As with our colleagues presently working in schools, a new WSSRA year begins again. The summer months included the annual Convention in June which occurred this year in Yakima. It was, as always, a memorable event. The Yakima Convention Committee had arranged for nice, hot eastern Washington weather. And, we were treated to the highlight of our meeting which was the chance to greet old friends and make new acquaintances. Our new hobby room was graced with many fascinating and beautiful creations. The WSSR Foundation had a beautiful array of baskets to be awarded and enticing items for the silent auction. The Delegate Assembly worked through some housekeeping changes to the Bylaws and acted to approve the new year’s budget for the Association. Immediate Past President Bill Bergsma presided with distinction and incoming President Rick Nebeker was able to get his year off to a solid start. All in all, it was fun and busy.
This year for WSSRA will be dominated by the coming 2017 Legislature, preceded by one of the most unusual general elections in recent memory. The WSSR PAC spent time in August reviewing the candidates for the approximately 125 open seats in the Legislature. The PAC has generated the largest budget in its history to support candidates financially and has recommended even more candidates for endorsement by WSSRA. The Legislative Committee has also been hard at work contacting candidates and developing relationships. The primary legislative mission of our Association is to protect and enhance retirement programs for school retirees. Experience in recent legislative sessions has been good with many Association positions supported by legislators. This coming session will be one of the most critical ever experienced as the Legislature will be facing mandates to more fully fund education while supporting other critical governmental services. The State Supreme Court has acted to require substantive action on education funding. All of this promises to produce long and arduous political season. The WSSRA Legislative Committee and staff will be working very hard to emphasize and support the Association’s goals.
Meanwhile, the Committees of WSSRA will also be hard at work through the coming year. The Association structure includes an Awards Committee, a Nominating and Review Committee, a Rules and Resolution Committee and a Scholarship Committee. These are revolving Committees with continuing responsibilities each year. The Health Services Committee, the Membership Committee, the Outreach Committee and the Retirement Committee are service groups which also have annual tasks which vary and are tailored to the special work identified by the groups each year. The Executive Board meets six times a year and has eight district representatives who join the officers and staff with the program work for the year. This year there will be emphasis upon reviewing and updating the Strategic Plan and supporting membership growth particularly.
The history of WSSRA is a long one, dating back to its inception in 1947. It is one of the oldest school retiree organizations in the country and has one of the most robust programs in the nation. Legislative advocacy for school retirees is a fundamental priority and our Legislative Committee is large, dedicated and effective in representing our membership in all parts of the state. Our Association is special in the breadth of its scholarship program as well as the support for active employees through the mini-grant program. The programs and services of the 29 units across the state is also uniquely strong, providing local impact in communities. The official publication of WSSRA, The Journal, is a standout nationally. And, the list of member benefits is second to none serving both active and retired members.
I am well into the second year as Executive Director. The first year now seems like a blur and we have definitely begun this new year with a busy agenda. We hope to further strengthen our communications this year as well as enhance our website and assist units with their technology goals. Membership will also continue to be a major focus as we strive to grow beyond the 18,000 member level. We will be working to serve all school retirees as well as those actively employed. WSSRA is the only organization that welcomes as members and works for people from all backgrounds—teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, administrators, office professionals, food service employees, maintenance employees, transportation employees, nurses and anyone else who has worked for schools.