Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians
Michigan State Association of Parliamentarians

Our Association

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                                                          Jewel Johnson Jones

Genesee Area                                             Erica Shifflet-Chila

Kalamazoo Parliamentary Law                    Laurie Marshall

Louise Saks Parliamentary                          Elizabeth Haynes

MI Unit of Registered Parliamentarians       Frances Jackson




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.

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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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