Donna Dennis became president in 2015 and reports on her first year of leadership.

Donna Dennis, DWCUP President

2015 was a year of learning, growing, and celebrating. I know that in my first year as president of the DWCUP, I did all three.

We started by hosting Dr. Susan McManus, who provided us with an analysis of Florida politics. Not a pretty picture! But we also added Mary Lou Ambrose to our board as 1st VP. And she’s done a great job in providing excellent speakers for our meetings.

In February, Lisa Wheeler Brown spoke to our club about her quest for justice after her son’s murder. She tackled the subjects of prison sentence reform and improvements needed in the juvenile justice system. In addition, our club gave her a check in support for her bid for the St Petersburg City Council race. (DWCUP is pleased to report she won her race in November!)  We also kicked off a major fundraiser for a two-night stay at Shephard’s on Clearwater Beach.

March is Women’s History Month. Our speaker was Susan McGrath, chair of the PCDEC, and she spoke about research on women’s leadership and the need for women’s leadership at all levels, from local offices and boards, to the national level.

That was also the month of Tally Days, our yearly gathering in Tallahassee, which includes meeting with Democratic legislators, current issues, a press conference and an opportunity to lobby our legislators about our issues. Several of our members participated.

At our April meeting, Janet Long told us about her recent trip to Cuba, now that it has been reopened to travel from the US. The drawing was held for the Shephard’s stay and was won by Cora Kostka. We made her pay by speaking about alternatives to Duke Energy at our July meeting!

Cookie Kennedy of the Metropolitan Planning Commission spoke to us in May about the work being done in Pinellas County, including transportation, environmental concerns and support for small businesses. May was also the month of the STEM program fundraiser for Girls Inc. Our board attended the luncheon in St Petersburg to show our support for this invaluable work in the education of young women.

In June we took a break from our usual meetings for our annual Fun Day. We took the Jolley Trolley from Clearwater Beach through Dunedin and Palm Harbor to Tarpon Springs, where we had lunch together at Hellas restaurant.

However, the major event of the year was the 75th Anniversary celebration of the DWCUP. We are acknowledged as one of the oldest women’s Democratic Clubs in the country and we did it up well. Held at the Royal Palms in Largo, we had a lovely luncheon with live entertainment from the duo Mother Jones, and terrific drawings for baskets, gift certificates and many other items. We recalled the early history of the group and recognized the recent history with the presentation of certificates to all the past presidents of the DWCUP who were able to attend. Our State President, Maureen McKenna, addressed and congratulated our group along with several other elected officials. It was a marvelous celebration and the result of a great deal of work on the part of our members and board. In addition, we raised over $1000 for our treasury. Let’s have another round of applause for this tremendous anniversary!

In September, we heard Franco Ripple describe the legislative redistricting situation in Florida. What a mess! Republicans keep trying to gerrymander themselves into office. The courts got involved and resolved the issue just last week.

September was also the annual state convention, this time in Cocoa Beach. Several of our board members attended. New Region V officers were elected, including Mary Freeman, Chair, and Donna Dennis, Secretary. State President Maureen McKenna was reelected and our own Jessie Forcan received the DWCF Humanitarian of the Year award.

Charlie Justice, Pinellas County Commissioner, spoke to us at the October meeting and described the progress being made in Pinellas County as we now have a Democratic majority on the commission for the first time in 50 years. Great progress is evident in the environmental efforts, human trafficking assistance for victims, EMS coordination and improvements in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the County. The county is also looking forward to developing the best uses of the BP damages payment.

Finally (and you thought I’d never get there), in November, Joe Barkley spoke to us about the mass transit issues in Pinellas County and the need for electric buses. We also went as a group to see the film, Suffragette, about the British struggle for women’s suffrage, starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter. I do recommend it if you haven’t seen it. Then this last Saturday, our group was represented at Largo Central Park as we commissioned artist Ilona Fries to depict our logo and contact info to spread the word that we are here.

We had our traditional holiday celebration in December and wished our members the season’s best ... whether it was MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, HAPPY HANNUKAH, a Blessed KWANZA, a Joyous Winter Solstice or whatever holiday our members and friends celebrated.

Here’s to another great year in 2016!