My becoming president of Press Club of Southwest Florida could not have happened at a better time. Still reinventing my life 18 months after the death of my husband, I needed a project to fill my time. It had to be something worthwhile, not just curling up with a good book—although that’s fine, too. The club’s nominating committee in autumn 2012 must have grasped my need; I’m sure they thought of other potential leaders before approaching me. I hesitated about ten seconds before accepting.
When I was elected in December 2012, I set goals for the club that I hoped we could accomplish during the two years of my term. Two years became four, and this year, because I felt it was time for a new vision for our future, I asked that someone else be tapped. That new president will start immediately after our December 1 annual meeting and election.
My first goal four years ago was to improve communications. After all, we are a group of writers, so we live and breathe communication.
Working toward that goal started with my interactions with the Board of Governors. I established some processes—tweaked here and there—that we still use. First, a week in advance of each board meeting, I distributed a preliminary agenda, asking for any topics to add; then I sent out a final agenda a few days before the meeting so everyone could be prepared. Second, I asked to be cc-ed on all emails between board members working on a project. I didn’t always weigh in, but I was kept aware of what was happening. Third, the board discussed and approved various ways to improve our newsletter Scoop, our website, our advertising to the public about luncheons, and e-blasts to our membership. I thoroughly enjoyed writing “Your Board in Action” for each Scoop issue, revealing to everyone who cared to read it what was going on at the board level.
Another goal was to broaden our reach into the community. For the first year, we brought to luncheons various toiletries for children in our Collier County Public Schools that were designated as “homeless,” even though they didn’t live in a car or a tent in the park. Over the four years, we nurtured our relationship with the FGCU journalism program, providing panels of media professionals to talk about their careers and help J-students better understand the commitments that guide the lives of professional journalists. We expanded our scholarship program so that today we add new students every year, and renew the support to scholars already in the program who maintain the required GPA. We increased our donation to the FGCU endowed scholarship, bringing it to $25,000. The earnings from that endowment now equal the $1,000 amount annually awarded to each recipient of the Terrence J. Miller Scholarship.
We have streamlined our luncheon reservation and check-in process, thanks to a well-oiled team, each one of whom takes this responsibility seriously.
Our entertaining and informational programs made us the talk of the town, luring many new members to join. When my presidency began, our dues-paying membership fluctuated between 70 and 80. It now stands at 130. Several “honorary” members plus our scholarship recipients bring the total to 142. We’ve lost some, who moved away or passed away, but more discover us every year.
As we start our second twenty years, I say “farewell” to being your president, but not to being a member of the best club in Naples. The next president will take the club in new directions. I’ve promised to remain an active member of the board, but I’ve also promised not to say, “When I was president, we did it this way.”
Leading your Press Club of Southwest Florida these past four years has brought me great satisfaction and joy. You honored me with this responsibility. I hope I honored you with my leadership.