to prudently manage and protect others people’s money. I served as an Executive Committee member and then President for the Association of High Technology Distribution, a non-profit member association with many of the same issues that challenge the USBGF.

Kara Schultz

Joining the board would be an incredible honor. I love backgammon and the backgammon community. Having received a warm reception into it, my goal is to create the same welcoming environment for others, from the local club level to national tournaments and, given the opportunity, by serving on the USBGF Board. As a lifetime marketer, becoming a member of the board would enable me to be a brand ambassador for the USBGF – contributing a human touch to the brand, along with the other board members. Joining the board would also be an incredible opportunity to join a group of like-minded backgammon enthusiasts and engage in meaningful conversations where I can help support new marketing initiatives, engage with our audience (and hopefully create new ones!) and raise money and awareness for both backgammon and the USBGF.

My goal as a board member is to be a positive influence in our community and help USBGF meet and exceed its goals, particularly of building awareness, growing the membership numbers, and keeping existing members engaged and interested. I’m often surprised at how many people in the world play backgammon with family and friends but aren’t necessarily familiar with it as a competitive mind sport. As a passionate backgammon player, promoting awareness of the backgammon community and USBGF, and to a diverse and new group would be one of my primary goals as a Board member.

With over 20 years of marketing experience, I bring expertise in a field that is not traditionally associated with backgammon. Part of being a marketer is understanding the wants and needs of a diverse customer base and engaging new and existing audiences. With a passion for both marketing and backgammon, I’m eager to support the USBGF team in reaching new audiences and expanding the backgammon community through marketing initiatives. As part of the board, I believe that my soft skills will also be beneficial – in a Venn diagram with marketing and backgammon, there are many overlaps: passion, dedication, communication, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving!

Ian Terry

Ever since I was formally introduced to backgammon nine years ago, I have been fascinated with the game. My primary goal as a USBGF Board member would be to broaden our player base by reaching the next generation of backgammon players. I strongly believe that I can bring a new, younger perspective to the Board, while still working well with our established players and Board members. As a Board member, I would like to emphasize programs that promote the game through high-quality streaming and increase our social media presence on platforms that captivate a wider audience.

In addition, I would like to use my experience as a management consultant to introduce more data-driven decision making into areas like tournament eligibility and financial resource planning. This will hopefully lead to more enjoyable playing experiences and sustained growth of our game. I am grateful to have been a part of an amazing community over the past handful of years — one that I would be honored to represent.

Martin Thurmann

Backgammon has been my passion since I was taught the game as a student in Greece in Summer ’87. The game has been in my life for over 35 years. While I enjoy playing the game day and night, I see this a perfect opportunity to join the board as a great way of combining my personal hobby of Backgammon with my strong passion of giving back to the community by volunteering for a community that shares my passion for the game I love. Being part of the board allows me to organize friendly and competitive play across a large audience.

As a board member it is our responsibility to keep the love of the game alive for the rookie as well as the competitive pro player. We need to serve the entire community to provide a platform that grows over time to be a platform that becomes the center of all backgammon players. I want to see the backgammon community to grow year over year by introducing new players to the game as well as providing a competitive platform for advanced players/pros.

We should build a roadmap that focuses on ongoing advancements to the benefit of the community: tournaments & leagues, tools, training, outreach to new members, communications (newsletters) are just a few topics that keeps the community involved and engaged. Simplicity and transparency that puts the game at the center of our work should be our priority. Respecting the bylaws of our non-profit organization is key.

I am a director of a global customer service team having managed 100+ people globally for 15+years and understand what it means to please customers and treat customers with world class expectations. Growing membership base and providing exceptional service is at the center of my daily business in my professional work. I am a problem solver, when a technical or customer service problem/escalation rises I see at as a welcome opportunity to find a solution. I have been running Backgammon tournaments on older platforms (Netgammon now decommissioned) for several years with a large and loyal player base. Backgammon is my passion and I want to share the joy by helping to provide a platform that will serve many people across the US (and globally). I have had significant volunteering experience (soccer coach, soccer manager, church & homeless shelter volunteering) and know what it takes to lead and inspire, the time spent on this is a way to pay it forward.

Antoinette-Marie Williams

My passion for backgammon started almost 50 years ago. I enjoy playing and teaching people of all skill levels. I believe that my ability to communicate with the world at large will support the USBGF mission to bring more players into the game.

Currently, I support the organization as a Bronze Founding Sponsor and lead the educational program for the USBGF Women of Backgammon. By inviting world renowned players, this program seeks to get more women involved in the game and elevate their skill level. I also served as the Commentary Manager for the USBGF video streaming program and recruited top players to provide expert commentary on ABT matches.

I am especially eager to increase the number of young people playing backgammon. I am working towards establishing a backgammon program in the NYC elementary school system. At the request of the Columbus/Amsterdam Better Improvement District, I started giving free backgammon lessons every other Saturday in Manhattan, NY, outdoors on Amsterdam Avenue and West 109th Street. I partner with DOROT, an intergenerational organization that pairs senior citizens with young students, to provide instructional backgammon and chess sessions. I am pursuing an opportunity to start free backgammon lessons at the Game Store on Broadway and West 114th Street in NYC.

As a USBGF board member, I will use my teaching and partnership skills to spearhead new programs — especially those designed for kids.

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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