Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians
Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians

Our Association

President Ponderings...




The President Ponders

April 1, 2023  


Dear MSAP Members,


It has been a privilege to serve as the president of MSAP for the past two years and to have the opportunity to say “hello” every month.  As you know, Doug and I changed houses this past summer, leaving behind favorite plants, a goldfish pond and waterfall, while gaining a house on one floor that gives us a chance to start a new garden.


The picture above was one plant I left behind. The tiny Galanthus or snowdrop would bloom as early as February, hinting at spring to come. I hope it surprised the new owners when it popped up in the snow.  I didn’t try to move plants but decided it was time to make new deer-resistant choices. There’s no Galanthus here, but last fall I picked up a couple of boxes of crocus bulbs in the clearance bin.


They are emerging a soft yellow and will eventually be a feature in our spring lawn. It’s good to see them, to think about summer coming, and to look forward to a new season in my life as I complete many years of serving on the MSAP Board of Directors.


Thank you for the opportunity to be part of your parliamentary life.


I look forward to seeing you at the in-person MSAP Annual Meeting—Saturday, April 15, 2023, 8:30-4 at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham with breakfast and lunch provided. We are delighted to welcome NAP Vice-president, Alison Wallis, who will give us an update on NAP and offer a workshop on small board rules. 


Register by April 5 on Eventbrite! $45 includes breakfast and lunch. There’ll be NAP publications for sale so bring your checkbook or lots of cash.


Adjourning for now,



The President Ponders

March 1, 2023


Last week I attended a meeting in-person, one of the first since 2019. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed seeing people and watching a meeting unfold before my very eyes, minus a screen limiting my view.


The March mailing is the official call to the 2023 Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians Annual Meeting to be held Saturday, April 15, 2023 from 8:30-4:00 at the First Presbyterian Church, 1669 West Maple in Birmingham, Michigan. While there are details still in in the works, we know that we’ll have a representative of the National Association of Parliamentarians Board of Directors, food for breakfast and lunch, NAP publications for sale, a workshop on Saturday, and time to get acquainted and to catch up on news from all over the state. Of course, I hope to see you there.


I imagine you too will be happy to enjoy an in-person meeting—at least for one day!


Adjourning for now,




The President Ponders

February 1, 2023


Dear Friends, 


There is snow on the ground, a welcome relief from the early January gray, so we can be assured it is winter. However, the Jung seed catalog has arrived and the Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians (MSAP) Board of Directors is planning for the 2023 Annual Meeting.  Spring is on the way!


You will receive more information about the Annual Meeting when the call to the meeting is issued. Here are a few details that are specific to this year.  The Annual Meeting will be a one-day event on Saturday, April 15, and it will be in-person only. The location is the First Presbyterian Church on Maple Road in Birmingham, Michigan. A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided and included in the registration fee.


If you’ve been an MSAP member you are aware that the annual meeting is generally a two-day affair that begins on Friday evening when the Michigan Unit of Registered Parliamentarians (MURP) meets and the MSAP Board holds its quarterly meeting. A workshop rounds out the Friday evening. This year the Friday part will be held virtually and there will be no registration fee for Friday evening.


If you are traveling from across the state—and I hope you will—a list of a few area motels is included in this mailing so you can make arrangements to check in before the virtual Friday begins. MSAP is not blocking a group of rooms so you will be on your own for room arrangements. 


Mark your calendar now for April 15 and the MSAP Annual Meeting (yes, it’s Tax Day too). I’ll see you in the spring.


Adjourning for now—




The President Ponders…

January 1, 2023


Winter has blown into Michigan. If you’re not slogging to work every day, you may want activities to brighten January. Here’s some ideas.


1. Teach a parliamentary lesson for your unit or study group. I’m signed up for Interpreting Bylaws in my February unit meeting, not an easy topic but it’s a way for me to learn more about this aspect of parliamentary procedure.


2. Have you avoided attending unit meetings that are being held by Zoom, unsure of how to join with your phone or computer? Before the next virtual meeting go to the Zoom website and see what you can learn about the platform. There are tutorials there, and of course, YouTube offers all sorts of advice. In one I learned how to look good online by positioning myself and my light correctly. Seek out a friend who Zooms regularly for a private tutorial. By the way, if your unit wants to use Zoom it’s available free (and a small fee for meetings with attendance over 100) from the Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians. Our ZoomKeeper Elizabeth Haynes, PRP, will schedule your meetings.


3. Read a new parliamentary publication just for the fun of it. I recently purchased Jim Slaughter’s Fast Tracks, Robert’s Rules of Order. Similar to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, it’s a fast-read, easy guide for meetings that is brightened by Slaughter’s witticisms.


4. Go to  National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) online bookstore and replace one of your resources based on the 11th edition of Robert’s. When all the publications were updated to reflect the 12th edition of RONR, other changes were made when previous wording was awkward or examples were dated. A serious student or a parliamentarian serving clients needs to use current publications as resources. Oh yes, read the new resource!


5. Spend a relaxing hour or two on a day when the snow is swirling with the new book of RONR puzzles, Parliamentary Fun and Games. Combine play and parliamentary knowledge. It’s a freedownload for your computer from NAP.


And if you are slogging to work every day, may cleared, ice-free roads rise up to meet you.


Happy New Year to you!





The President Ponders

December 5, 2022


Dear Friends,


’Tis the season to send all best wishes and I do. May the month and years ahead be a joy for you and your family.


As I’ve been pondering this month, when many of us are engrossed in activities that fill our days, I came across the following quote by Rasheed Ogunlaru about our outlook toward special days and seasons. He writes:

            “In life one has a choice to take one of two paths—

to wait for some special day 

or to celebrate each special day.” 


He reminds us that our emphasis on preparing, waiting, and longing for one holiday or event can obscure our senses to the uniqueness and goodness of all our days. I considered his good advice about the celebration of each and every day. I decided that this December I will look for all that’s special in my days whether they are full and glorious or dull and humdrum.


As much as I like Ogunlaru’s advice I eventually reached another conclusion. 

Why do we have to make a choice between his so-called paths? 

Why not enjoy special days AND celebrate every day as being special? 


Instead of deciding to make a choice to take one or the other path, why not see life as a wide road with all sorts of options. One can enjoy both the anticipation/preparation for special days and find joy in all our days.


In the meantime I’ll notice the way my path meanders through life. I’ll take time to explore side excursions and I’ll keep on the lookout for any and all possibilities that will be good for me and for the world.


Happy Holidays!

Adjourning for now,




The President Ponders
November 1, 2022

This month our focus is on nominating committees and their work. At the end of September you received a special mailing from the MSAP Nominating Committee. Chair
Todd Ellis and committee members Dianne Bostic Robinson and Jacalyn Shelton Wallace, RP, are actively seeking persons who would like to serve on the MSAP Boardof Directors. Thank you, Nominating Committee!

The most recent National Parliamentarian had a timely article by Cynthia Jean “CJ” Mills, PRP, entitled For Want of a Leader. It’s good advice for any organization who is having trouble recruiting leaders—and many societies are. Why? Most of us can name reasons—already involved in too many things, family commitments, lack of interest, poor health, unwillingness to learn what is required, and more. CJ wisely suggests that you actually ASK people why they won’t serve in your organization and then consider their reasons that might mean changes in the organization itself.


Why have I chosen to serve the Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians in various roles? The short answer is, “I was asked.” I said yes to the opportunities to try out leadership positions in the Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit and then in MSAP, even when I was inexperienced. I trusted that somebody would show me the way. Certainly, I made and continue to make mistakes even as I am continually mentored. Every time I attempted a new role I learned much, and it wasn’t always about the office itself or even from Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. I would have never become
as proficient using a computer if I hadn’t had assignments that were beyond my ability like making tables, creating PowerPoints, and formatting a newsletter. Now, I can Zoom at a moment’s notice, FaceTime, and use Apps. I choose to text and once in a while I add an emoji. ❤️

Serving in MSAP leadership and engaging in parliamentary activities is a way I’ve made friends and acquaintances throughout the country, encountering and connecting with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s a chance to keep learning by observing how others lead and how together we contribute to the many facets of parliamentary life.


Adjourning for now—




The President Ponders

September 26, 2022


Did you play school as a child? My favorite student was my younger brother though he wasn’t keen about sitting still and listening. There’s a small chalkboard in our basement where my granddaughters took turns assigning school work to each other and to their stuffed animals.


From my attendance at the National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) National Training Conference (NTC) in early September I once again observed parliamentarians who excel in teaching. They do much more than “play school” by giving pretend assignments to reluctant students. The NTC parliamentary educators showed teaching skill, deep knowledge about their respective subjects, and addressed enthusiastic virtual and in-person students.


One reason that I began to attend parliamentary study meetings was to learn. I had specific goals like improving my presiding skills but more importantly, I enjoyed studying and learning from knowledgable presenters who became my friends.


Even if you’re a teaching novice, give teaching a try.


Why? The best way to learn about a topic is to attempt to explain it to another person. Teaching requires that you understand the subject. Preparing a new lesson requires study and review of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised


Why teach in your unit? It’s a way to become part of the group, receive affirmation from others, and respond to questions about your topic. Yes, it’s terrifying the first time, but it will get easier.


While only some are as gifted as the excellent NTC presenters we all can keep aspiring to teach better. Choose a topic. Organize the information. Stand in front of a mirror and deliver your presentation or record yourself on Zoom. Review what and how you’ve presented. Offer to do a unit lesson so you will make time to prepare, learn a topic thoroughly, and then bask in the kudos of fellow learners!



Adjourning for now—






The President Ponders

September 6, 2022


I told you in June that I would let you know when we completed our summer’s major event,  moving from a place we lived thirty-three years to a ranch house about three miles away.  


            We have moved and are still settling in; 

            our former house has new owners; 

            we went on a previously-arranged two week train vacation in Canada; 

            the process of moving continues but the unnerving, sleepless stress is past.


Home is where the heart is.

 This familiar and comforting saying reminds us that it’s 

not the stuff around us that makes a home.


I like another adage also that reflects a First Nations perspective, 

from people who lived nomadic lives, moving with the seasons.


Home is where the sun shines on you. 


In other words, our home is where we are right now and wherever we are, it is home. This adage suggests that every place is worthy of calling home and that we should treat all locations as home, caring for and tending them in the ways we look after our “own” spaces. 

The whole earth is home and the people we encounter everywhere are our neighbors. 


The adage also says to me that this moment, here and now, is home and that my attention needs to be here, not on past experiences, not on successes and failures, not on what may be ahead, but now, here.


Where is the sun shining on you today? May you know the joy of home as we enter another season of  parliamentary study, meeting one another, virtually or in-person at the NAP National Training Conference, and in our local units.


Adjourning for now,






The President Ponders

August 1, 2022


Last week we learned that former National Association of Parliamentarians President Leonard M. Young died. His significance in Michigan cannot be underestimated as he was the first of four Michiganders to serve as NAP presidents.* 


Though Leonard Young served as president before my membership in NAP, I was fortunate to meet him, attend at least one of his workshops, and observe his ongoing commitment to the parliamentary profession and to NAP. Recently he initiated the “Build for the Future” campaign to update the NAP headquarters and he wrote a biography of General Henry M. Robert “Henry Martyn Robert: Writer of the Rules, An American Hero.” A vibrant attendee of NAP annual meetings, Leonard was invited to be in our Michigan delegates picture. We were proud to call him one of us though his home in recent years was in Independence MO.


While we parliamentarians knew Leonard as a skilled professional, he was a man of multiple roles—father, husband, educator, and church leader who had friends and clients from around the world. He generously shared his parliamentary expertise by teaching many in this state and beyond. Len was the first parliamentary teacher of former MSAP and NAP President Connie Deford when she attended his class at the YWCA in Bay City after being first appointed city clerk in 1986. Connie continued her study in the Young home in Saginaw to become a Registered Parliamentarian and with Len’s encouragement she became a Professional Registered Parliamentarian and then NAP Treasurer. He was a mentor whose legacy lives on in this state.


"Honor the Past; Envision the Future" was the theme for NAP during Leonard Young’s term. Today I honor the past by commemorating Leonard Young and his service as well as countless others who have encouraged us. And I envision the future of parliamentary leaders who will serve NAP, this profession, and strive for better meetings in innumerable organizations.


Adjourning for now,



*Michigan presidents of NAP:

Leonard Young, PRP  1999-2001

Nola Pursiful, PRP  2003-2005

Connie M. Deford, PRP  2007-2009

Maurice S. Henderson, PRP  2011- 2013



The President Ponders…

July 2022


Lately I’ve been pondering parliamentary memories as I touch every scrap of paper that I’ve been saving for years. While I have become a minimalist in saving any papers recently, I didn’t start my parliamentary life that way.


I saved outlines, power points, worksheets from every lesson that I had attended, from monthly Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit (LSPU) lessons to the outstanding workshops from the National Training Conference and Biennial Conventions of the National Association of Parliamentarians®.


Once upon a time (before flash drives) there were notebook binders provided for every event  that I dutifully filed in banker’s boxes on basement shelves. Some people use those lesson outlines when they study and create new lessons; I’m not that person. Instead I start from scratch nearly every time to prepare a lesson, combing the most recent Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised to refresh my memory.


Generally, it’s not the details of workshops that I remember, but  the overall impression of my time in classes. I recall being baffled by a lesson on incidental motions and an accompanying worksheet that forced you to decide whether a motion was an incidental main motion or an incidental motion. On the other hand, I was delighted to learn how to quickly determine if a motion had passed by a 2/3 vote result. I remember the lesson on order of business and how I had to move all my misplaced items. I marveled at the ingenuity of NAP members who could create interactive games that were fun and instructive. I was so enthusiastic about the Cookie Cutter Club of LSPU that I wrote descriptions of the fictional cookies we were going to put in our imaginary cookbook. I treasure the kindness of NAP instructors who have answered every crazy question, encouraged my partial answers, and challenged me to persevere when I first failed.


What a joy it has been to think about the past! What are your parliamentary memories? Who have been your mentors? How are you sharing who you are and what you know so that others will have their own happy memories? Keep making parliamentary memories.


Have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Adjourning for now,





The President Ponders…

June 2022


I haven’t pondered much in the last few days. So, I appreciate this time to stop and consider what’s happening and how I will be moving forward. The emphasis in that last sentence is “moving” because, after over thirty years in our current home, Doug and I are preparing to move to a ranch house in our community.


Some people move often gracefully and easily, but I don’t. We will be moving into a new home for only the third time in our long-married life, not counting the early years of four apartments/four states/five years before we settled in Ohio and then here in Michigan. We are not leaving our community nor even changing zip codes, but there are all the smaller changes and tasks that are filling my mind night and day. Moving feels bittersweet because we love our neighbors and our tranquil home.


As I googled Internet quotes on “change” I was struck by what Deepak Chopra wrote that expresses my feelings right now, “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” Though I don’t think moving counts as a “great” change, I am feeling the chaos that precedes change for me. In my head I know that chaos can, in itself, be an opening into new ways of doing and living, but in my heart, I’m overwhelmed and anxious.


I offer you my understanding when you encounter life’s changes in whatever form those situations take. Thank you for listening during my period of chaos. I look forward, in a few months, to sharing the view from the other side.

Adjourning for now,




The President Ponders…

May 1, 2022


Whew! April with all its celebrations of Parliamentary Law Month is past. I hope you had an opportunity to attend at least one seminar during the month that added to your abundant knowledge or encouraged you to take on an unexplored parliamentary task.


If you are looking for “something to do” or want to branch out in a fresh direction consider becoming an officer in your favorite organization or serving on the board of a group that shares your values and interests. 


Start if you can, by serving on a committee. It helps you see inside an organization. Observe the customs and listen to the ideas that members assert in and out of meetings. Are members willing to accept newcomers? Do they practice what they preach as they accomplish their goals? Are people’s opinions valued or merely tolerated? Is the organization open to lively ideas or is the only way, how it’s always been done?


How about you? Do you have interests and gifts that can contribute to the organization’s well-being? Are you ready to accept different ideas and possibilities? Are your interests and beliefs compatible with what the organization is doing? Are you so committed to the organization’s cause that you are willing to be uncomfortable in a new role? Do you have the time and energy to take on another task without jeopardizing earlier commitments? Or, are you ready to let go of earlier commitments? Do you have an adventurous spirit as well as a measure of patience?


Sometimes I need a new challenge and other times I simply need to stay where I am. If you are itching to explore new worlds or if you’re being urged to take a position, the world awaits. Nearly every organization needs leaders, not warm bodies to fill positions, but people who are energetic, passionate and committed, people who are skilled in making meetings better, more inclusive, more welcoming, and more civil.


Your parliamentary training will serve you well as you prepare to serve causes dear to you. Happy May!


Horticulturally, the month of May is opening night, 

homecoming and graduation day all rolled into one.  

– Tam Mossman


The President Ponders...

April 2022


In case you haven’t heard, we parliamentarians celebrate April as Parliamentary Law Month. I think we are the only people who know that. Indeed, a source of much information (Wikipedia®) doesn’t even mention Parliamentary Law Month! Evidently National Poetry Month, National Volunteer Month, and National School Library Month have a bigger following.


In spite of its absence on many lists, I am pondering the importance of parliamentary law. A world without parliamentary law might not be pretty. Contrary to our fondest wishes or popular song lyrics, we don’t all  “just get along.” 


If everybody gets along there isn’t good conflict. There’s either a lack of ideas or different notions go unspoken. 


While it doesn’t necessarily feel good when we’re in the midst of it, conflict can be important. Why? It’s boring when only one way is expressed. If there’s only one idea, what’s the use of having a meeting? If there’s only one idea expressed, it may mean that people are afraid and unwilling to speak, afraid to offer a counter argument or challenge the status quo. Or it could be that the organization is such a homogenous group that there’s mostly “group think” and its accompanying “group silence.” Or, silence can indicate that nobody is actually engaging in the topic at hand. Nobody cares. 


I am not advocating for conflict that rises to shouting or physical violence. I am utterly distraught about the present violence in our world, but I am convinced that different ideas are important to an organization’s health. It indicates a level of commitment, an interest in making excellent, not so-so decisions. It reveals a willingness to hear other ideas and to respect the people who have those ideas. 


With parliamentary law there’s a way to have healthy conflict, to debate issues and plans, to learn from others, to perhaps discover a third way, and to do it in a way that is respectful and dignified.


So, raise a toast to parliamentary law month! Let’s do all we can to practice parliamentary procedure skillfully and by our actions, lead others to a positive way of conflict and its rewards.




The President ponders....

March 3, 2022


It’s March, a month of expectations. I agree with the late Jean Hersey, a garden writer, that there is both a sense of holding back and moving forward as we Michiganders move from winter to spring (sometimes both in the same day).


In March, winter is holding back and Spring is pulling forward.

Something holds and something pulls inside of us too

~Jean Hersey


If you garden, you know how winter hangs on; while it’s sunny, bright, and breezy the earth is not yet warm enough to plant, nor dry enough to accept your eager footprints. On the other hand, there are seeds on sale and catalogs from nurseries and you finally want to feel the sun on your face.


I think there is both holding back and pulling forward in our parliamentary lives. The holding back happens as we resist the next step whether it’s starting the credentialing process, volunteering to teach a parliamentary lesson, or accepting a new leadership role. And yet, the tug is there from within or from friends who keep encouraging you to move forward, try something new, attend an intriguing workshop, or try out a new responsibility.


MSAP is leaning into March expectation as we try a new approach to the newsletter The Michigan Parliamentarian.It’s an adventure for all of us.


Holding back and pulling forward—may the balance you find in March be all your heart desires. 


Adjourning for now,

Gretchen Denton, PRP



The President ponders....

February 7, 2022


It’s February so prepare to be inundated with hearts and sappy Valentines Day greetings. This is a day for romantics and dark chocolate candy lovers.


The Better Meetings/Happier Members seminar in January was Meeting Decorum: Who Needs It?  It was well-attended with people liking its focus on planning meetings that set the stage for good decorum. How do I connect meeting decorum and Valentine’s Day?


Both are about love and respect, not sappy greeting card love, but love connected with respect for yourself and for others, a respect that acknowledges that there are different opinions growing out of various life experiences, a respect that means that we listen thoughtfully and carefully to others, that we let others speak when it is their turn and that we speak with clarity and without rancor.


In case you didn’t attend the lesson on decorum let’s review some main points for all meetings:


❤︎ Speak only when recognized following the rules for length of speaking time. 

"The chair recognizes Suzi."    


❤︎ Address your remarks to the chair, not to any member of the meeting or even to the entire group. 

Facing the chair and looking at him, Suzi says "I speak against/in favor."


❤︎ Confine remarks to the item of business on the floor, not to any past action or to anything else. Stay on topic. 

"I think we can build goodwill with this project."    


❤︎ Do not attack a member’s motives.          


❤︎ Avoid the use of members’ names. "The previous speaker mentioned…"


❤︎ Read anything other than your own remarks only with the permission of the assembly.

            "Do I have permission to read the first letter from “Letters from the Birmingham Jail?”       


❤︎ Listen when not recognized to speak; do not disturb the assembly.


❤︎ Avoid being personal and critical of another member or group.


All of us who follow such meeting norms will go a long way to creating respect for ourselves and for others. Every meeting will be like a beautiful Valentine’s Day card created by us and for us.


Would you like to attend our next Better Meetings/Happier Members seminar? See the flyer by clicking on the news and events tab and click to register. We look forward to your presence!


Adjourning for now,

Gretchen Denton, PRP

President of MSAP


The President ponders....

January 2022


Dear Friends,


If you’re from Michigan you are probably aware that Michigan has a lot of gray days. Detroit is one of the cloudiest major US cities, where over half the days a year (51%) cloud covers more than three-quarters of the sky but we are beat by Seattle and Portland who have over 61% cloudy days.


What does one do on a cloudy winter day, besides taking a walk to discover that every day has some loveliness? Curling up with a good book is an option. No, I’m not recommending Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) for leisurely entertainment although it can’t be beat for parliamentary education.


On a day when you want to deepen your parliamentary knowledge I recommend Parliamentary Law that is more general than the 12th edition of RONR. It was written by Henry Martyn Robert and first published in 1923. It was republished in 1975 and is available in hard cover from the National Association of Parliamentarians book store at https://nap.users.membersuite.com/shop/store/browse.


It is also available in other book stores but be sure to get the real thing with its bright red cover. So, why would you want to curl up with a reference book? One reason is for the questions and answers that are surprisingly readable. Here’s one that Mr. Robert answered in one word. Question—What’s the difference between a committee on nominations and a nominating committee? Answer—None. 


Another aspect of Parliamentary Law is its explanation behind parliamentary practices and how it highlights differences between such things as political elections and elections in other organizations. Parliamentary Law isn’t the definitive resource for current parliamentary questions but it gives an overall picture of running and participating in good meetings and is essential for any serious student of parliamentary procedure.


Does an afternoon with Parliamentary Law transport you to sunny climes, sparkling waves, or forest beauty? No, but you will realize that while meeting topics may change, the nature of attending and leading meetings is remarkably similar to nearly 100 years ago. 


Happy February!


Adjourning for now,


Gretchen Denton, PRP

President of MSAP



President Ponderings...

December 6, 2021


Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the jigsaw puzzle season at our house. I’m a fan of 500 to 1000 piece picture puzzles that I select with care.


I don’t like ones that are too difficult, like a jar of jelly beans. Nor do I like puzzles with pieces so similar that I can’t tell if a piece is in the right place. Sharp, clear pictures are preferable, not blurry photos coupled with repetitive puzzle pieces like dime store jigsaws of my childhood.


I’ve done puzzles as long as I can remember, enjoying the repetition of putting together the few cardboard puzzles we had, over and over.  I began my parliamentary procedure playing in elementary school. What connections are there in these long-time activities? How are parliamentary procedure and puzzles similar?


None of us start doing puzzles by working on 1000-piece wonders; we start easy. It’s a thrill to watch a toddler place an apple-shaped piece into a board, to see coordination and contemplation emerge into action. The same is true for beginners in the parliamentary game, to see a nervous newcomer say, “I move that…”  We begin with basics—making motions correctly, being recognized by the chair, listening to debate, and voting.


After turning over every piece I usually begin a puzzle by forming the border, creating a framework for all the pieces. After the basics in parliamentary procedure, we study several frameworks such as the order of business, the precedence of motions, the types of motions, how debate works, and handling motions.


After the border is complete (and sometimes before) sorting and assigning pieces continues. In parliamentary procedure it means moving beyond Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief to taking up standard descriptive characteristics of motions seriously and thoughtfully. It’s creating bylaws and amending them. 


It gets more and more interesting as the picture appears or we start seeing the overall parliamentary picture.

            How (or if) do the parts of an organization work together?

            What’s missing in the overall picture?

            What parts don’t fall into place?

            What things are simply wrong because they interfere with members’ rights? 


Some find deep satisfaction in the parliamentary game when handling complex issues and writing opinions to clarify complicated conundrums. They are like the 2,000 piece puzzle builders who love a challenge.


Some are content with knowing basics that help anyone participate well in a meeting. Some want to plumb the depths. And, in between there are options. You can choose your level of difficulty and involvement. But, do join me as we keep playing the parliamentary puzzle this winter and throughout the coming year.



Adjourning for now,


Gretchen Denton, PRP

MSAP President



The  President Ponders…

October 4, 2021


When the National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) Convention, September 9-11, 2021, was over, I took a mental break from all things parliamentary. This was NAP’s first virtual convention and it was a major learning experience for everyone.


I had the opportunity to be in the location where the virtual event originated and I have thank Steve Britton, PRP, and most recent MSAP president for driving to Kansas City where the convention happened. Steve, as Chair of the NAP Bylaws Committee needed to be there as a major presenter in the NAP business meeting. As an NAP Bylaws Committee member I tagged along to serve as needed. When Steve invited me to ride to the Kansas City Airport Hilton I was less than enthusiastic. It’s a twelve hour drive from southeast Michigan and during the pandemic I have hardly been out and about.


But, it was a highlight of my parliamentary life. I learned so much about virtual meetings by seeing it in person. While I’ve done Zoom meetings for small groups, usually under 30, I had no idea of the logistic challenges of a meeting with 650 participants.


Here are some of my learnings:


1.It can be helpful to have two parliamentarians, one focused on the electronic aspects of the meeting while the other does the more traditional work of advising the president. It is best if parliamentarian(s) are in the same physical room with the presiding officer.

2.Auxiliary workers who are, if possible, in the same physical room, can be very important in managing the meeting. Auxiliary workers can monitor everything from voting to keeping track of the Chat to seeing that the presiding officer has water, tissues, or whatever she needs.

3.Members should be muted except when allowed to speak and videos turned off help the internet connection.

4.Obtaining the floor can be an issue.

5.Interrupting motions can be a challenge.

6.Technical issues for meeting participants takes a whole team to manage. How is the voting app set up? Do members remember to unmute when they can speak? How much delay time needs to be allowed for members to unmute and show their faces? What about troubling internet issues or power outages in stormy weather?

7.Some business may take more time than expected, particularly when 600 people are voting.

8.Technical expertise is essential, particularly for voting and for running the meeting itself.

9.Two computers can be better than one. I found that using my iPhone for voting and my computer for following the meeting worked well.


We are all learning for leading every time we attend a meeting.  I look forward to using this learning in the leading experiences that are in my future. What are you learning in every meeting you attend?


Gretchen Denton, PRP

President, Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians



August 29, 2021


Now that it’s inevitably drawing to a close, with Labor Day a week away, I hope that you had a pleasant summer. Doug and I drove to our home state (Iowa) where I saw my siblings in person from around the country, a quiet, uneventful journey of watching corn grow and doing little else.


I just attended the two-day National Association of Parliamentarians Leadership Conference for unit and association leaders and other members who are interested in gaining knowledge about how NAP works together in order “to educate leaders throughout the world on effective meeting management through the use of parliamentary procedures.”*  It was an especially effective training focused on where we are now and where we are headed using technology available to us. I was impressed by the depth of the presentations.


One word that sums up how we work is collaboration. I saw an example of that in an early-summer meeting when one member publicly thanked another member for supporting her new work as parliamentarian in important community organizations. She had received advice and support and solid information that aided her entry into new cultures and she said, “Thank you.”


The person who received the salutation responded simply, saying, “That’s the way we do things in Michigan.” In other words, we share our expertise with others; it’s not ours to hoard or hide. We look for ways to support and build up one another, to nudge people forward in learning and to provide solid, seasoned advice. We rejoice in the accomplishments of each other and are glad for the promotion of parliamentary procedure in many ways throughout our state.


Let’s keep moving together, sometimes hopefully and heartedly, sometimes hesitantly but always receiving assistance and sharing the help that we have received. Let’s keep learning and doing collaboration.


Adjourning for now - Gretchen


*words from the Vision and Mission Statement of NAP.  “NAP is a professional society dedicated to educating leaders throughout the world in effective meeting management through the use of parliamentary procedure.” 



July 21, 2021

Learning for All Seasons


Yesterday we celebrated our grandson’s sixth birthday and what fun it was, with guests, including the guest of honor, wearing Super Mario-themed outfits. Teddy who wore overalls, a red shirt and red cap had a yarn mustache tied beneath his nose and around to the back of his head. I wore a red dress with a Princess Peach paper crown perilously perched on my head. Many gifts were related to his favorite Nintendo action figure—little cars, a tee shirt, a haunted house, and even a backpack to either hold his toys or to take to school.


This season of birthday six was all about Mario though next year Mario will be relegated to the bottom of the toy box and replaced by another passion. In the meantime, we speak our fake Italian accents and commiserate over attacks by fire, ice, and ending up in pipes that lead nowhere, or to mounds of golden coins.


While toys, fashion, movies, colors, apps, and action games are replaced at dizzying speeds, parliamentary procedure and its basic principles is remarkably stable. Certainly, when I began learning to use parliamentary procedure in a 4-H Club at nine years old I was starting a long journey that began with making and discussing simple motions. 


I learned that once the meeting was called to order it was time to quit chattering. I found out that only one person could talk at a time and that you ended up voting on motions. I understood what it meant to adjourn and I saw that some club members had special responsibilities in a meeting. I learned how to win and lose club elections and I got to try out various offices myself through the years in the Dutchettes.


I didn’t know very much in the beginning, but I started soaking up the basics. Through the years I gathered more knowledge as I participated in meetings and observed leaders along the way. I began to consciously study and found friends who are far more interested in the fine points of parliamentary law than I will ever be.


The Youth Committee is preparing for the 16th Annual MSAP Youth Day when we teach the basics of parliamentary procedure to students from middle through high school. It may be opening season for the young people as they learn the basics and more so they can participate freely and confidently in student-run organizations and competitions. Along the way we hope they will continue to practice, that the basics will be the start of their capable involvement in meetings of all sorts throughout their lives.


Whether it’s opening season for your study of parliamentary procedure or if you are already in advanced classes, may you continue to find joy in the journey, knowing that this democratic process will be helpful in all the seasons of your life.


I hope you are having a super summer.




Gretchen Denton 

President MSAP 2021-2023 



June 14, 2021


Learning for Leading - The theme for this biennium

  • Do you know that the 2000-2018 drought in the Southwest was the worst drought in over a thousand years?
  • Do you know that it’s a good idea to remove old blossoms from plants if you want more blossoms and/or a more vigorous plant?
  • Do you know that you can sell tickets and take meeting registrations online for a small fee?
  •  Do you know that Americans waste 30-40% of the food supply?
  • Do you know that the main motion is the lowest ranking motion?

Not all of these useful facts may be interesting to you; maybe you don’t like to play Trivia. Though I usually forget numbers related to facts, I enjoy learning things that may or may not be useful.


I chose the theme for MSAP 2021-2023 to be about learning, not learning for the sake of filling one’s head with more stuff but for the sake of Learning for Leading. It’s what being an MSAP member has offered me, actively gaining knowledge about parliamentary procedure so I can more fully participate in meetings.


Learning for Leading reminds me that it’s more than facts that matter. It’s how you synthesize and use what you’ve learned either formally or informally.


For example, because I was on the MSAP Board that met virtually before it was necessary because of Covid I learned how to hold Zoom meetings. I had soaked it up by participating virtually. I wasn’t an early adopter nor an expert but when another group I am part of, that had previously met by conference call, was willing to give Zoom a try, I could assist, thus leading the group to more fruitful meetings attended by people across this nation and in Africa.


Certainly we focus on learning parliamentary procedure and I encourage you to take advantage of all the opportunities offered in units, workshops, Better Meetings/Happier Members, attending conventions, annual meetings, and more. But, take note of what else you may be learning or absorbing that is equipping you for leading effectively in all sorts of ways.


Happy Learning!  I hope you’re having a good June.


Gretchen Denton, PRP

President, MSAP




May 10, 2021


Learning for Leading—Video Conference Platforms


The May flowers promised by April showers are a feast for our winter-weary eyes and even the grass takes on a green glow (before we tire of weekly mowing). Though May tends to be a busy month for organizations, take time to enjoy whatever pleases your eyes these days.


A year ago we were staying home in our lounge wear, putting on a presentable top only when we had a Zoom meeting. Many of us continue Zooming and now we know that the National Association of Parliamentarians will be having its biennial convention virtually in September. It is too early to know if virtual meetings will become the norm for organizations but some of us are glad to participate in committee meetings from our bedroom, office, or other at-home space.


Yesterday I read an article (Science News, pp. 22-26, April 24, 2021) with the title “What Took the Videophone so Long to Catch on?” The article outlined the history of video communication beginning with a 1927 prototype and the unrealized hope off AT&T researchers that “the 1990’s will be the video communication decade.” There were forays into the field with picture phones but it took the introduction of Skype and the growth of high-speed internet connection in homes to make widespread video-conferencing possible. 


Earlier, there were mixed feelings about appearing on a screen, “I’ll have to have my make-up on.”  But when the pandemic landed we adapted fast to this new way of seeing our friends—and we know how to turn off the video camera when we aren’t our most photogenic.


Will the use of video-conference platforms continue when we can be out and about? Or will we continue to realize the versatility and convenience of meeting across the miles virtually? We will see.


In the meantime, we explore parliamentary issues that are raised with this changed meeting platform:  

  • handling debate, 
  • ballot voting, 
  • meeting participants’ requirements
  • using additional features of video-conference platforms like screen sharing, raisinghands, and using breakout rooms to crystalize opinions.


Plus, there’s learning about promoting the softer-side of meetings like getting acquainted and welcoming visitors.  Once again, we Michigan parliamentarians are engaged in studying and adapting to new procedures and possibilities. We continue be be Learning for Leading and making a difference in all the organizations we know and love, whether we are meeting virtually or in-person.


Adjourning for now,


Gretchen Denton, PRP

2021-2023 President 

Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians


MSAP Board of Directors


President                               Gretchen Denton

First Vice- President              Francis Jackson

Second Vice-President          Barbara Bonsignore

Recording Secretary              Kristine Ranger

Treasurer                               Diane Schrift

Directors                                Taniqua Carter-Brown, Elizabeth Haynes, Laurie Marshall

Corresponding Secretary       Mary Ann Rosenberger

Historian                                 Lois Shulman

Parliamentarian                     Joan Price



Bylaws and Standing Rules               Taniqua Carter-Brown

Membership and Extension                Laurie Marshall

Education                                           Barbara Bonsignore

Communications                                Carolyn Stubbs

Budget and Finance                           Susan Schneberger

Youth                                                  Joyce Brown-Watkins

Publication                                         Vivian Tansil

State Coordinating                             Francis Jackson

Nominating                                         Todd Ellis

Auditor                                                Blinda Baker


Unit Presidents

Detroit                                                          Carla Patrick-Fagan                                                       

Mid-Michigan Unit                                        Erica Shifflet-Chila

Kalamazoo Parliamentary Law                    Laurie Marshall

Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit                      

MI Unit of Registered Parliamentarians       Barbara Bonsignore




Steve Britton, 2019-2021 President receives the president's pin from Julie Pioch, 2017 - 2019 President at the 2019 MSAP Annual Meeting in Novi, Michigan

Want to Become a Member?


1) Take the membership exam to become a member of the  the National Association of Parliamentarians


2) Join one of our local units as a provisional member.

 For more information, use our contact form.

 We look forward to hearing from you!

2021-2023 Biennium Meeting Schedule

Until further notice, all MSAP board meeting will be video conference meetings

Meeting time will be 10:00 AM

Educational lesson will follow the board meeting and the president is committed to a 1:00 p.m. adjournment. 


June 19, 2021


September 18, 2021  


November 20, 2021 


January 15, 2022


April 29–30, 2022  

(Annual Meeting)


July 16, 2022


October 15, 2022     


January 21, 2023


April 14-15, 2023 (Annual Meeting)

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