August 13, 2007 Rotogram


Today, we welcome Gray Swoope, Executive Director of Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), the state’s lead economic and community development agency. The Mississippi State graduate has served as MDA Director since 2004.


Invocation and Pledge : Eddie Keith.

Attendance : There were 114 members (83 active, 31 exempt) present and 51 active, 22 exempt, and all 10 honorary members missing. Two members are on leave.

Visitors and Guests : We welcomed two visiting Rotarians – Katherine Kerby of Columbus, and Lynne Richardson, Muncie, IN, who is the new Dean of the MSU School of Accountancy. Guests of the Club were new RYE students Maryna Melnik and Negrita Caicedo; Carol Jones (RYE host mother); Tillery Tomlinson (RYE host sister); Tori Ferguson (RYE host sister and outgoing RYE student); Shoshanna Brackett (Starkville Daily News); and Skip Descant (Commercial Dispatch). The were introduced by vice president Chip Templeton.

Makeup : Peggy Buckley made up on line.

Meeting Notes : President Ned expressed condolences to Joe Tom Mosley on the death of his brother.

He congratulated Bill Henry, who has a new grandchild.

Kudos were also issued to Mike Hainsey for achieving Airport Manager Accreditation.

Ned announced that Rotary will join the community-wide “Get Swept Up Campaign” Aug. 29. Volunteer sign-up sheets are being circulated.

The Community Service Committee met following adjournment of Rotary.

Rotary Minute : Larry Box reminded Rotarians that our Club awards three $1,000 mentor scholarships annually to students from the local schools enrolling at Mississippi State. He pointed out that the selections are made by the University Scholarship Committee. This year’s scholarships went to a student from each of the three local high schools (SHS, SA, , and Oktibbeha County). The three scholarship winners will be introduced at a future meeting.

Roy Ruby came with yet another rib-tickler for his Absolutely Nothing to Do About Rotary Minute!


Our two new Rotary Youth Exchange students, who had RYE Students for 2007-08 Maryna Melnik, Negrita Caicedo, just arrived and were introduced by Keith Remy.

Maria Caicedo, 17, who prefers to go by her nickname “Negrita,” is from Ambato, Ecuador. She is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ambato in District 4400. Her father is a hydraulic engineer working to improve the city’s water system. Her mother is a homemaker. She has an older sister, Gabriela (“Gabby”) who recently returned from a year as a Rotary Exchange student in Vermont. The family is hosting a Rotary student from New York while Negrita is with us this year.

In school, she has participated in track and basketball and says her favorite subjects are physics and mathematics. Negrita has been warmly welcomed by Bill and Vicki Burnett, Tori’s family who hosted Marie Baran earlier this year.

Maryna Melnik, 16, is from Oktyabrsky, Belarus. Sponsoring club is the Rotary Club of Minsk in District 2230. Her father has been a truck driver but recently opened a business in their village; her mother is a guard. She has an older brother who is a maintenance worker.

Maryna is no stranger to Starkville, She has been here three previous summers for month-long visits as part of the “Children of Chernobyl” program of First United Methodist Church. Her first visit here was when she was 9 years old.

Maryna wants to be an English teacher. Although she is already fluent in our language, her exchange year of study at Starkville High School will prove very helpful in helping her achieve her goal. She likes to read English books, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are among her favorites.

She says she is “very fond of art” so it’s a good bet she’ll find her way into Mr. Lark’s excellent art classes at Starkville High School.

Maryna is with us because of the efforts of two FMC families – John and Susan Tomlinson, and Bill and Carol Jones. The Tomlinsons will be her first host family, the Jones her second, and Marco and Mary Sue Nicovich her third.


Tori Ferguson will fly to Ecuador Saturday for her Rotary Youth Exchange year in Quito. The fact that classes start later in Quito has given Tori and Negrita a unique opportunity to spend several weeks together as host sisters.

Tori spoke briefly and eloquently to thank Rotarians for making it possible for her to be an exchange student. She got interested in being an exchange student when she was host sister for Marie (Baran). “I was very late applying and I’m so happy I’m going to Ecuador. Everyone who has been an exchange student tells me it’s a life-changing experience.

“I can’t thank you enough for making this possible and I promise I’ll come back and share my experiences with you.”

We’re sure Tori will be an outstanding ambassador for Rotary, for Starkville, and for our country.


Commissioner Bo Robinson may not be campaigning for re-election, but he’s busy campaigning. He’s stepping down after serving as Northern District Public Service Commissioner since 1989, but will continue his efforts to join Mississippi water systems into a network resembling the grid now in place for electric power.

“We don’t have any major water problems now, but we need to plan for the future,” he said.

Bo likened both the telecommunications and electrical systems to “superhighways.”

“If our power supplier goes down, we can get electricity from another supplier through the grid. We can get by without telecommunications. If the gas goes off, we can survive. But we can’t get along without water. I believe water needs to be in the same sort of superhighway,” he said.

Oktibbeha County has 27 water districts and similar situations exist throughout the state. “It’s probably easier to merge the Methodists and Baptists that to combine water districts,” he admitted. “There’s as much water as when the Good Lord created us, but the demand has grown and will continue to grow.”

He said every state in the U.S. is in some sort of litigation over water. Mississippi is in litigation with the city of Memphis for pulling water from under DeSoto County.

Robinson said that when he steps down as Commissioner he will continue to work with MSU to develop the kind of state and region-wide water supply system he envisions.

“Of all the utilities we regulate, water is most critical and it will need more oversight. I challenge you to promote connecting water systems and districts to create a superhighway for water to meet the future needs of all Mississippians.”

Questioned whether tying all water systems together wouldn’t make it more vulnerable to terrorism, he said he didn’t believe it would, pointing out that any sort of toxic substance introduced into a system of that magnitude would be too diluted to harm anyone other than those in the immediate area of the source.

He said such a system, although difficult, is critical for the future. It will require meters at each collection point and agreements on water sold by one system to another on the connecting network. But with demand continuing its rapid increase, he believes building such a utility network is essential if we are to provide safe water to future generations.

Robinson was introduced by Grady Mitchener.


New club directories are available from Secretary Michelle Amos. Please report any changes or corrections to Michelle or to Keith Remy. These and new member data will be published in The Rotogram.

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