A NEW BEGINNING

Hello fellow Rotarians! I am humbled to serve as your club secretary charged with recording the minutes of our weekly gatherings.

Our 2 July meeting marked the launch of President Jennifer Hara’s term. She called the meeting to order at 12:30 PM, leading members in the Pledge of Allegiance. She then introduced Johnny Allem to deliver words of inspiration. Reading from Alice Walker’s 2006 book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness, Johnny reminded Rotarians that positive change comes from within each of us.

 

President Jennifer then asked me to introduce guests and visiting Rotarians attending lunch. As summer temperatures climbed and Independence Day approached, our guest list was short:

  • Kylie Marinzel, working with the Secor Group, joined us as Monica Boner’s guest.
  • Rotaract Club President Marilyn Cruz and member Tata Zhorzholiani were with us.
  • Daniel Bahr visited us from his Rotary Club in Muenster, Germany.
  • We also had the pleasure of hosting our guest speaker’s colleagues—Eugene Jones, Interim Chief of the Washington, DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (F&EMS), and Alysia Taylor, the Department’s Chief of Staff.

After we welcomed our guests, President Jennifer turned to Sergeant-at-Arms Buz Gorman birthday announcements. Speculating about why members miss meetings when their birthdays will be announced, Buz dispelled the rumor that he would embarrass those Rotarians with hugs every week! Celebrating birthdays were:

  • Paula Delo on 29 June – A club member since 1998 sponsored by Doris Margolis, the ever-gracious Paula’s classification is journalism-publications.
  • Andy Cook on 30 June – Also joining our club in 1998 sponsored by Peter Kennedy, Andy served as president during 2005-06. He followed in the footsteps of his father, also a past president of our club! Andy’s classification is law-government contracts.
  • Stefan Alber-Glanstaetten – A member of our club since 2011 sponsored by David Klaus, Stefan’s classification is international development-operations. During the last two years, he deftly managed our budget as the club’s treasurer.
  • Donald Hense on 4 July – Joining our club in 2013 sponsored by Kathy Ward, Don’s classification is education-charter schools. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Friendship Public Charter School.
  • Susan Pausky on 4 July – A club member since 2012, Susan too was sponsored by Kathy Ward, and her classification is real estate-commercial. Susan is a “citizen diplomat” who seeks to promote inter-faith dialogue.

Besides these birthdays, Buz recognized another auspicious occasion—Judge Larry Margolis’ 40th anniversary as a member of our club! He sponsored his lovely wife Doris as a member in 1998.

Returning to the podium, President Jennifer thanked all who attended the Changing of the Guard on Saturday, 28 June, declaring that her father was “tickled” upon receiving a standing ovation for his remarks. For those not at Saturday’s celebration, President Jennifer re-announced the members of our club’s new leadership team: President Elect David Treadwell, Treasurer Gene Massey, Sergeant-at-Arms Buz Gorman, Secretary Haleh Vaziri, Ombudsman Ken Kimbrough as well as Board Directors Wilhelmina Bratton, Lisa Cohen, Tony Cusack, Ross Grantham, Abrahem Helal, Glynis Long, Nancy Riker, Peg Schoen and Monica Smith.

Looking ahead, President Jennifer reminded members of two upcoming events; so check your calendars!

  • Rotary International President Gary C.K. Huang will visit Washington, DC in early August for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) which will be at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center.
  • DC Public School Beautification Day is on Saturday, 23 August. Contact Howard Davis for details.

President Jennifer called on Immediate Past President Shaun English to give awards to Rotarians not at the Changing of the Guard where he honored members for their service to our club. He recognized:

  • John Jackson who is responsible for the Grate Patrol’s success;
  • Clara Montanez who co-chairs the Program Committee and serves on the International Service Committee among other roles;
  • Howard Davis who leads the Habitat for Humanity Build program and, as past president, steps in when advice and action are needed; and
  • Maria-Nelly Pavisich, “Rotarian of the Year,” whose work on our club’s behalf, particularly on the International Service Committee, is exemplary.

Before turning to our guest speaker, President Jennifer noted that Oscar Bartoli had returned from travel, bringing banners from clubs in the Palos Verdes area of California. Last but not least, President Jennifer awarded Christin Carey her Red Badge.

Chief Kenneth Ellerbe—with CHANGE may come Controversy

Stu Shalloway introduced the week’s speaker Retired Chief of the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Kenneth Ellerbe who spoke passionately about his career and candidly about the controversies surrounding his leadership. On his “first day as a civilian,” the Chief confessed to “sleeping in until 8:30 AM” and apologized for “not shaving for the first time in 30 years”—irony abounding as he struck an imposing and sharp presence.

Chief Ellerbe explained that he strived to improve service delivery to District residents and to create positive changes. Yet he realized that his efforts stirred controversy and criticism among media circles, labor representatives and political leaders. Overcoming the weight of traditions seemed most important to the Chief who wanted to contest the age-old notion that his department exists “only to put out fires.” Instead, he sought to place his staff at the forefront of the healthcare system as “true first responders” providing emergency medical services. This shift in emphasis garnered support from Mayor Vincent Gray as well as the President, the Congress and the Pentagon—a reflection of F&EMS employees’ unique role in the Nation’s Capital. Consequently, Chief Ellerbe increased the hiring of paramedics and added 30 new ambulances to the city’s fleet among other upgrades.

Proud of leading “an excellent department,” Chief Ellerbe nevertheless understood political realities. Anticipating that he would not be the choice of Mayor Gray’s successor, the Chief resigned and undertook the search for his department’s next leader. He introduced Interim Chief Eugene Jones, formerly head of the Princes Georges County F&EMS Department, and profusely thanked Chief of Staff Alysia Taylor. Chief Ellerbe closed by underscoring his confidence in Interim Chief Jones and hope that the city’s political leaders will afford Jones the opportunity to earn the department’s top spot.

Rotarians peppered Chief Ellerbe with questions and comments, eager to learn more about him and DC’s F&EMS Department. The discussion focused on the importance of reduced department response times, recruitment of cadets from DC high schools and the positive impact of “fire truck presence” in public spaces popular with young people. When Davis Kennedy arose from his chair, Chief Ellerbe chuckled wryly, recognizing our club’s resident journalist and anticipating the difficult question to come. Davis asked about the investigation into F&EMS personnel’s failure in January to respond as city worker Cedric Mills suffered a heart attack and subsequently died. The Chief admitted that “the Mills incident weighed on” him heavily and was one of the reasons he decided to resign. He also lamented that the investigation and resulting disciplinary action would remain closed to the public due to what he perceives as the burden of tradition particularly in the area of labor-management relations.

In short, Chief Ellerbe’s remarks were relevant and timely. His vigorous defense of the DC F&EMS Department, recognition of mistakes and willingness to engage in a spirited question-and-answer period makes the Chief an interesting case study in leadership.

Adjourned Until next week

After President Jennifer presented Chief Ellerbe with our club’s “Trees for the Capital” certificate, Rotarians waited to hear who bought the winning raffle ticket from Dan Kapner. The lucky number went to Erminia Scarcella who took home the small pot of $34 but did not draw the ace of spades. The large pot of $482 will keep growing.

Thank you to the day’s Greeter Christin Carey and Valentin Solis, and Balraj Gupta who welcomed guests at the Hospitality Table.

Our next meeting on 9 July will feature guest speaker former Virginia Congressman The Honorable Tom Davis.

President Jennifer adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I put down my pen—until next week!