Allie and I are excited and honored to be your new State President and first lady for 2023-2024. I think those who attended would agree that we all had a great FSEA state convention in Orlando, Florida. Florida is coming off of a great 2022-2023 year, where we had a membership gain and met Past State President Danny Tabor’s fundraising goals. As we continue to build momentum, it is clear that we are just getting started! Florida finished the year sixth in the nation in membership gain with 848 members added. I would like to congratulate PSP Danny and the Membership Committee, led by David McCranie, PER, State Chair.
As I write this, we have just returned from a great national convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was the 158th Grand Lodge convention and we were proud to represent Florida Elkdom. As State President, I was able to carry the state flag of Florida across the stage during the opening ceremonies and followed in the footsteps of some great Past State Presidents of Florida. Several Florida lodges received awards during the convention, Gainesville Lodge #990 proudly represented Florida in the team ritual contest, Phil Watercutter and Deborah Reedy competed in the individual ritual contests, we received the membership gain awards for sixth place in the nation, and we hosted a festive Florida hospitality room and a great Florida dinner, to name a few of the highlights. Florida certainly shined bright in Minneapolis!
Randy Shook was installed as our new Grand Exalted Ruler. He and his lovely wife, Wanda, are from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, which is part of our Area 3. Shook’s motto is “We are the Elks.” Additionally, our new Florida District Deputies were installed and we wish them well as they work to make our 14 Florida districts the best they can be. I’m sure all of you will be hearing much more about Randy Shook and his program as your new DDs visit each lodge this fall. Several resolutions were also presented to the convention delegates, and of the 18 proposed, 14 will become effective. You can see the results on the Grand Lodge website under the convention section. Finally, Florida had a fantastic display in the exhibit hall and many people stopped by to get their digital pictures taken.
In wrapping up last Elk year, Allie and I attended the state golf tournament in Sebring, Florida, and the Unmasking Autism gala in St. Petersburg, Florida. Both events were sold out! The golf tournament was at a new golf club and I believe everyone liked the upgraded courses and dining facility. The gala hit another home run for attendance and continues to raise the Florida Elks profile with the public, as evidenced by the not-yet-Elks who came out to support our charitable efforts.
As I mentioned in my opening, our FSEA state convention closed out May. We missed State President Danny and Rachel at the convention, but everyone’s thoughts and prayers continue to be with them as Danny works to recover from his illness. At the convention, we heard many inspiring reports and honored some incredible award recipients at our major projects session Saturday. Your new slate of FSEA officers were elected and installed at the convention. As your new State President, my motto is “Florida Elks Shine Bright!” This motto is both a declaration and call to action for all Florida Elks. You can read about my program on the Florida Elks website. And remember, we shine the brightest when we all shine together!
I would also like to commend the efforts of and congratulate our COO/State Secretary, Carl Seibert, and his wife, PDD Theresa, and the remarkable Florida State Elks Association staff. At both our state convention and Grand Lodge convention, they shined bright, as they always do, for Florida Elkdom! We could not do what we do without them!
After the state convention, Allie and I attended the Alabama state convention in Decatur, Alabama. We made new friends, saw the new Alabama State President get installed and learned about Alabama’s major project. We also got our first district visit in prior to the Grand Lodge session. Our first State President visit was to the Central District, hosted by the new Vice President, Jeannie Platt, from Kissimmee Lodge #1873. The Central District did a great job, as we enjoyed meeting quite a few Elks from the district and we visited the local military museum. I delivered the first State President’s message and awarded the State President’s Grant (Kissimmee, first; West Citrus, second; and Aripeka, third) and Elk of the District (Rob Dewitz) award. We look forward to quite a few more district visits in the coming months.
To summarize, we are off to a great start and we want to keep up the positive momentum of our great Florida State Elks Association. I ask that you all stay focused on membership retention. Now is the time to reach out to those members we have not heard from. I also ask all our leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure our lodge, district and state committees are functioning optimally. If they are, our success is certain. And lastly, let’s keep encouraging those who have not become sustaining donors of our Harry-Anna Trust Fund.
Looking forward, we will be visiting the Southeast, South, South Southeast and East Central districts and then we will be attending the Elks Day at the Rays, where I look forward to throwing out the first pitch. I hope to see and speak to many of you along the way, as we continue to help Florida Elks Shine Bright!
Joseph C. "Joe" Cooper
State President, 2023-2024
Florida State Elks Association