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2011/07/05 WGPO Membership Meeting

WGPO Membership Meeting

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grand Sierra Resort

Reno, Nevada

WGPO Player Representative Peggy Grant called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.

The Executive Committee and Board of Player Representatives introduced themselves:

Keith Hagel, EC

Stephanie Steele, EC

Rick Wong, EC

Susi Tiekert, BPR

Larry Rand, BPR

Steve Pellinen, BPR

Peggy Grant, BPR

Not present was Laurie Cohen, BPR

Peggy opened the floor to questions from the membership. She addressed the question of the different roles of the Executive Committee & the Board of Player Representatives:

The Executive Committee oversees the day-to-day operations of WGPO while the Board of Player Representatives deals with the policies and bylaws.

She related how the bylaws were used for one of their first tasks, that of filling a vacancy on the Board when a newly elected rep defaulted.

Tobey Roland, MD, asked what the status was of WGPO becoming a nonprofit.  Keith Hagel, EC, responded that it is an issue the two boards want to discuss.  Susi Tiekert states we should just continue as we are.  Steve Pellinen, who was on the NASPA Steering Committee told us that they all agreed NASPA was to become a nonprofit, but when Chris Cree incorporated he only put three voting members on the Board of Trustees, with no voting power for players and that there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Peggy stressed the fact that WGPO charges no fees for ratings or other services.  The budget comes entirely from raffles and donations.  There is no “war chest”; everything is totally volunteer.

Dennis Fenichel, MN, thought this tournament was more well-run than the nationals in which he’s been playing for over 25 years.  He suggested that many members would be willing to pay a membership fee, as he would.

Stephanie Steele, EC, responds that WGPO wanted to make it clear that it is not necessary to charge large fees to play competitive scrabble, or to receive a rating.

Keith H. said it’s in the bylaws that any consideration of a ratings fee or membership dues would be voted on by the whole membership.

T.C. Houlgate-West, CA, objects to NASPA requiring membership in order to play in a tournament.  She considers becoming a director in order to bring in new players to try tournaments.  Asks if WGPO can do cross-tables, and about Cornelia Guest’s newsletter.

Peggy clarified that Cornelia’s newsletter has become independent from NASPA, but it is linked from the WGPO site.  It’s a good source for things related to scrabble.

Stephanie reports that Brian Galebach is working on the web site.

Gretchen Cowan, CA, suggested everyone send a contribution to WGPO for Brian Galebach, who does the web site, and other volunteers to receive some remuneration.  Janice Kaye, MN,  requested that contributions be sent to her instead of using the Pay Pal link on the web site to avoid the fees they charge.  Steve Pellinen also warned that Pay Pal may freeze funds because they consider scrabble a “gambling” operation.

Stu Goldman, CA, asked if there’s a newsletter just for WGPO.  Peggy responded that  minutes of meetings are posted on the web site as soon as they’re available.  Rick Wong further stressed that this is a “Players’” organization.  The Executive Committee and Board of Player Reps won’t do a newsletter at this time, but members could form a committee and do it.  He offered the help of the BPR and the EC.

Peggy reiterated that the organization is about the members and their active involvement.  Janice Kaye offered to help members become directors, as we need more people to direct tournaments.  Stephanie Steele also volunteered to help new directors with tournaments.

TC Houlgate-West questioned whether the word “Scrabble” can be used in our publicity.  Stu Goldman pointed out that the hotel signs about our tournament do not use the word “Scrabble” at all.  Rick Wong explained that their 5 year contract with the hotel is for WCC (West Coast Championships), but the hotel changed it to WGPO as soon as they were told.  Stu feels if “Scrabble” were in the title, it might generate new interest.

Mary Capalbi, FL, inquired about the demographics, noting that there were not many players from the east coast. Peggy assured her that it’s being addressed.  Keith reported that WGPO has higher membership from CA, MN, and the mid-Atlantic states.  But membership numbers are low on the east coast. WGPO needs to expand membership there, hoping members will become directors and start WGPO tourneys in that area.  TC Houlgate-West suggested encouraging easterners, as she sees a lot of support from there.  Peggy has cultivated relationships from Boston to the South.  She’s attempting to get people willing to direct WGPO tourneys along the mid-Atlantic corridor.  Peggy says about 80% of active players don’t care whether a tourney is NASPA or WGPO, but about 20% are afraid to make the choice.

Ed Liebfried (Mr. Bicoastal), currently in OR but moving to VT, volunteers to enlist friends in the east to become WGPO members & directors, but he wants to get a feel for the “lay of the land” first.  He’s concerned people will have questions about WGPO using the word list and any tools that were developed by NASPA.  Stephanie reassures him that the tournament Scrabble community “owns” these components of tournament Scrabble, and not any one organization.

Larry Rand further explained that WGPO has not stolen from NASPA. The word list was developed by players, not NSA, not NASPA, but by a player.  Zzyzzva was developed by player Michael Thelen.  We were on crosstables until Chris Cree asked Seth to stop listing our tournaments.  Brian Galebach does the ratings for zilch.  The fees for this tournament would cost over $2000 with NASPA.  WGPO has no newsletter, but “The Last Word” has lots of info. It belongs to no one except Cornelia Guest and the volunteers who submit to it.  Larry also confirmed that a rule book draft is being submitted to the EC and BPR for review to be ready by fall.  He promises it won’t be 27 pages long, and will give directors more latitude.

Stephanie has heard the comment that “WGPO can do it all for free because it’s riding on the coattails of NASPA.”  She feels our organization was stolen from us when Chris Cree walked away from the Steering Committee and made NASPA his corporation.

Keith H. stated that the rules will be open to critique from all members.  He spoke about Chris Cree’s ending the newsletter and firing the communication committee members, of which he was one.  None of them were ever paid anything.

Peggy confirms that WGPO exists because of the philosophical differences with NASPA. WGPO wants players to have input.

Michael David, WI, asks if he should start school scrabble through NSA.  Stephanie said he could do it through WGPO, as Brian has developed a school teams rating system.  She offered to network with him since she does school scrabble.  The NSA does not do high school Scrabble.

Barbara Van Alen, AZ, who took over the Phoenix Club 29 years ago, says she finds the same warm, friendly atmosphere (sans politics) at WGPO events, that she experienced at the Phoenix Club.  She offered to help direct a WGPO tournament anywhere.

Ruth Hamilton, OR asked what the money contributed goes toward.  She feels Brian deserves thousands of dollars for his work, but WGPO couldn’t pay that.  Janice Kaye reported there’s $2400 in the account at a TCF bank in St. Paul.  These are some of the expenditures:

Web site $50

Recognition awards


Possible other uses could include scholarships for those who can’t afford to enter a tournament.  Stephanie directed members to the web site where all the expenses are posted.  Rick Wong suggested donating time and involvement to make WGPO better, instead of sending money.

Larry R. acknowledged all the contributions of time and talent from players who wanted to give something back to the game:  Pairing program from Fontes, Tourney man from Jeff Widergren, Director from Mark Levesque.  They received no payment for their programs.

Albert Hahn, Canada, asked why ratings of non-members aren’t shown on the web site.  Larry responded that some tournament players didn’t want to be recognized as WGPO players, and Peggy affirmed that it’s out of respect for those players. Rick says it doesn’t have to stay that way, and that WGPO exists for all its members. Stu G. suggested asking non-members if they want their ratings publicized. Peggy asserted that none of us knew whether we were playing a WGPO member or not, that we were all here just to play!

A WGPO member from CA who requested anonymity, detailed having had a difficult year because of the differences between members of both organizations.  He is contributing to both groups, directing at the Dallas open. But feels one organization doesn’t meet all needs.  Steve P. spoke of being on the NASPA budget committee with this member, as its chair person.  The biggest difference he sees between NASPA and WGPO is the “can’t do” versus the “can do” attitude.  He tried to get both organizations to work together, but NASPA defrocked him as a director, and booted him from three committees, not at his request.

Peggy acknowledged the philosophical difference, and the feeling of angst with NASPA, feeling that a player’s organization will work best.  Steph reminds us that the break from NSA and Hasbro was the opportunity for players to have their own organization.  But Chris Cree chose to make NASPA his own business, and also passed up numerous opportunities to try and bring the community together.

Steve P. asserted that growth will need to come from new people, not NASPA.  Denise Mahnken NY/SC, thinks NASPA will undermine WGPO as they are formidable, calling people telling them not to play WGPO tournaments, etc.  Keith promises WGPO won’t be intimidated by the possibilities.  Rick feels those tactics won’t work, but stresses increasing WGPO membership by enlisting some of the 5 million people in the US playing scrabble. Rick plans to give a 10 minute motivational speech immediately after the tourney on Wednesday.

Marcia Wade, IN, has been playing tournament Scrabble for a long time and has decided to become a WGPO director.   She remembers paying $10 for tourneys when most of the money went back to the players.  She feels WGPO is a good organization.

Marie Gier, FL, questioned how much money would go to NASPA from this tourney (if it was a NASPA event) and for what.  Rick says total fees would be about $2200. Peggy says we don’t know where NASPA money goes, and asked Tobey Roland to share what he found about their budget.  He detailed expenditures and deposits, showing NASPA made $100, 000 for the 6 months of 2009 they were in existence.

Lester Schonbrun, CA, applauds Rick for his well-run tourneys, making scrabble fun.  He feels WGPO is run in the same spirit.


Peggy adjourned the meeting at 9:40 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Bobbi Hendrickson