Last Week at Rotary

Thursday, June 7, 2018


This Thursday we recognized members of the Cincinnati Public School system for their service to our community. William “Bill” Myles, Assistant Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, presented the following awards:

 Administrator of the Year – Stephany Taylor (Cincinnati Public Schools)

Community Service/Humanitarian of the Year – Jennifer Franzoi

(Dater High School)

Innovator of the Year – Jennifer Miller (Hays Porter Elementary School)

Teacher Leader of the Year – Rachel Tapp (Oyler Elementary School)

This award day began with Mary Ronan, the former Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). Mary has always put kids first. The current superintendent couldn’t be here today so I will be presenting the awards. I’m from a family of educators. Despite the fact that my parents weren’t, I always heard from them about WHERE I would be attending college, never IF I would be attending.  I am thankful to them always for my education. 

The first award goes to Rachel Tapp CPS “Teacher of the Year.” Rachel worked at Proctor and Gamble and became a mentor on the side. After awhile, she went back to school to get her teacher’s license. Soon after, she went to work at Oyler School. She began working with the students to better understand the reason for learning math. We know that an ability to do math well enables understanding and application that will give students a “leg up” in the real world. Rachel created a love of learning in her classroom. She fights for her students to get the resources they need to accomplish what is required. She piloted a new math program in the 7th grade. Her enthusiasm was contagious and spread to her students and then beyond her classroom. 

Rachel’s response was, “Thank you for honoring all educators. It elevates the profession. I’ve gotten such good support for my work at Oyler.”

Jennifer Miller is our next award winner for Teacher Innovator. She is a 27 year veteran with CPS at Hays Porter School where she is a demo teacher and a coach. She has worked with over 200 teachers as they learn new methods of incorporating technology. She hosts a monthly round table. She is very compassionate and makes learning fun. She encourages a love of math by incorporating art and other areas of curriculum into math lessons. She has increased the learning among her students in one week. 

Jennifer’s reaction was, “This honor today is a rare event.”

Jennifer Franzoi who serves at the Dater School is the Community Service/Humanitarian of the Year. Jennifer has taught students to magnify their giving. In a special program that teaches philanthropy, Jennifer’s students have offered over 1,000 grants locally. She directs students in community service day projects which teaches “real world” skills. 

Jennifer said, “Thank you. I am humbled by this award. Teaching Social Studies is often thought to be boring, but I love history and society. I kept thinking about how to give my students the passion to engage, to care, and most importantly, to vote. When students interact within a community, this leads to engagement. We encouraged the spirit of giving by donations. Some of the students’  projects include: donating blood and volunteering at 20 different agencies for just one day during the year. We called it Learning Day. These volunteers create a ripple effect that spreads within the school, in the community, and eventually to the country. They’ve learned that small acts inspire great relationships.”

The last award for Administrator of the Year goes to Dr. Stephany Taylor of CPS. She supports students with special needs and autism. Some of her autism students have received national awards from the Kelly O’Leary Center. Stephany teaches her students to desire to achieve at high levels. She has partnered with UNC as she researched new inputs for learning while revising and adapting technology in test-taking settings.  Later she fostered a partnership with UC Medical Center. Stephany is a role model of professionalism and integrity to all. She believes in the possibilites and is tireless in her effort to achieve. 

Dr. Taylor responded by saying, “The best prize in life is working hard at a job that is worth doing.” I want to read to you from an email that I received recently from a Special Education teacher that he got from a history teacher. A student who had been very nervous to give a speech before the class, scored Excellent in his speech, his eye contact, and the presentation. The student had worried about it for weeks. I say he should worry no longer. He’s mastered it!

She quoted Helen Keller, “Our chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they are great and noble.”  

Educators plant seeds. They are our children and ultimately our future. 

1. How can you teach students to love math?  First they have to love you, then whatever you show them, they will have interest. I show them the world that is filled with engineering and technology and partner with those who are using math in their careers. I start by relating math to every day life; for example, using percentages to calculate discounts when shopping. Everyone gets into that!

2. Let me share a project that we did at dater High School a few years ago. I wanted to teach the students about the history of the underground railroad in our area. The Parks Board called and wanted students to work in the parks four times a year. Thirty students showed up. We set out to work from January until March. They were outside all the while. They were chopping trees and brambles. They learned about tools, invasive species, and about the underground railroad locally. 

3. What would each of you need to help you continue to do a better job? 

Tell our story. The news gives bad examples of young people. Great things are happening at CPS. There is too much demeaning. We want to provide examples to the students of career paths they haven’t heard of yet. To one student we said, “If you can’t paint like an artist, what can you do?”  We brought in a graphic artist who turned the student’s life around.


Thursday, May 31, 2018


This week we honored one of our members with the Walter Emmerling Award! This award recognizes a member of the Club who exemplifies the highest qualities a Rotarian could achieve, one who demonstrates Service Above Self, and who lives as a model for others. In keeping with our tradition, this recipient will not be made public until the day the award is presented!

Steve Haber acting as the MC, said, “This is the day we meet and honor our own club member.” Jay Schuermann said it’s his favorite day of the year. I bet we’d all agree as we burst with pride learning about our newest member of the Wally Emerging Honorees. Steve told us Wally was a long time Rotary member in our club. He grew up in Norwood, but met with early tragedy when his father died. Of course he managed to cope and graduated from high school with high hopes for his future as a “Buckeye” at Ohio State University. His four years sailed by and he graduated again with a major in Business Administration. He landed a job at Proctor and Gamble which he maintained throughout his entire 40 year career. 

Wally was a man of integrity. He joined Rotary in 1949. He always evidenced “Service above Self.” In 1994 at the first Rotary Spring Classic Golf Outing, Wally was awarded for his above-average service. He died in 2004 at age 99. Cincinnati Rotary continued the tradition by honoring its leaders who similarly practiced “Service above Self” with integrity. Some of the first were Cromer Mashburn, John Ahrens, and Robert McSpadden in the years immediately following Wally.  Others are listed on p. 11-12 in our Membership Directory. Most recently the Wally Emerging award winners are Mike Levally, Charlie Ratterman, Ute Papke, and Steve Haber himself. 

Steve posed the question, “Who is it this year?” He flashed a few pictures up on the screen of a handsome boy, but we were still mystified. When we could wait no longer, Steve said, “The 2018 Wally Emmerling Award Winner is Don Keller!” We erupted in a standing ovation. A grand gaggle of close family and friends were invited into the Hall of Mirrors to sit up front as Steve described Don’s many achievements. Don’s wife, Julie, of 35 years was there as was his son, Don Jr., who had come in to surprise his father from his Army base on the other side of the world. 

Don was born in 1958 on the western side of Cincinnati. He was the third child of four. He went to and graduated from Oak Hills HS. He went on to UC and majored in Finance (good choice!) and received his MBA from Xavier University. Don and Julie were married on April 16, 1983, the second anniversary of their first date. They have two children: a son, in the Army, and a daughter who is a teacher in Kokomo, IN. 

Don’s career involves 20 years with US Bank and four years with Ed Haberer at his first startup firm. Afterward both Ed and Don decided to form Torch Wealth which is a fee- only money management firm. Don is the Chief investment Officer. 

Don has served Rotary faithfully since he joined in 2006. He was a Rotary Board member and in 2012, he became President of Rotary. After that he co-chaired Believe to Achieve raising more than a quarter million dollars ($276K). He has since chaired the Legacy circle that seeks long-term gifts to Rotary’s Foundation.

Next, various close friends spoke on behalf of Don. The first was his close friend, Steve Shrantz,  from their early Oak Hills High School days. Steve said he and Don had been friends for over 40 years. I can attest that Don Keller is a good man doing good things. We even went to college together. Afterward we coached together and even went to work at US Bank together. Even to this day we go to every UC game together. 

Steve said, “Don is a man with the highest character. He is devoted to his family. He was faithful to attend his children’s soccer and football games throughout their young years. He is hardworking. I saw him give his best throughout high school and at UC. He would sit in the computer lab for hours back in the day when we used computer cards to program our work. Afterward as he worked at US Bank, he was very well respected by all. Finally, Don is dependable. When he says he will do something, it gets done!” Congratulations, Don, this is a well deserved award.

The next speaker was Ed Haberer, Don’s partner at Torch Wealth Management. Ed said, “I guess I’m going to have to tear up my speech. I thought this was a roast!”  Ed said he had known Wally Emmerling and to be on the same list was an outstanding accomplishment. Ed remarked, “The Don Keller I know is an analytical genius who is incredibly focused.” 

Ed told us, “Don brought Rotary to our firm. He demonstrated a true fulfillment of himself by his efforts of doing for others. He has been the Chief Investment Officer at Torch Wealth for 15 years. His portfolio research provides a good retirement for our clients. He has been successful in the ups and downs of the market. He is very well respected for ‘overcoming’ during challenging times. Don never quits. He has found a way to balance his projects for Rotary with the stresses of the industry and his responsibilities managing the firm. I think the Wally Emmerling I knew would wholeheartedly agree with Don receiving his namesake award.”

Finally, Rotarian Mark Soupene spoke for Don. Mark said, “ It is a privilege to honor Don. It is amazing what lengths Rotary will go in order to get us to attend a meeting! As Don moved on to his new business, most people go to great lengths to build bridges. Instead Don torches it!

Don has been active in Rotary since 2006. He has served on the Board, become President, and now is head of the Foundation. If you follow the history of Wally Emmerling winners, he concluded, “They all bowled.” The difference is that they can bowl while Don can’t. No one misses the 5 pin. Don Keller does. Don is one of the few bowlers who can throw the ball while leaving the 10 pin unscathed. Don’s bowling average has been up and down over the years. He said it is not a reflection of him so he bought a new ball. That didn’t make any difference. Now he says he’s looking for new bowling shoes. I think he just does it to remind himself about how much he hates bowling. We usually meet for dinner beforehand. Don generally orders first. Inevitably his meal comes to the table well after everyone else is eating. 

Don has a sensitive side. You’ll know it when he belts out “I can’t smile without you!” Don, your service and involvement are just like a 300 game in bowling: Perfect!  Don L. Keller, Jr. is exemplary of a great living Rotarian.

Afterward President Al gave Don the chance to respond. Don said, “When I looked at the two pictures of the little boy, he thought, “Isn’t it  interesting that  the little boy in the picture had a hat just like mine.” and then he said, “SH_T!!” when it hit him that the next Wally Emerging award was his. Oh Don, how fun it would be to plan a surprise party for you, right under your nose!

Yes, this was such a wonderful meeting today as we got to know the “REAL” Don Keller a true Rotarian walking the walk of Wally Emerging.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Executive Director
Leadership Council for Non-Profits

Leading + With Others = Finding Purpose

“My passion is to help non- profit agencies become better, stronger, more collaborative and more impactful. In my position as Executive Director of The Leadership Council for Nonprofits I have the opportunity to connect with leaders of many nonprofit agencies in our community and to find out what their needs are. I am always open to your suggestions, comments, connections, and collaborations.  

Prior to this Leadership Council position, I served as the President of the Board for Impact 100, a women’s grant making organization founded in Cincinnati in 2001 which has awarded over $4.1M back into our community through grants of at least $100,000. I returned as a Board Member in 2016 after serving on the board 2006-2012 (as President of the Board 2009-2011).  I am also the Chair of the national board of the Women’s Collective Giving Network, which is an association supporting the creation, development, and expansion of women’s collective giving nationwide. 

I currently serve as Secretary of the board of Women Helping Women, the Advisory Board of Flywheel Cincinnati, Advisory Council for Xavier Universities MBA Private Interests & the Public Good Program, Committee member of the Business Education Connection Committee, Tocqueville Society Cabinet Committee, United Way Board Bank, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Leadership Cincinnati Leading with Others Day Committee, and the Pastoral Council Advisory Board of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In the past I served on the board, and as board chair of Tender Mercies & Ursuline Academy, and I am an alumni of the Leadership Cincinnati Class #35. 

My husband Jim & I have 3 children, and 1 grandchild, and we are lifelong Cincinnati residents.”

Proudly, Don Never introduced his daughter, Jenny Berg, his very own #6 affectionately known at home as “Old # 6” to the club. He told us Jenny was the 6th child of 8 Neyer children. She is opinionated and unafraid to correct me. With those talents she gravitated toward a career in human resources. This guided her leadership journey and ignited her passion and her ultimate purpose to help others.

Jenny told us something Cincinnati Rotary knows well, “Dad, a past President of Rotary, loves to serve. He has inspired Old # 6 to do the same.” 

Leadership doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. After graduating from Miami University, I joined Dad’s business, Neyer Properties, Inc. as the first female. I formed the Employee Benefits Team until I retired from Neyer in 2002. Neyer employees often said of me, “We didn’t always agree, but we did respect the decisions made.”

After Neyer, I joined the Board of Tender Mercies. We managed six buildings in Over the Rhine. Tender Mercies has been pivotal in helping the homeless even during the Timothy Thomas shooting and subsequent race riots. Tender Mercies has been instrumental in bringing together police, residents, and others in the community. I learned that change is really just a process. I witnessed examples of great leadership and learned from the process. 

Following Tender Mercies I joined the Board of Ursuline Academy, my alma mater. My tenure included oversight of the $11M renovation. While there we built a team of talent and a process of communication emphasizing awareness and desire.

Once again I found myself in the middle of change. It led to my human resources profession as a manager for change. While at Tender Mercies we applied for a grant from Impact 100. The grant would empower women to improve lives by collecting and finding the results to make a lasting improvement in the community. Tender Mercies got $184,000. 

Afterward in 2006 – 2012, I became part of Impact 100. I devoted myself to participating in the BBB Torch award. I was asked to join the Board of Impact 100 again as a recruiter. Impact 100 has awarded $4.1M to our community. I have recruited many women to join forces/resources with me at Impact 100. There is a growing network across multi-states. Oftentimes an award is made to a community that can be replicated across another community. Giving circles have tripled. Non-profits are connected and are more effective. We can do more together. There will be a large area conference coming up in October.

I was analyzed using the Strengths Finder test. I learned that I am a maximizer, a relator, an achiever, very responsible, and I am analytic. I have learned to surround myself with others who have these characteristics. 

In 2012, I joined the Leadership Council which consists mostly of CEOs that connect with 160 non-profit agencies. We have 14,000 employees. The council recruits, retains, and provides leadership training programs. One such program involves helping employees with understanding medical insurance. At the Leadership Council, I am paid to help other non-profit organizations and I love it!

Did you know? The non-profit sector is the 3rd largest workforce in the US and is the 4th largest workforce in Ohio. 

The top 3 trends facing the non-profit sector are limited resources; e.g., human, technology, and financial. There is an increased demand from the community. Non-profit Board members need to be vocal advocates for their respective missions. 

If you would like to volunteer or engage in some way, check out: and

Jenny asked the club members to stand if they lead, volunteer, or give to a non-profit. (Needless to say, Club 17 was on its feet!)  

When there is a need, non-profits are enlisted to solve the problem. They engage with this Japanese word in mind:

IKIGAI which means a reason for being and a passion for doing, learning, and for their interest. I have learned:


1. Has there been a drop off in volunteering that you have seen? Many just don’t know where or how to volunteer. Everyone’s time is short.
2. What impact will the current tax changes have on charitable contributions?  It’s too soon to know for sure.
3. Can we trust the Charity Navigator? I think it is a good thing because it is a network of many good organizations. As long as the information going in from each organization is good, I think Charity Navigator is very good. 
4. What is the origin of Impact 100? It is a fund whose mission is to empower women in the community to help with education, culture, health, and environment.

5. There are so many non-profits. Will there be any consolidations? Are numbers down? There is scalability within the non-profit community.


Thursday, May 17, 2018


Having delivered business solutions in 30 countries, Wendy brings a worldly point of view to digital innovation and a charming edge to her entrepreneurial pursuits. She’s a harmonious blend of San Francisco’s upstream edge, Boulder’s down to earth vibe, and the Deep South’s infectious charm.

Her entrepreneurial success is evidenced through the acquisition of OnTarget in 1999 by Siebel Systems, where she was a co-founder; Stratify’s acquisition in 2007 by Iron Mountain, where she served on the board and, most recently, Get Satisfaction’s acquisition by Sprinkle where she was an investor and CEO. Through her 5 years of board service at Corporate Visions she guided exponential growth that led to a significant round of private equity investment in June 2015. 

Currently, she is the CEO and serves on the board of Cintrifuse, a public-private partnership that enables high-growth startups to prosper in Cincinnati. Wendy uses her years of entrepreneurial experience to lead and to mentor the most promising startups in #StartupCincy, Greater Cincinnati’s startup movement. Her industry knowledge helps founders find product/market fit, connect with customers and develop funding strategies. Wendy is also on the non-profit board INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati.

Wendy extends her leadership to two non-profit boards, The Health Collaborative and Cincinnati’s Symphony Orchestra. She also serves on the private venture-backed board of Zyleme, a learning content management company, based in Boulder. She is a member of C200 and Cincinnati Women’s Executive Forum. In 2012 and 2013, she was recognized as a “Woman of Influence in Silicon Valley and in San Francisco.”

Even with such a proven and successful business track record, Wendy balances her life by spending time with family, friends, and Casey, her Shitzu. She’s a warm, passionate leader, who personifies “good relationships make good business” while centering herself with a deep spiritual connection.

Doug Bolton introduced Wendy Lee. He described her as “adventurous, a problem-solver especially when it involves people and markets, and an entrepreneur in her own right.” 

Regional Ecosystem
Wendy said she was brought here by Cintrifuse to bring an economic vibrancy to our city, eminently from Over The Rhine. Cintrifuse seeks to support and promote the digital and technological economy. The leadership saw it happening in other parts of the country and decided they wanted to foster that same ecosystem here in Cincinnati. They like the idea of entrepreneurs taking risks enabled by technologies either through such examples as software applications, front-end customers, or back-end systems. They want start-ups with technology somewhere in the business. 

Why? Cintifuse leaders include the CEOs of Kroger, Western-Southern, Proctor and Gamble, Children’s Hospital, and Cintas. They are global and viable. They decided that there are not enough businesses of their magnitude in the city long-term. These companies have to think differently. They need accessibility, technology, innovation, and above all else, talent to make it all happen. They want economic vibrancy to take OTR to the next level. They are clear about the strategy, but they admit that they are not methodologists. 

That’s where I come in. I am an early stage start-up leader. The messier the better. We are looking for companies with a product-market fit. Most have no money to begin with.  

When I arrived as CEO of Cintrifuse, I was given three assets to get this eco-system going in Cincinnati. First, was a 35,000 sq.ft. building called Union Hall. It was dirt when I arrived. I admit I didn’t know anything about commercial real estate development. I surrounded myself with good people. The result is that we opened in January, 2018 and we have had over 7,000 people come through the front door. Who are they? People from Proctor & Gamble, First Financial, etc. who have decided to start their own business. I have planted little seeds. Over 500 of them where 66% are in the idea stage and approximately 30% have an identified market. 

The second asset is a fund of funds beginning with $57M that has now been leveraged into $3B. The leaders at Cintrifuse wanted to model this fund on the one in Michigan. The fund is already in the top quartile of funds. It is not a charity: for every $1 invested we get $5 back.

Third, I serve on the Board of Techstars Impact. This is an accelerator that backs for-profit, mission-driven founders building technologies to solve social & environmental problems. The program is based in Austin, TX, an emerging leader in bridging tech & social innovation. This provides valuable opportunities to sell to large corporations. We raise money from an angel network and from institutional investors. It took a big vision to activate it with a very small team and an even smaller budget, but through leveraging partnerships with universities and corporations our eco-community is growing.

What are our measured outcomes? I repeat these all the time to the Ohio Governor, to the Cincinnati Mayor, and to the corporate CEOs at Cintrifuse. To be viable, we need density. This means from 800 – 1,000 start-ups at any stage in the area. We started with 11. We now have approximately 500. This is a good trend. We also need maturity. Many early stagers need to learn constantly to build a successful product-market fit. 

To be viable we need risk capital. We’ve built $140M from this region in a year. By comparison, Silicon Valley does this in one day! Therefore, we know we need to grow capital. 

We have invested in 112 start-ups. If they thrive and stay here in Cincinnati, jobs will be created. 

Cintrifuse is on a roll thanks to Cincinnati’s commitment to business and to the entrepreneurs who are creating a new level of business community.

1. Does Cincinnati have enough tech talent? On the coasts, the immigrants have it. We need more H1 visas. Things are changing rapidly though. We may not have enough now. We are talking with the region’s universities to have them encourage their “best and brightest” our way as well as to encourage the universities to offer the best tech skills relevant to what’s needed to forge ahead. 

2. What are the types of technology these companies are innovating? We have a very well organized database categorizing our start-ups. Some of the technologies include drone tech, risk insurance, warehousing, cryptocurrency, and the mesh of blockchain integrating business to business as examples.

I am very “jazzed” by the the future of work itself. Millennials don’t work like us. They need collaboration tools. Millennials are the new pioneers. They teach me everyday. They are always curious. Our successes at “name” schools and experience for years at one corporation can be debilitating because it reduces our thirst for knowledge. They want to be independent and are looking for new ways to engage. Are you in a “beginner” state of mind? They put no value on our history and experience. They are less afraid. They backpack around the world and “figure it out as they go.”  Since coming to Cincinnati, I have learned a new sense of spirit of purpose. They are capitalists to a point, but they want work that matters. They care more about the planet than we do. I am a workaholic. I’m just trying to change how I work.

3. After Cincinnati, what will you do?  I will be on the Board of 3 companies. I will also run a technology committee in Cleveland. Finally, I will be working with Techstars in Saudi Arabia and Singapore. I have helped a company sell a product there and now want to help them work it out with partnerships. 

I will go between my homes in San Francisco and Boulder.


Thursday, May 10, 2018


Are you a new member, been around for a couple of years, or are you a more well-seasoned member?  This year’s Club Assembly promises to be an informative, interesting, and EXCITING meeting for ALL members!!  We’ll be mixing things up a bit this year!  Arriving early, everyone had the chance to browse the collection of historical photos and memorabilia from our club’s archives. We heard about our upcoming Hands on Service opportunities, a financial update on the club and the foundation, an update on our Uganda Solar Village Project, and much more!  This truly was an opportunity to be in the “know” about the “difference” your Cincinnati Rotary is making and to have a GREAT lunch at the same time.

Prior to committee reports, each table had a spokesperson that described quick memorable moments or reasons for gratitude for their membership in Rotary this past year. So many good reasons AND……………………there’s plenty more to come! Every moment in Rotary just makes our lives richer.

World Community Service

Richard LaJeunesse described the Ugandan Solar Project expanding upon a double meaning of the word “appreciation.” The project has appreciated in value” because it began with our own, Cincinnati Rotarians’ contributions of $20,000 that the committee is able to quintuple (yes, that means $20,000 becomes $100,000!) with the help of contributions/grants from other local Rotary clubs and Rotary International respectively. From a “needs assessment” done by our Rotary partners in Kampala, we have determined that the people (over 3,000) need clean water first, then electricity from solar power to light up several schools, to power the water pumps, and lastly to refrigerate medical supplies for improved health care.  49% of the population in the area is 45 years of age or less. This means that many young families will benefit from and hopefully “appreciate with gratitude” our contribution to them.

Hands-On Service

Jim Brooks, who incidentally has chaired this committee for six years, described the multitude of one-day service projects that contribute to the community while strengthening Rotary relationships. 

Remember that cold, rainy week last winter at Camp Allyn when on the following Saturday we planted about 20 or more trees (in just about one hour thanks to the help of so many Rotarians) to replace the many dead ones we had cleared out during the fall? 

Rotarians also gathered at the Ronald McDonald House (affiliated with Children’s Hospital) to cook a dinner of pork chops, steamed apples, mac and cheese, steamed vegetables…..I could go on). We take a turn at the Ronald McDonald House three times per year every year. An opportunity is coming up soon: July 9, 2018. 

Vision Screening occurs on Thanksgiving Day at the Duke Energy Convention center where all 5,000 who attend are blessed with a great meal, and many amenities such as haircuts, coats, family portraits, music, and various health screenings, including Rotary’s vision screening. In addition to Thanksgiving, we volunteer several times during the summer months at health fairs in Washington Park and Fountain Square. 

Recently we stuffed snack bags at the newly opened Woodward Theater in Over the Rhine accompanied by the Young Urban Professionals a cappella choir.

Our most recent service was greeting sweaty runners who come over the finish line of the Flying Pig Half and Whole Marathons with a medal commemorating their magnificent effort.

One last service opportunity is coming up on June 11 from 5 – 9pm at the Cincinnati Zoo. We need 15 Rotarians as ushers.

Allocations Committee

Owen Wrassman said the Allocations committee began 20 years ago. It makes awards from Rotary’s Foundation to various local non-profit organizations in the amount of $1,000 – $2,500. 

Recently it provided grant awards to Camp Casin (sp?) at UC to children of cancer parents. Last summer we gave 80 grant awards. 

Another $2,500 went to LeSoupe, a former Jefferson award recipient. 

Central Clinic Behavioral Health provides help to adults and children with disabilities. Rotary awarded $5,000 to build a recreation area next to their new building. 

The Challenger Group got $2,500 for 500 kids to have a big weekend together.

Restore and Renew is an organization that makes blankets for autistic children. (They have to be just the right weight, feel, and color.) Rotary has given $1,000 to make 80 for autistic individuals. 

Visionary Voices provides a camp experience for kids to learn appropriate social skills. The Allocations committee has provided $5,000 for 100 students of ages 5 – 13 to attend.

Membership Development Committee

Rich Dineen described the many projects offered by the committee to support new memberships in our Cincinnati Rotary Club. There were many breakfasts, an evening at the Woodward Theater in OTR, and other behind the scenes efforts. Over 60 new members joined our Rotary club as a result. Our membership last July was 346. Our goal was to bring in 10% of that number to replace outgoing members. We are very pleased with 60 instead! Not to mention that we still have 1.5 months to go. 

Linda and Kristy deserve our appreciation for putting the numbers together and for their support in organizing our events/activities. They are the ones who make these outside venues possible.

Financial Report as of 3/31/18 
Given by President-Elect Rick Flynn.
The Income Statement

Rotary’s Net Income is $65,910 with revenues of $310,709 (from memberships and lunches) and expenses of $776, 339 (presently under-budget). The gain on our investments is $24,423. 

The Balance Sheet (rounded)
Total Assets       $620,000
Total Liabilities      38,000
Owner’s Equity   $580,000

I am pleased to report that we have had great success in our investments thanks to that committee. We are reviewed annually by an independent CPA firm. 

Youth Exchange Committee

Peter Baden said Cincinnati Rotary typically brings in 1- 2 foreign students per year. We put them into local or with Rotary member’s homes and enroll them in a high school for one year. We also send 1-2 American students out into the world.

There are 9 – 10 programs each year for the students. The programs expand horizons for the students and the host families. Presently we have two students we have sent out of the US to India and to _______. This school year we have had two inbound students: one from Spain and another from France. Next school year two boys will be coming from Brazil and Germany. 

We had a German student, Nathan, who came to live with us. He knew little english when he arrived and apparently was scared to death. My wife, Carol, who happens to be 4 feet tall and not even 100 lbs. took him to school the first day and found him hovering beside her (and towering over her) until she introduced him to the local school’s soccer team. The next thing we knew was the school year was over. We just returned from Germany where we saw Nathan graduating from high school now as a competent multi-lingual teenager. 

We’ve decided this program is the best way to conduct international diplomacy: better friendships!  We need counselors and committee members. Join us if you can.


May 3, 2018

Vocational Fellowship Day

As fellow Rotarian Steve King said so well, “Vocational Fellowship is my favorite day in the Rotary year. By visiting Rotarians’ businesses, we learn first-hand about the importance of our Rotary friends’ reach at their business and in the business world.” Steve joined Ali Hussein along with about 15 other Rotarians at US Bank. Ali set us up with his colleagues in the Cyber Defense Department for an introduction and a tour. 

US Bank Cyber Defense Center

The Cyber Defense Center at US Bank was formed three years ago. It provides both information and cyber security with a focus on security awareness. 

We met in what the bank calls the “War Room.” If a cyber breach occurs, this is where the enterprise responds. It is the location where they can meet with all their other teams via video conferencing.  The floor at the bank is known as the Security Operations Center or SOC. US Bank has only one executive briefing center. They are working on having others. While in the war room we looked through several large windows into “the fish bowl” to see several employees on their computers vigilantly observing the bank’s web page and internal email traffic as well as the marketing effort to detect any breaches. 

Afterward we turned toward the wall depicting the global threat map. It indicates any trojan horses, phishing attempts, and so on world-wide offered by the service of just one firewall firm. We later learned there are about 2 dozen of these firms providing threats.  Since midnight last night, worldwide there have been 1.3M threats and since just yesterday, 6.5M reported from the one firm. We saw a series of graphs. Jagged graphs indicate normal email traffic. If a red spot appears, it indicates malicious IPs. US Bank indicates that it is proactively hunting malicious sources so they can try to mitigate the outcome. The department’s sole focus is cyber security, not technologically only, but through data analyses as well, globally and in the news. 

Internal business lines that benefit from the cyber security information training are:

a. Branch managers who learn combative techniques when facing ransom ware. If each employee can become more IT-wise, fewer compromises would occur. For example, phishing, where employees click erroneously on attacked emails. 

b. Clients/Customers can bring in their own clients/customers to be educated in their security posture. Clients with small businesses can offer seminars regarding “best practices.”

c. Children from four years of age through seniors in college are brought in to be exposed to potential cyber security career paths. There are so many employers who say they have numerous jobs that have no applicants. We’ve tried to build up this area because there is so much talent available locally with XU, UC, and NKU. Students need not major in finance to work at the bank’s cyber unit, but instead in information technology.  For the past three years, since we formed the department, we have been giving $10,000 per year in scholarships to help students, but also to help shape the technology curriculum at their schools. Often times we get information technology graduates who are not equipped with the skills appropriate to what we need from them. Presently we are partnering with the Girl Scouts of America to help as they offer a new badge in cyber security. We offer a three-hour workshop that counts toward the requirements of the badge. We have invited 12 Girl Scout 4th and 5th graders in for a cyber class tomorrow in fact. This gives them the chance to visualize a career path in cyber security. In addition, we offer high school internships to model the roles and responsibilities of a cyber specialist whether it is a security engineer or security architect or even a data analyst. Interns are with us for two years (which they said is bittersweet). In the second year, they form teams to set up a cyber security department themselves. We spend the year attacking their respective systems. We are now looking to NKU as they offer a major in Informatics.

We offer 4 – 5 introductory seminars to outside groups on average per month. Last year (2017) we did 80 seminars and the year before (2016) we did 56. We try to keep it simple. 

US Bank Cyber Defense Presentation

There is one executive briefing center at US Bank now, but another one is newly up and running in Minnesota and another in Hawaii. Others exist in London and Ireland. There are “eyes on the glass” in Bangalore, India. Together we are analyzing over 4B events each day that are not necessarily attacks. They may be considered to be an incident if there is an actual breach. We have a monitoring system by the security team that predicts the likelihood of an incident. There are many phishing incidents and attacks that attach malicious software. When discovered, we have a forensic lab that can isolate the problem. Where ever it may occur within the US Bank system, they ship the infected computer here. The lab technicians can disentangle the malware and even reverse engineer to correct the vulnerability. Hackers often use “spear phishing’ to get employees to click on emails. After all, if you get an email from the company’s CEO, wouldn’t you open it right away?

US Bank is part of the Financial Institution Sharing (FIS) Network with the other large banks like Fifth-Third and Huntington to name a few. Often several institutions are attacked simultaneously so we work together. Each is using the best technology available to thwart hacks with protective practices for the entire eco system. Hacking happens in the financial sector, but it also reaches into the medical sector attacking pacemakers and medicine distribution services. We share how hackers get in with our close knit relationship partner, the FBI. 

The worst problems occur via phishing of emails. Also we learned when given the chance to update your computer or cell phone, do it ASAP. It will diminish your vulnerability to hackers.

Afterward we were escorted throughout the department to see employees doing what we had just learned. It was very informative. It made us realize that we are “already at war.”


Thursday, April 26, 2018


Thursday we recognized members of the Cincinnati Police Department for their service to our community. The Cincinnati Chief of Police, Colonel and Chief Eliot K. Isaac, was unable to be with us at the very last minute, but his able 2nd Assistant Chief (and also Lt. Col.) Terri Theetge presented the following awards to these outstanding officers:

Lieutenant Emmett Gladden

Colonel Mike John

Sergeant Jonathan Cunningham

Police Officer James Matthews

Trish Smitson introduced Lt. Col. Theetge to us. Trish said Lt. Col. Theetge has been with the Cincinnati Police Dept. for 27 years. An interesting fact, said Trish, is that “Terri has 8 siblings and 5 of them are in law enforcement. One brother was in attendance with us at the meeting.” 

Lt. Col. Theetge began by saying, “Thank you, Rotary. It is not often that we are recognized positively. We are indeed grateful for your continued generosity.  Chief Isaac was walking out the door to come with us, but was intercepted by an urgent matter that required his attention. I am prepared, instead, to introduce our officers who are being honored today. I am so proud to introduce each one.”

For Superior Achievement, I present Sgt. Jonathan Cunningham of District 4. The award goes to the officer who continually dedicates him/herself to maintaining a high degree of professionalism and who exemplifies the time-honored tradition of “street policing.” This is a community-inclusive approach that has kept the Cincinnati Police Department at the forefront of law enforcement. 

Sergeant Jonathan Cunningham leads the District 4 Violent Crimes Squad, which has seen a 32% reduction in violent crime since 2017. In the past year, the squad made more than 100 arrests, executed 10 search warrants, made more than 20 firearms recoveries, and seized large quantities of heroine, fentanyl, cocaine, and marijuana. The squad seized more than $270,000 in drug money. Sgt. Cunningham is honored for his commitment, professionalism, and leadership as he directed training and tactics, mentored officers, and worked with federal and local law enforcement and government partners to make the community safe. Sgt. Cunningham’s achievements are highly merited for receiving this award.

The second award is the Administrative Award that goes to Lt. Emmett Gladden. He is the officer who provides his utmost service in the administrative performance of staff function. Lt. Emmett Gladden is the Adjutant to Police Chief Elliot Isaac. This means Lt. Gladden is the spokesperson for the Cincinnati Police Department. He acts as the liaison between the Chief and bureau commanders, other agencies, and city residents. He is well-known for his professionalism, his attention to detail, and for his knowledge of policies and procedures. He has an outstanding ability to build camaraderie within the department (and he is good for a few laughs at the right time!). Lt. Gladden has been on the Cincinnati Police Force for nearly 30 years and became the Adjutant to the Chief since 2014. The lieutenant is truly deserving of the Administrative Award.

Third, the Career Enhancement/Department Advancement Award is presented to Lt. Col. Michael John for being the officer who has demonstrated the greatest desire to further his/her skills through self-motivation and training. The award honors  the officer who goes beyond the call of duty to advance the mission of the department. Lt. Col. John has proficiently demonstrated his ability in both areas. 

Lt. Col. Michael John has a 22-year history of leadership and innovation within the Cincinnati Police Department. He was promoted to Assistant Chief in 2016 and was named Investigations Bureau Commander for the department. He oversees the Criminal Investigations and Special Investigations sections. This includes all homicide units, financial and sexual crimes, vice, narcotics, and intelligence operations. Lt. Col. John is also the lead Law Enforcement Liaison for the City of Cincinnati’s Violence Reduction Strategic Plan. He is the joint coordinator of the Cincinnati Police Department’s Priority Offender Initiative. 

He has been instrumental in developing enforcement and violence- reduction programs that have changed the way the community and its residents are protected. In 2014, as Commander of District 1, Lt. Col. John developed a community problem-solving initiative in response to prostitution-related crimes. The initiative, which wove the innovative ideas of beat officers and of a local judge together, led to a program providing resources for recovery, addiction services, and paths to re-entry into society. In 2015, as Operational Commander of the Special Services Section, John led a department-wide approach toward victim, offender, and place-based initiative programs. Lt. John has been a consultant for the State of Ohio Department of Youth Services and a guest lecturer at the Southern Police Institute. His areas of expertise include: police management, violence reduction, focused deterrence, data analytics and visualization, opioid abuse, evidence-based policing, place-based policing, and police and academic partnerships. Lt. Col. John approaches complex problems with professionalism and critical thinking.

The final award, the Award for Valor and Heroism, goes to Police Officer James Mathews of District 3. This award highlights an officer who has performed exceptional life-saving or outstanding heroic effort. On August 8, 2017, Officer James Mathews was on routine patrol at 5:34pm at Warsaw Ave. and Ross when he saw a crashed motorcycle on fire in the street. The motorcycle driver, Damien Canady, was seriously injured. Mathews pulled Canady from the fire, carried him to safety, and then began administering lifesaving techniques. He alerted Cincinnati Fire and Rescue as well as additional police. He cleared the vehicle and pedestrian traffic assuring the safety of the victim from the growing crowds of bystanders and emergency responders. 

The patient, Canady, was stabilized at University Hospital where Mathews followed up to check on the extent of his injuries. In the nomination, Mathews is praised for his quick action, compassion, and his willingness to risk his life to save Canady from the fire and possible explosions. 

Officer Mathews joined the Cincinnati Police Department in 2003. At that time he was with District 4. In 2006, he began working in District 3. 

Thanks to Officer Mathews’ quick response, the patient Damien Canady was saved from further injuries from the fire and possible death. For his courageous action and the great personal risk he assumed, Officer Mathews is more than deserving of this prestigious award. 

Officer Mathews then said, “This exemplifies the uncertainty of our job. I was on my way to break up a fight in Price Hill preparing myself along the way. All of a sudden I saw the fire, the motorcycle lying down, and then I saw a person lying in the middle of the street. I give all the credit to my great training, to our team effort, and being at the right place at the right time!”


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Total Quality Logistics

Total Quality Logistics, (TQL) the largest privately-held company in Greater Cincinnati, promoted Kerry Byrne to president in 2015. TQL is the second-largest freight brokerage firm in the nation, headquartered in Union Township. It recently moved one of its Greater Cincinnati offices to Batavia from Milford. The company operates 28 offices in 19 states.

“Kerry has helped to lead the company from $192 million in sales and 250 employees when he came in 2005 to more than $2.1 billion in sales and 3,100 employees in 2014,” Ken Oaks, founder and CEO, said in a news release. “He has been instrumental in helping take us from an entrepreneurial startup to an industry leader in truckload logistics.”

Byrne joined TQL in 2005. He served as executive vice president for the next decade.

As president, Byrne will continue to oversee the company’s sales and training operations. Last year, the company hit sales of more than $2 billion and moved more than 1 million loads.

“Ken Oaks has built a great company with more than 3,100 exceptional team members. This includes a tremendously talented executive and sales leadership team, many of whom have been with TQL since the early years,” Byrne said in the release. “We will continue to work together to drive growth and create opportunities across our national footprint.”

Prior to joining TQL, Byrne spent 17 years at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati.

Doug Bolton introduced Kerry Byrne, and said, “My ‘rolodex’ is enhanced by knowing Kerry. TQL is one of three companies to make INC Magazine’s “5,000 Top Growth Companies” list for 13 consecutive years. Kerry was in charge for all 13 years. 

Kerry told us that he and Ken Oaks have been friends ever since third grade. Whereas Ken went to University of Dayton and began working for the Castellini Company for 11 years as a produce buyer, I went to UC and then went to work for Fifth Third Bank for the next 17 years. Ken was meant to work entrepreneurially. In 1996, Ken called and said he wanted to get together with me and another of our friends, Brian, to talk about the freight brokerage business. Ken told us that “it was next to impossible to get something delivered without a broker. Many times they were unreliable or even sleazy.” He said that he wanted to move into the freight brokerage business himself. “We will treat the drivers well. I think there’s an opportunity to make a good living.” He said this as he was drinking a Heineken and I a Budweiser, so I decided “it must be a good idea!”

In the first year, Ken said he grossed (sales) $1.1M. Much of it was on the weekends when delivery people failed to follow through with their promised deliveries. He often called to help and gained customers when deliveries fell through. He didn’t have any credit early on. In the first two years there wasn’t much growth.  He had only 2 -3 employees. By the third year, he told me there was a bigger need than he thought. He realized, “If we train more people, we’d grow the business.” They did just that. Pretty soon they hired more people. People who were friends with someone in the company got the new jobs. Many were from Georgetown, KY including some of the football players. About 25% of their freight was still in produce with refrigerator trucks. 

In the first seven years, I would hear about the business, while I was loving working at Fifth Third. One day I met Ken for breakfast at First Watch in Rookwood. He told me he needed a higher level finance person. He asked what I thought about my career at the bank. I told him that I expected that I would have to move in order to move up the ranks at the bank. He said, “We are at $90M in sales. We need help.”  I became his 220th employee. 

By 2004, we grew to $101M in sales and then onto $109M the next year.  Now we have grown to $294M and we have 4,300 employees. As it turns out we can’t hire enough people to meet the demand from just one location, so we are expanding across the US as our leaders pick the cities; e.g. a city or so in each of 19 states. In Arkansas, the wife of one of our leaders took a job in Fayetteville with Walmart. The husband moved to Fayetteville and has opened an office there as well. As the leaders see a need, we are expanding among the states filling in with more and more cities. 

We don’t own trucks. According to Ken, “that is our worst nightmare.” We do own the people (so to speak) and the technology. We talk strategy one time per year. We are now dealing with larger and larger shippers. This means more services.

We are moving into rail. We “block and tackle” well. We’ve gone into LTL (Less Than a Truck Load) and have grown that into $100M. We are looking toward the ocean next. 

We had 1,569,602 total loads in 2017. Canadian freight is doing well in the past few years. We want to have an office there soon. 

Sales has grown in transporting, but we see new growth from logistics. We have been hiring 50% of our logistics trainees right out of college. We have a good training program. 

We try to satisfy whatever state-of-the-art technology our sales people need to make the sale and to keep us growing. They can’t wait for information. We bring them on as an apprentice for six months and then train them in sales. Our salespeople work with accounts and with a sales manager. We encourage “ownership” among trainees. If a person is “difficult,” we address the issue directly and early on. As we grow, we address ways to be more efficient and help our people to continue improving themselves. We only talk sales numbers when we are about to hit a milestone. 

Net revenue pays the bills. We hit $519M in 2017. Twelve years ago, I hit $1M in sales. Today we have 62 employees who have hit $1M and some have even hit $2.5M. We “own” the middle market. We have a good model. Account executives build the business,  then we grow it from there with other services.

Presently we service Walmart and Costco. We are constantly thinking about how to deliver service even more professionally and efficiently. 

The largest transport/logistics company is C.H. Robinson out of Minnesota who did $15B in 2017. We’re second in the industry. There aren’t that many competitors in refrigerated freight because of the claims. We started there so it is second nature to us. We figure everyone has to eat. In down times, we service grocery stores, but when the boom times return we service restaurants. Whatever the business or economy’s cycle, our priority is to align ourselves with our customers.

In May each year, we contribute $1 per truckload to Yellow Ribbon gift packages for armed service people. This resonates with our carriers and customers, because many have been in the service. We do the same for cancer in October. One account executive saw a need and moved playground equipment when the 26 were killed at Sandy Hook. One playground was donated and sent to commemorate each person who died. We give approximately $1,000 per month for organizations that matter. We helped non-profit organizations with truckloads of supplies for hurricane victims.

In 2018, we will focus on brokerage accounts with special attention on LTL and railroads. We will continue to invest in technology. We are facing competition from UBER and Amazon in our business. UBER has digital apps for freight hauling. Each is identified as a disruptor. We had an app years ago. Amazon can enter with competitive pricing because it doesn’t need to make money. With these threats looming, we are trying our best to get more efficient. We have a 125 person IT staff. TQL is largely millennials. We have chosen Benevity over United Way during National Giving Week. This lets these millennials choose (we learned they can’t be forced). We always want to encourage their engagement in giving back. As a result 59% of our employees early on engaged and now they have grown to 75% engagement. 

It is too hard to look out five years into the future, but we can look out six months so we make six-month plans. We expect 35% growth in sales in the near future.

1. Entrants?  There are smaller start-ups locally. Many of whom worked for us at one time. There are low barriers to entry. Half of them do well, but the other half cheats and steals. We have to take them to court. 

2. Do you hire athletes? No, not necessarily athletes, but instead we hire competitive people. We even look to hire chess players. We want to hire someone “who is hungry.” We want someone who had to work his/her way through college. 

3. Are there any niche commodities? Yes, produce, food, and beverages are always big for us. We are now working with other 3PLs. They’re not as efficient as us. We look for commodities that have the biggest margins; e.g., Christmas trees and steel.

4. We didn’t do ice cream. Now we don’t do cigarettes, but do more high-value products. We purchase insurance to cover in case of loss. We began hauling light poles. This has led us to work with other light pole companies. 

5. Compensation? $35,000 is the starting salary, then the account brokers get 25% of the margin. Sales managers are rewarded for the sales effort as a team. 

6. Do you deal with Kroger? Yes, from warehouse to warehouse or from farm to warehouse. We leave the hauling from store to store to them. They do that piece with their own trucks.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

President/General Manager
FC Cincinnati

Jeff Berding is the President and General Manager of the new local soccer franchise, FC Cincinnati. He is a member of the ownership group led by Carl Lindner III and his family, Scott Farmer, George Joseph, Jack Wyant and Steve Hightower. FC Cincinnati is one of 29 teams in the United Soccer League (USL), the largest soccer league in the United States and Canada. The USL is one level below Major League Soccer. The team’s long-term goal is to prove that Cincinnati is a big league soccer town in order to earn the right to be awarded an MLS Franchise. The team plays its home games at Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. In one of his first moves, Jeff hired US soccer legend John Harkes as the first Head Coach.

Prior to his August 2015 founding of FC Cincinnati, Jeff served for 19 years as an executive with the Cincinnati Bengals. Jeff led the Sales and Public Affairs efforts of the NFL team. He joined the Bengals in 1996 after managing the successful campaign to win voter approval of public funding for the Reds and Bengals stadiums. In soccer, Jeff served for three years as President of Kings Hammer Soccer Club, the second largest select club in Greater Cincinnati.

Bringing professional soccer to Cincinnati is consistent with Jeff’s track record of working to make his hometown a better place to live, work, and raise a family. He was elected to his first term on Cincinnati’s City Council in November 2005, and was re-elected in 2007 and 2009. He chaired the Rules & Government Operations Committee and was vice-chair of the Finance Committee. He was a leading voice for the business community, and along with Chris Bortz, worked with Tom Williams and Bob Castellini to create The Banks Working Group that has led to our dynamic new riverfront. 

Jeff is a fifth-generation Cincinnatian, born and raised in Westwood where he attended St. Catharine Elementary School and St. Xavier High School. Jeff played grade school soccer before playing varsity football and running track at St. X. He graduated cum laude from Miami University, and in 1999 earned his M.B.A. with honors from Xavier University. While serving as a City Council Member, Jeff was a member of the 40 Under 40 Class of 2006. 

Working with friends, Jeff helped form the coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and leaders of the NAACP to reform Cincinnati’s city government. After gathering input from citizens across the city, he led the coalition in 1999, to pass the reform that allowed city voters to directly elect a stronger mayor. Jeff also chaired various committees and worked with social service agencies and businesses to better direct United Way funding to agencies that make a real difference in Cincinnati neighborhoods. For more than 20 years, Jeff has volunteered with the Chamber of Commerce to study and advance issues that improve the economic environment. 

Jeff is the father of the sixth generation of Cincinnati Berdings — his three teenagers: Allie, Jack, and Grace. They live in Mt. Lookout where Jeff and his wife, Lindsay, are members of St. Mary’s Parish in Hyde Park.

Sam Scoggins introduced Jeff Berding to us Thursday. Sam said FC Cincinnati has attracted approximately 339,000 fans to the Nippert Stadium to watch the soccer games which is more than 21,000 per game — almost two times the number of fans attracted by our nearest competitor. This is a remarkable feat for a team that has mere 3 year tenure and only two seasons! 

FC Cincinnati’s Story

“On August 12, 2015, FC Cincinnati was launched. Yes, I am a recovering politician. I used to be somebody!” Jeff said, but quickly he reassured us that because he still wanted to serve the community, he realized as he watched his two daughters and one son play soccer on select teams, that “Soccer is a growing sport and it’s growing faster than any other sport.”  He decided that Cincinnati could support this sport so he sat down and wrote a business plan and pitched it right away to the Bengals and Reds organizations. 

The team opened on April 9, 2016. We’ve played two seasons and we are ready for our third. 

The key ingredients in the business plan are the following.

Strong Ownership

Carl Lindner III of American Financial Group called and asked to be the majority owner which he shares with Scott Farmer of Cintas, George Joseph of Joseph Auto, and me, Jeff Berding.

Experienced Sports Management Team

We now have two years and are continuing to build on our successes. We already have a winning record!

Professional Caliber Venue

Beginning in 2017, we sought a stadium that would meet the MLS standards for being “soccer-specific in an urban environment.” The site in the West End would be ideal. It backs right into OTR along Central Parkway. We are, however, still working on this up to the deadline, Tuesday, April 17.

Top Level Quality Soccer

We are one level less than MLS and sometimes we outdraw on a given weekend other competing MLS teams. We were invited last year by MLS to become part of MLS expansion…..on our first-year record. The Enquirer wrote, “FC Cincinnati is now the ‘Gold Standard’ of Cincinnati sports pride.”

Creation of a Relevant Sports Brand

We’re able to show that we are a proven market, not a project like many of our competitors are. Polling shows our image as compared with the Reds and the Bengals to be as follows. 

Team                     FC Cincinnati             Reds             Bengals

Unfavorable                 14                         15                 38

Favorable                     62                         79                 51

Years in Play             2 yrs.                     160yrs.           50yrs.

Branding requires visibility and involvement in the community. We are family friendly and did I mention, “We are winning!” 

We’ve become a relevant sports brand in two years. I call it a “cultural ubiquity.”

Ticket sales: 4,000 sold in 24 hours. When fans are asked what word comes to mind when they think of FC Cincinnati, they say, “Exciting! Great! Cincinnati! Family! Fun!” The fan group is diverse. What we’ve seen is “when they come, they continue.” 

When asked to make predictions for a future business expansion plan, I can’t imagine how to predict the MLS record for the next five years.  We project that we will need $400M in total funds from $150M in public funds and $250M in private financing for the stadium. Oakley isn’t close enough to downtown Cincinnati. We are moving ahead in the West End. I want it to be “where it can do the most good, where it will be welcome, and where it will add to the community.”

Games are played from 7pm to 9pm. There are 20 home games per year. Soccer is neighborhood friendly. We won’t touch Taft HS. We will build across the street from Taft HS. We will hire locally. Many construction jobs will be required initially. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) will receive their full due in taxes. This will require a land exchange with CPS.  Many have raised questions about the displacement of current residents. To answer this, “No homes will be taken.” 

MLS has generated $64M in economic activity annually. It provides its teams global exposure by broadcasting games to 170 countries with an estimated 500M viewers. We have the opportunity of hosting the World Cup and the Gold Cup in the future with our stadium. 

Cincinnati is a growing regional presence. It has been the “fastest growing city in Ohio” until just recently. We have the support of the business community. 

Sports is a distraction. It connects us in civic pride. It enables us to make memories that last, together. FC Cincinnati is no more expensive than going to a movie, where at a movie you can’t talk to one another! In life we suffer loss. Movies can transform us: take the movie “Invincible” that is a favorite of mine about the Eagles. Sports can transform us while it connects us.  

On behalf of FC Cincinnati:    “WE.   ARE.   READY.”

1. If you’ve already sold 17,000 season tickets, why build a stadium with 21,000 seats? Shouldn’t you think of expanding? Yes, we are averaging 25 – 30K ticket holders this year. We are not spending millions on architects. The present stadium can expand by 9,000 with additional investment of $70 – $90M. We will need to finance this. We know people are always willing to spend more for the best seats, but we want to keep entry-level seats affordable for families. 

2. In soccer, many teams have youth academies to bring up the youth with the best and most-talented coaches. Will you have a youth academy?  We will not create a youth academy here. We want to be a resource to all our existing youth clubs. 

We do have interest in a team for women’ s soccer, though, like the one down in Orlando. We have talked to them about it. Soccer is equally opportune for girls as well as boys. 

3. How inclusive do you plan to be of “West Enders” when hiring? We are working with a clearinghouse who will hire for all jobs. The Casino is the best model for inclusion. The Casino spent government or taxpayer money. We want to be in the 30% range like the Casino. We plan to start a West End soccer program and an athletic program. 

4. Is the Cincinnati market big enough to support three professional teams? Carl Lindner said, “We’re already here. We aren’t going anywhere.”  Soccer isn’t as expensive as NFL or baseball. It is perfect for a third team. NHL is too expensive. We can cooperate with the Reds since they have 180 games. 

5. What percentage of the attendees are UC students? Do you think attendance could drop if you leave Nippert Stadium? 

We have checked that. Fewer than 500 tickets go to UC students per game (even though our sampling method included using emails only).  We’re not too concerned. We do want them to continue coming to the games…. and to bring their friends and family!

6. How does major league soccer compare with NFL watching?  I accessed the data. It ranks as follows: Soccer, Basketball, NASCAR, and then NFL.  Professional soccer watching has grown over ten years, plus throw in girls as soccer players.  The NFL has headwinds. 

I wouldn’t invest, if I didn’t see growth. The NFL has 2B and US Soccer has 150M. We are seeking TV deals for all the FC Cincinnati games. MLS has all the broadcasting rights for professional soccer. TV coverage looks like this for soccer: 45 minutes of play, 15 minutes for half time, then another 45 minutes of play and go home.  One of our new owners wants to see a team for grandkids.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Mount St. Joseph University

Dr. H. James Williams became the seventh president of Mount St. Joseph University on March 15, 2016. James Williams, Ph.D., CPA, CMA, JD, LLM, earned a B.S. Degree in Accounting, at North Carolina Central University, an M.B.A. Degree in Accounting at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), a Ph.D. Degree in Accounting, at the University of Georgia (Athens), and J.D. and LL.M. (Taxation) Degrees, at Georgetown University Law Center. President Williams is also a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Management Accountant, with a wealth of practical experience, having worked in the public accounting profession and in the legal profession as a corporate and tax attorney.

During his career, Dr. Williams has made significant contributions to the Academy, receiving recognition for his outstanding teaching at Georgetown University, and three “Teacher of the Year Awards,” at Florida A&M and Texas Southern Universities.  He has also received recognition and numerous awards for his work with students and student organizations – as well as a number of community-service recognitions and awards, including the Michigan Chronicle’s “Men of Excellence” award, the HBCU’s “Annual Living Legends” award, and Congresswoman Wilson’s “Role Model of Excellence” award. Finally, Dr. Williams’s research work is widely published in scholarly and practitioner journals, including Accounting and Finance, Issues in Accounting Education, The Journal of Accountancy, The Practical Accountant, The Journal of Small Business Management, and The CPA Journal. 

Dr. Williams serves on the Board of Directors of Community Health Systems, Inc. (a publicly held, Fortune 200 company), the Boy Scouts of America (Dan Beard Council), the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and on the Board of Governors of The Metropolitan Club of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. He also serves on the Higher Education Advisory Board of the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), and is a member of The Cincinnatus Association. 

President Williams hails from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  He is married to Carole Campbell Williams (of Flint, Michigan).  The Williamses have two young-adult children.

Prior to becoming The Mount’s President, Dr. W served as Dean, at his alma mater North Carolina Central University and at Grand Valley University in Grand Rapids, MI, and as President of Fisk University in Nashville, TN. 

Doug Bolton introduced Dr. W to the club. He said Dr. W grew up in Winston-Salem, NC as the son of an R J Reynolds factory worker. Later as a young man, Dr. W worked at R J Reynolds himself. Dr. W told Doug that it was the hardest job and the most boring” because he spent each day, all day long, loading cigarette filters. He told Doug that he was reminded of Abraham Lincoln who said, “Nothing happens by accident. The past creates the present. The present creates the future.”

In 1878, Senator Sergeant introduced the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. It was passed 41 years later in 1919 by Congress. Ohio was the 5th state to ratify it. One month later in 1920, Mount St. Joseph opened its doors. It began with 20 students. It has been on a mission for education ever since. “The Mount” catered to women-only for many years. “In 1986, it gave men a chance and became coeducational.” 

Today The Mount is quite different. It has 2,058 total students of whom 711 are graduate students. It has become a $52M – $55M enterprise. The Mount employs 611 full-time and 286 part-time. There are 107 full-time faculty members.  Its economic impact from 2011 to 2016 is $205M in net operations and $184M net income. 

The emphasis at Mt. St. Joseph University is liberal arts. We want students to hit the ground running with proper intellectual and professional skills to be able to adapt to the modern workplace. We want our students to be empowered to be competitive and compassionate. We want them to know more than what to do; instead we want them to know how to get it done, with compassion. We want them to think of more than just themselves, but also to strive to make a meaningful impact on the world.

Mt. St. Joe is proud to offer a 11:1 student faculty ratio. We want to grow that a bit, but it is what makes us competitive. Our teachers are great. They are experts in their field, loving their disciplines as well as their students. They also care about one another. That is motivating. We are smaller by design. It is our size that creates what I call “Mount Magic.” We have 55 programs/majors. We blend liberal arts with our professional curriculum. There is a focus on the intellectual skills that will enable students to be life-long learners such as listening, creativity, and empathy. If one can read and comprehend, then one can adapt. 

Mt. St. Joe boasts 17,000 alums of which 11,000 live locally in the tri-state region. They want to stay here. We offer each and every student, not just students of business or nursing, and an internship. We give them academic credit in service learning programs. Some students, like a history major, for example, are employed by a not-for-profit to get their work done that is paid by Mt. St. Joe. Our nursing students score in the top 90% and pass at a 97% clip. This makes us #1 in the city. Physical Therapy students pass at a 100% clip. Nursing and the Department of Physical Therapy are among the best in the country. We offer partnerships in law and chemistry with University of Dayton, Chase, and St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. Partnerships enable students in their fourth year of undergraduate school to begin law school so that they may graduate in both, in 6 years usually, but there are some instances where students have done it in 5. 

Our new program, Physician’s Assistant, is the only program in this region. We have 32 slots available and 791 applicants from all over the US. The first class is among the very best. 

We have 22 Division III Athletic Programs. There are no scholarships. Students go to class and then to the field or to the court and give a full 100% in both endeavors.

Students are encouraged to give back beyond themselves in our community outreach program. They are also exposed to the world through study abroad programs. 

Our 2025 Transformation program is focused on the Mt. St. Joseph University that will fare better in its next 100 years than it did in its first 100. (Celebrating 100 years in 2020) We want to move The Mount forward. It can’t rest on its laurels. We want to enhance the student experience. Graduates are placed 98.5% of the time within six months or they go on to graduate schools. The physical infrastructure of The Mount hasn’t changed since the Sisters of Mercy built the buildings in 1962. We are undertaking a new building program over the next 8 years. First, there will be a new recreation center that is open to students, alums, and to the public. The Field House will have a turf field and a court. We are seeking environmental sustainability.

Mt. St. Joseph University needs visibility and brand recognition. It is not enough for folks to merely be aware of it, but instead we believe we have exactly what folks want so they will come be part of it.

1. What is the tuition at The Mount?  It is less than Thomas Moore and Xavier Universities, but it is higher than UC. 
2. Does liberal arts have a core curriculum? Yes, we focus on the common good: reading, writing, and developing new skill sets. We have a liberal arts major with elements across fields with combinations such as history and English. All students begin with the core curriculum.
3. How would you describe high school kids’ abilities as they arrive at The Mount? Are they ready for a college curriculum?  Some are ready, but others are not. We have all kinds. We don’t want to get in the way of the best students; yet we want to help the others.
4. Describe the new athletic facility and where will it be located?  It will cost approximately $89M and will be located on the west side of the campus. We are planning to break ground in 2019.


Thursday, March 29, 2018


Thursday’s Rotary Opening Day meeting happened be a BREAKFAST at Kenwood Country Club! We heard about the upcoming Cincinnati Reds season with Mark Sheldon, a reporter, from Major League Baseball. Mark has covered Reds baseball since 2006 for MLB. He identifies, creates, and produces “feature” and “game day” stories that cover breaking news events. He also conducts daily interviews with management, players, and front office personnel. Who better to chat with on Opening Day than someone in-the-know on all things Cincinnati Reds? 

Owen Wrassman introduced Mark to the club. He told us that Mark began as a “beat writer” covering the Minnesota Twins. Today he is in his 18th season of covering baseball and in his 13th covering the Cincinnati Reds. Mark grew up one hour north of New York City. He came to Cincinnati in order to attend the University of Cincinnati. He has covered baseball on various networks ranging from Channel 5 to ESPN. When he decided to jointly launch MLB, it went from nothing to very large overnight. They turned it into a billion dollar business in New York City and later sold it to Disney for $3.5B.  He enjoys writing about players and their injuries, challenges, and highlight moments from the club house to the press box. 

Owen thanked Bryan Vielhauer for making the large Opening Day Line Up sign appearing at the front of the room for our meeting today. As it turns out, Mark mentioned there is no opening line up; instead there’s what they call a “work out” that comes later. There is a four-man rotation until one player “plays out.” The line up follows with Mark’s comments. 

Billy Hamilton OF
Jesse Winker OF
Joey Votto 1B
Eugenio Suarez 3B
Scooter Gennett 2B
Jose Peraza SS
Scott Schlebler OF
Tucker Barnhart C
Homer Bailey P

In addition, Owen introduced 20 year (celebrating now) Rotarian, Jim Crowley, the world’s “biggest baseball fan” who will lead the discussion with Mark. 

Jim asked Mark to go down the list and give us his comments about each player. Mark’s commentary follows. “Billy is a sore subject. (More was said, but his NYC speed style of talking left me standing at “Home Plate.”) Scott Schlebler is not another Billy Hamilton, but he is capable and adequate in center field. Joey Votto is a slow-moving glacier. He is one of the most interesting I’ve covered in 11 seasons. He is very private. Cincinnati has one of the best hitters here. We don’t get many opportunities like this to watch him play. In about one more season of playing like he has, I predict that he will be invited into the Hall of Fame. He is self-deprecating. Early on he was a no-nonsense kind of guy, but now his sense of humor is emerging. He’s a lead-by-example person. From Suarez to Hamilton, his team mates watch him and emulate what they see. Actually MANY other players from all teams watch his videos and try to copy what he does.” 

“Tanking” is when small teams who can’t buy championship players, trade for those who will likely grow into excellence. They have to sell patience and there is a plan for 5 – 7 years to success. The NY Giants, for example, have taken a different path. They, like other large market teams, can buy instant success. This makes small teams nervous. The Giants are terrible with a farm system. 

Nick Senzel is a good one to watch. He is very accomplished for a 23 year old.  He played 3B at University of Tennessee. He’s now been moved to Short Stop during spring training. In Louisville he’s at 2B. If there’s an injury among the Reds, he can be moved up. 

Homer Bailey is a sad-armed pitcher. Jim asked, “Why is he always hurt?” I recommend you read the book, The Arm. Throwing a baseball at 98 mph and curve balls regularly is not normal for the human body. For example, when the Metts have all four healthy at one time, they count it “Lucky!” The Reds think that it is a Reds-only problem. No! It’s a human anatomy problem. Tommy Johns surgery is good, but it isn’t a panacea. Weight lifting is a negative, I think, for pitchers. In the old days, pitchers used the body they were given.  Starters? You can’t sign a big pitcher when you have 94 losses. We’re rebuilding in our farm system, but many are hurt, even there. Homer is a finesse pitcher. He’s at 95 mph. Three elbow surgeries take a little velocity away. Thirty-two starts get harder and harder to do. He was terrible after the third surgery, but he is now improving.

This year’s bench? Power off the bench. Devin Mesoraco was good this spring. He’s moving around well. He’s a big guy off the bench. The Reds have a good bench to start with. 

1. New rules for mound visits? There’s a clock between bats to speed up the game. They don’t want people to get hurt. Pauses are for subterfuge.
2. Nationals fired manager? Yes, and they hired Dave Martinez. Dusty has now been fired twice. It came from the top, the Lerner Family. They are used to a winning campaign. I feel badly for Dusty, but hear good things about Dave Martinez.
3. Why no 3rd inning stretch?  7th inning stretch is traditional. Game always has nine innings. That will not likely change. 
4. Mesoraco has had many injuries and subsequently many surgeries. This has enabled Tucker Barnhart to evolve into a golden glove catcher. This year Mesoraco is back up. i saw him hurrying between bases. He is up and down. As luck would have it, Mesoraco broke his foot during a game when he was hit by the ball in Chicago. You just can’t explain his injuries.
5. Is Bryan Price the right manager for the team. He speaks well to the Press, but inside the locker room is he right? He is very smart. He’s growing into the job. He’s five years into it. He is becoming more and more comfortable. He shows up about 11:AM and prepares for the 7:PM game. It wasn’t his idea to rebuild. He has not be given a roster. I sure would like to see what would happen if we had a full deck! He’s a lame duck manager with no contract. The Castellinis want to see progress. 
6. Barry Larkin is the special assistant to the manager. He is out in the field evaluating talent in farm teams. He could be a good manager. He has other interests, however, in his son and daughter’s careers. The track record for Hall of Famers is that they don’t do well as managers. 

I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote. You must be a member of MLB for ten years. I didn’t cover baseball for the last 18 years. So, Yes, I’ll be voting in 8 more years.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

Dave Jenike became Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in July 2007 succeeding Greg Hudson. Prior to this he worked in the Zoo’s Education Department in various capacities – serving as Director of Education and finally as Vice President of Education and Facilities – since 1990. He is responsible for all aspects of the day-to-day business of the Zoo, including Animal Operations, Animal Health, Park Operations, Facilities and Planning, Marketing and Public Relations, Education, Membership and Horticulture.

Dave earned both his Bachelors degree (Zoology) and his Masters degree (Environmental Science) from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In addition, he  completed an Environmental Institutional Management Course at Delaware University in Ashland, Delaware.

Note: Thane Maynard was originally scheduled to speak, but unfortunately was called away to attend the funeral of a close family friend.

When Thane was asked what the best part of the past ten years had been, he said, “I came to the Zoo because I love animals. I just wish I had appreciated the people more.” If you think of Thane Maynard as the “hood ornament” of the Cincinnati Zoo, then Dave Jenike is the “driver behind the steering wheel.”

We learned that Dave is a graduate of Walnut Hills HS. His parents were school teachers which meant his summers were filled with adventures away from home exploring the national parks. Dave told us that it was those trips that spawned his love of wildlife. 

Dave said, “Since that time I came to be known as an Eagle (graduate of Walnut Hill HS) and a Red Hawk (Miami U. of Ohio). I still love to travel and I have become a taco lover. My best job, however, is being “Dad” to a 15 year old daughter.”

Every day as I come to work at the second oldest Zoo in our nation, I am grateful. The Zoo attracted 1.9M visitors in 2017, but I must quickly admit Fiona had something to do with that. 65,000 households come back again and again, sometimes twice each week. My office is directly beside Swan Lake so I see them myself. 

Zoo and Community
The Zoo is a great partner with the community. It has partnered with Barbara Dundee, for example, and the Marvin Lewis Community Fund as well as Children’s Hospital to help kids with developmental disabilities. The Zoo is multi-faceted. It should be available to all people in the community. It is a place to create multi-generational memories where “we take our grandkids, just like our grandparents took us.”

How can we insure access to the Zoo?  We have initiated a “Living Classroom Access Fund” that provides free admission to 65,000 school kids. It is sponsored by many corporate and family foundations. We are working on “overnights,” or programs for kids and adults to come, learn, and spend the night listening to the sounds of the Zoo animals. It also extends beyond to children who receive food supplementation to receive Zoo entry for a reduced admission of $3. We are the first Zoo in the nation to do this. This is smart for us to do because it involves all of us to make it happen.

Children’s Hospital has partnered with the Zoo to give the children access. Research indicates 1 in 65 kids will be diagnosed along the autism spectrum. This translates into 20,000 to 30,000 visitors. When you add their families, there are over 100,000 visitors who want to learn more about the Zoo’s animals and plants. How can we provide this access?  First of all, I work with an amazing staff. From the experience in the parking lot to the time inside, we are being coached by Stepping Stones to better understand the needs of the developmentally disabled. We are incorporating such features as “calming rooms” and special pathways to exhibits to meet their needs. There will be a transformation over the next three years thanks to grant funding. 

The Fiona Phenomenon 
Why Fiona (and not one of the other animals)? Why is she so special? First of all, I must admit she is so charismatic. She just lights up when she sees a camera! (He showed the picture of the young man down on his knee proposing to his bride in front of Fiona’s window where she was “smiling” underwater at the couple!)

Was all the attention given to Fiona planned? She has turned out to be a global phenomenon. We have a story that engages the intellect and the empathy of an audience. They have become “our” audience! 

The truth is that we planned for Henry and Beebe, male and female hippopotamuses, to get together. Once that happened and Beebe was thought to be pregnant, we taught her to allow ultra sound examinations. Indeed we could see a calf! 

Fiona was born six weeks early weighing 29 pounds. She couldn’t stand or nurse. Zoo caregivers jumped in to help her with fluids. They kept her warm massaging her skin to keep her alert. The Zoo’s veterinarian was right there all the way. Typically if a  zoobaby is born, most zoos don’t tell the public for 30 – 40 days due to the risk to the newborn. Being premature, this was a long shot, but it was also a very important story. It was authentic and it was educational. Fiona took her first steps at night. She had to have 24-hour care. 

A few weeks in, Fiona began to teeth, but didn’t gain any extra weight. She was losing water and couldn’t get the fluids that were vital to her young life. Her veins kept collapsing. Finally we called in specialists from Children’s Hospital who succeeded. Afterward she began progressing normally. 

A Little Hippo with a Big Impact
We began getting messages from families with preemies and then from families who had parents in hospice. All said Fiona’s story had lifted them. We began posting about Fiona’s progress every day. After about six months, however, we thought we might be offering “too much Fiona” so we quit the daily post. No sooner had we skipped that an avalanche of feedback arrived saying how uplifting her story was to them and how important it was to create “care.” News of Fiona went around the globe. She connected us to one another with empathy. Poems and songs were written that poured in. One said she is the “best of her name” which referred to other animals in zoos who had been named Fiona. 

She appeared in the New York Times Style page. We certainly are not fashion trend-setters, but once that happened Fiona went from 100,000 FaceBook friends to 800,000. This is more than the San Diego Zoo! 

Why is this important? This keeps the Cincinnati Zoo in front of and engaged with the community. It is Cincinnati reaching across the US and into 70 countries. “We have had more visitors from outside our area than ever before.” Many more corporate partnerships have developed as a result. Many children’s books have been written and are available in the Zoo’s gift shop. The bottom line is that we didn’t know how this would turn out, but we wanted to tell the story. 

To conclude, please notice Laura, one of our animal keepers, who is strutting an Eagle Owl named Caspian, the largest in the world. It is capable of bringing down a small deer! 

1. Tell us about Thane’s “90 Second Naturalist” on NPR.  It is broadcast across the nation. It records five days per week. There is no staff. Thane just enjoys reading about wildlife and then calls people to learn more. He is so curious.
2. Describe the Zoos land holdings.  We have 80 acres in Avondale. We also have a farm in Claremont County that breeds cheetahs since 1992. It is the second largest. Breeding can’t occur in the Zoo because Cheetahs need several eligible partners. This farm supports our Cheetah Exhibit. Finally, we have a 600-acre farm in Mason. We have actually expanded a wetland so we can grow our own hay. We want complete control over the animals’ food supply chain. We grow rather unusual crops like bamboo, and mulberry and aspen trees. We work with the power companies to catch the trees cut that were growing too close to and around power lines. 
3. What is the process of naming a Zoo animal? We turn it over to the keepers. They count these animals as if they were their own children. The public sends in names and the keepers whittle the selection down to three, then decide. Fiona’s keepers said when Fiona was newly born, she looked up at one of them with her little ears straight up and they thought her ears were so Shrek. 

Our Zoo keepers think of the animals like they are their family. Cecil Jackson, for example, is a second generation elephant keeper.

Please remember there is a Zoo Levy in May. Vote for it. There is no extra cost to you.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pure Romance
“Lessons Learned”

In 1983, inspired by a feature on The Phil Donahue Show, Patty Brisben joined a direct sales company and began holding in-home parties focusing on intimacy products. Every year she ranked among the top five consultants in the company for sales and sponsorship, and 10 years later, she launched Pure Romance from the basement of her suburban Cincinnati home.

In the beginning, Patty did everything. She packed orders, shipped products, planned parties, and signed up new consultants—all while raising her four children on her own. Over the next two decades, her hard work paid off as Pure Romance grew into what she had always dreamed it would be: A place where women could take control of their financial futures while raising their families.

In 2000, Patty’s son, Chris Cicchinelli joined Pure Romance helping his mother grow the company from $3 million in annual revenue to more than $220 million in 2017.  In 2006, she launched the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health. To date, the foundation has raised more than $4 million to support research projects and educational initiatives to ensure women have the information they need to live healthy, fulfilled lives. The Foundation partners with universities and research organizations to study sexual dysfunction and disorders and offers educational initiatives about sexual health issues.

Patty believes the best way to help others is by educating them. In 2008, she put this belief into practice by writing her first book, Pure Romance Between the Sheets, with vital sexual health information, relationship advice, and the most commonly asked questions from her days as a consultant. In 2011, Patty released another book, this time collaborating with Dr. Keri Peterson as an exclusive ebook, Sexy Ever After: Intimacy Post-Cancer. Patty’s inspirational story and commitment to educating and empowering women has made her a respected expert in sexual health and relationships—she’s been interviewed on CNN, ABC’s The View and VH1. She’s also been featured in The New York Times as well as magazines such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan and Entrepreneur.
Like most mothers, Patty is fueled by her family. Her four children are the reason she started this company and worked so hard to make it a success. Today, Pure Romance continues to be a family business, as all of her children are involved with the company. 

Dave Carlin introduced Patty Brisben to the club. He said Patty went from being an in-home entrepreneur having parties selling intimate products in 1983 to becoming a top salesperson. By 2000 Pure Romance “romanced” her to become its CEO. 

Patty began by saying “Pure Romance is one of my most favorite things to talk about.”  Many ask me how I got started. I’ll begin there. I was on a leave of absence from work just after I had had our last child. In the morning after I had gotten the kids settled, I usually turned on the TV to hear some adult conversation. I did my morning chores while listening. On this day the Phil Donahue Show had a panel of women who had started a business in their own home. They talked about their business and how it helped women “to take control in the bedroom, to communicate their needs to their husbands, and to learn about their own bodies.”  I wanted everything they had talked about. I began thinking about it so much that I made a phone call later that day when I was car-pooling the kids between events. I called my carpooling friend to tell her about the panel and how these women on the panel had changed their lives. The line went silent. My friend finally admitted that she had gone to a party just the night before at her next door neighbor’s house. She said it was packed with women and they had stood in line to make their purchases. The friend said, “I even bought some things and after last night, my husband said to me this morning, ‘This was better than any honeymoon!’” As soon as she got home from the carpool, she called the 800 number and spoke to a “consultant.” Afterward Patty said she thought, “I can do this!” I gave my savings from the budget to do it. You can imagine what my husband said about this. Add to it, “I don’t want my wife selling such products!”  Patty said she thought about her decision and decided if I don’t try, I will never know.  She immediately began calling friends. Not one said no! The day came for the first party. When the UPS driver came with the inventory, I was so embarrassed thinking that he “knew” what was in the box. I took it, signed for it, and ran inside. I didn’t know the first thing about what was inside the box. As the 15 – 29 girlfriends arrived they soon had doubled with their friends coming along. It was a real nail biting experience!  I did not know what to say to them.  Once we began, however, I saw they just wanted a safe environment where they could ask questions. 

After that I began asking every doctor and nurse about the questions that had been raised by the women. Soon I booked 5 more parties and then 5 more. Before long I was one of the top recruiters and remained there. 

I began to think about what would happen in the company if the CEO fell ill. It would likely fail. I knew they had to get “good people” in place to help. That was exactly the situation that presented itself to me. I was called one evening and asked to come to Cleveland the next morning at 10AM. I said that I could be there. When I arrived the company board (ten men) said, “We have been expecting you.” They said we know that you have created a great business for women. As a result we will give you an Adult Bookstore for Women. She said she was shocked, but said, “My business depends upon the safety of friends at home to ask questions of one another.” They said, “We’ll come back to you again in six months when the business dies. The offer stands.” Driving home I was so scared that I called my mentor for advice. I said, “I don’t know what I’m doing so how can I run a company?” He said that he didn’t know what he was doing either, but that he had surrounded himself with the best of the best to help him.  

Fast forward to 2000 to when my son had graduated from college. He was waiting for his new assignment to begin when he came to my office and said, “I want to take a look at your financials.” Two hours later he came back astounded that her company was a $1M business. I said, “How else do you think I was paying for your private school tuition?!”  I also said, “I want to give other women the chance to have financial freedom.” 

That same son who must have studied “Guerrilla Marketing” happened to notice an advertisement regarding a photographer, Felipe, was here to photograph stars and said, “You might be the next guest model.” The photographer was going to be at a Sharonville hotel. My son decided to go see what was going on himself. He said there were hundreds of women there and each one was paying $98 to have the photo shoot. This gave him the idea that he and I should go on the road and say “Meet Patty Brisben from 10AM till 8PM and have your own Pure Romance business.” He thought we should go to St. Louis because it is the second- most conservative town just behind Cincinnati. He said, “Mom if you can make it in these two bastions, you can make it anywhere!”  We set up at the Sheraton. We recruited two people that day. We decided to go on and had a party for 15 while we were there. Afterward, one woman stayed behind to ask questions about me and about the business. After my son and I drove back home, the phones began ringing. I had always had a rule that “No men were ever to answer the phone.”  My son couldn’t take the suspense any longer. He picked up the phone and heard a woman from St. Louis say that she wanted to become a consultant. He asked how she had heard about the company and she said, “From the front page of the St. Louis Dispatch. They had said “Pure Romance is the next Tupperware!”  50 new consultants signed up.  We had learned a big lesson: we had forgotten to add the media. 

Our next trip was to Atlanta where we made up for our mistake. We filled 3 ballrooms and hit $5M in retail. Pretty soon we needed a new warehouse. We set up in Milford. By 2002, we had 2,500 new consultants. By 2005, we became a $50M company. I began working at Indiana University to support women in business. This went on to include helping women with cancer, pain disorders, and in menopause. “What do you do?” they asked.  I learned that there wasn’t any research to help women with their questions. There was none at all. Women had been put on the back burner. I began thinking that “No woman should face these challenges without support.” I decided to pound the pavement to get research. 

In 2011, Pure Romance expanded into Puerto Rico, South Africa, Australia, and more. 

I didn’t know the Governor knew about Pure Romance. Thank you Cincinnati for enabling us to move into the former Delta building at 7th Street and Plum. I am so proud of our location every time I drive up to the building. 

In 2014, we met with a private equity firm about “Passion Parties.” There are 25,000 active people working for Pure Romance and we payout $25M in bonuses. We are currently working toward e-commerce where consultants can have virtual reality parties and women can order our products on-line. We want to gift each one of you a sampling of our best products: “Coochy,” a conditioning shave cream product that sells $14M annually and “Just Like Me” that is a $6M lubricant product. (FYI: Her gifts included the Omni Netherland’s dining room servers as well.) After the meeting she mentioned a men’s product called “Shave.”

1. What’s next for Pure Romance? We are just about to have our 25th anniversary. 5 – 7,000 people will be coming to Cincinnati for National Training. We’ve booked all the hotels. There will be a grand array of pink downtown!  Approximately $4M will go back to Cincinnati’s economy during our visit. 

We also have a plan to launch virtual parties for groups who want to watch consultants remotely by year end. 

We have a series of videos that we are producing in the future for women to come directly to our company with their questions. We have two boards: one for work questions and the other for medical help. We are still working with Indiana U. and partnering with UC.  The foundation can be found at

2. How does a person get started? Purchase your kit. Women are hungry for this connection.

3. Will you ever focus on men? We already do! (Ha! Ha!)  Actually I want to focus on one thing and do it right. My husband wound up working for me along the way.

4. As you enter new countries, do you have to make changes?  Yes, we do to accommodate the culture. We train our consultants differently. In Puerto Rico, for example, we have had to step backward. They do not get all products.

5. How are you protecting your branding?  We have added legal counsel. We surround ourselves with the best of the best. All make sure to protect it. 

I also design products so no other has these; therefore, there is no competition.


Thursday, March 8, 2018


The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick is a private organization dedicated to the principles of brotherhood, charity, and community service. Since the founding of the organization in 1771, the society has maintained a tradition of openness to Irish as well as non-Irish men of goodwill, without regard to ethnic or religious origin. As the society moves into the new millennium, its membership continues to grow and its commitment to the founding principles and traditions is strong.

Thursday the group of 40+ members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick chorus serenaded getting us into the Irish spirit by performing traditional Irish songs. The chorus sings year round at various concerts, events, pubs, and assorted “wakes and weddings,” averaging 35 performances per year!

The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick filled the Hall of Mirrors with their acapella sound. From their repertoire we learned that: 

Irish love songs are usually sad.

Their second most requested song after Danny Boy is Shenandoah.

As we joined to clap in unison, Clancy had the last say.

Ellis Island received its first immigrant on January 1, 1892. Her name was Annie Moore. She was 15 years of age and from county Cork in Ireland. Her passport was “courage” since she was so young. 

Afterward as President Al wished the Friendly Sons well and thanked them for their performance, he happened to mention that he, too, had passed through Ellis Island as a young boy of 6. Even though he doesn’t remember that day, we at Cincinnati Rotary can now mark it as one of the best moments in our history.


Thursday, March 1, 2018


The Rotary Club of Cincinnati is again teaming up with the American Institute of Public Service (AIPS) as a local sponsor of the Jefferson Award to help find and honor individuals in our community who go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to their volunteer efforts in the Greater Cincinnati area.

In partnership with the Enquirer Media and Local 12, The Rotary Club of Cincinnati will be looking to recognize ordinary people who do extraordinary things without the expectation of recognition or reward.  These are individuals who are changing and improving our community, while addressing an important issue facing our area.

The Jefferson Award, which is recognized as the Nobel Prize for public service, was created in 1972 by Cincinnati’s own U.S. Senator Robert Taft and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It is presented annually to recipients in more than 90 cities in the United States.  The AIPS’s mission is to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service. The winner in each of the 90 cities will travel to Washington, DC where one national award winner will be selected. 

The 2018 Jefferson Award Finalists in Cincinnati, Ohio:

Nancy Eigel-Miller: 1N5

Robert Miller: The HELP Program Cincinnati

Kent Wellington: Kent Wellington Foundation for LIVING with Breast Cancer

Bill Shula introduced the program. He said there were 31 nominations this year for the Jefferson Award in Cincinnati. He described the history of our Rotary Club, Club 17, specifically and of Rotary International in general. He said, “This year President Al Koncius wants our club to focus on “making a difference.” We want to celebrate and elevate those who have spent so much time volunteering their services and making a huge difference to those around them. Past winners of the Jefferson Award in Cincinnati were introduced by Michael Aquillan from The Cincinnati Enquirer. Some past winners in Cincinnati and nationally in Washington DC are Doug Adams, Pete Bushelman, and Susie Neon to name a few. He introduced last year’s winner, Susie DeYoung who founded LeSoup, a local and national winner. She was honored for harnessing the power of local chefs to bring wasting food and willing people together in the common cause of feeding the locally hungry population in a city-wide effort. 

Susie DeYoung spoke about her experience last year when she attended the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony. She told us that amazing people have and continue to “show up” and help with the LeSoup mission. Orchids is a regular member in our bucket brigade. She said she was surprised last year at the moment she arrived in the ballroom for the ceremony in DC to hear her name being called. She was totally unaware of what it was all about and foundered a bit at first. When she was called to the podium, she said she was not prepared to speak to attendees in the audience. Somehow she managed. Afterward she began learning about the other participant’s stories. She said they changed her life. She felt she had been a winner “by just being there.”   She met Jon BonJovi’s wife and has been corresponding with her ever since about their JC Soul Kitchen, a similar endeavor. They share ideas and have joined one another in the effort to feed the people in Puerto Rico since the hurricanes hit.  After the ceremony, Suzy said she met with her family who live in DC and enjoyed time with them touring the area. In short, she said “This was the highest honor.” She said she had a lot of fun as she thinks back over the experience.

Next, Rotarian Anthony Ricchiardi introduced Global/Local 12 personality, Bob Herzog, as the Master of Ceremonies. Bob is a “west-sider;” that is to say, a hometown boy. He is a graduate of Oak Hills HS, Xavier University, and Chase Law School at NKU. He is the father of 4. From YouTube, Anthony said that he discovered Bob loves music, movies, and March Madness. Last year Bob came on crutches. However he comes, he “makes a difference” which is our Rotary President Al Koncius motto for us all this year. 

Also, Rotary is grateful to Channel 12 for the production of the three videos that we would see that day.  

Bob Herzog said, “In this room we see light and hope. Every one of us wants to hear about and to do good things. However much of the news is bleak. Yet we need to know about it. Coming here we think we are better than bleak when we learn about these quiet acts of kindness that happen within our midst.  This year’s 2018 Finalists for the Jefferson Award are:

Nancy Eigel Miller
Bob Miller

Karen Wellington

The videos followed.  

Nancy Eigel Miller lost her husband to suicide. She said she had no idea that he was troubled. Everyone loved him. Afterward I saw people turn around when they saw me and go in the opposite direction so they wouldn’t have to talk to me. I talked about it with my kids and we decided to raise money to help children and teens through their pain with education and screening. We recognized that kids in pain look for ways to express it. We raised $750,000. We began helping 12 High Schools and several colleges. 

Education can save lives. When we started there was no information in Ohio. But every step of the way we are breaking the silence and showing appreciation, we can help and make a difference. Strugglers need you.

Robert Miller asked, “Where can you look to find the face of God?” I believe it is in the faces of people. I provide assistance to the newly-released population from prison. When they are released, they just want a chance to start over again. Immediately though they are faced with a challenge. Their primary need is to generate money, but that means they must get a job. The truth they face though is that no one wants to hire them. Bob has developed a process to solve this immediate need. He offers returning citizens temporary employment within 24 hours of their release. Soon the newly-released citizen can show a track record of achievement: work on time and within the employer’s expectations. Bob has found mentors for each of the people in his program. He has doubled the size of the number of former inmates. Now because the businesses have been well-served, more businesses are asking to be included in the program. Bob admits some former inmates won’t change, but in others he looks for compassion and determination and bets on them.

Kent Wellington (for Karen) began a program that targets the women and their families who are living with breast cancer. He lost his wife to breast cancer and knows what the end of life can look like. He decided that he and his team would work together to provide some fun to victims and their family caregivers. In his wife’s memory, Kent and his team have put fun on the victim’s calendar for a date to “really live.” He wants them to have time with family members creating memories together.  He says, “Don’t let a bad day get you down.” Since his program began, his team has sent over 400 families on vacation together. It has been so successful that the program has grown to include more cities than just Cincinnati. “Karen would have loved this.” Kent said. Our friends really love this. 

Conclusion. Bob Herzog reminded us about the light and hope found in this room. Since only one can be selected to go to Washington, DC to compete further, the Cincinnati winner has been selected and will be announced now. 

The winner of the 2018 Jefferson Award is……..Nancy Eigel Miller.

Nancy’s response was, “I appreciate being in the company of so many other winners! Kids are the future of how we think about mental health. Anxiety and depression has tripled since 2012. That’s why I became involved. Now I have an army who join me, yet there is much to do.”


Thursday, February 22, 2018


Students from four local high schools (DePaul Cristo Rey, Shroder, Walnut Hills, and Wyoming) will be competing against one another. An esteemed panel of judges will be on hand to select the winner from among the four. The winner will then go on to represent our Club at the district-wide Rotary speech contest at Wright State University on April 8, where they will be competing against students from more than 30 high schools in southwestern Ohio. 

The topic of the student’s speeches is the ethical standard used by Rotarians worldwide, and how it can be applied to a personal or a community issue. 

Each of these four Cincinnati high schools is partnering with our Rotary Club in this effort, and will have faculty members in attendance. The students will be bringing their parents or other guests. Each school has selected the speaker as their 2018 representative.

This is an inspiring event where we get to hear talented young people articulate and apply Rotary’s core ethical principles. We’ve had great attendance in years past, and look forward to another exciting contest. 

The panel of judges will include:

Ericka Copeland-Dansby (Vice-President, Cincinnati Board of Education)

Aftab Pureval (Hamilton County Clerk of Courts)

Kyla Woods (former Channel 5 Former Reporter and Anchor)

Rotarian Mark Reckman (Wood & Lamping Attorney)

Rotarian Mark Romito (AT&T, Director of External Affairs)

Laure Quinlivan, acting as the Madame of Ceremonies (MC), introduced everyone and kicked off the day by saying to the students in attendance, “This is the week that your voices truly counted.” She is referring to the student activists from the Parkland, FL high school shooting who have travelled both to the state’s capital and to Washington DC to speak with law makers about making changes in gun laws.

We will begin by asking each one of the judges to give a one-minute speech so they will know exactly how each one of you feels. 

Aftab Pureval said, “In US history the President of the United States once said, “We will put a man on the moon.” Even though we had no idea how it would be accomplished when he said it, America did it! Recently another President said, “Make America great again!” It has activated Americans. Oratory can change people’s lives and the world.

Ericka Copeland-Dansby told the students she was very excited to hear them. Oratory can affect change and it can motivate others. 

Kyla Woods said, “Oratory can make corrections and inspires. It empowers you to right wrongs and to make improvements happen. As a story teller, I work to make the city better every day.”

Speakers, I want to remind you of the rules. You must incorporate Rotary’s Four Way Test into the premises you make within the speech. It must be six minutes or less in length. It must be no longer than 75 words. You may incorporate the words of others. You may use a 3X5” note card. Students will be randomly selected to speak.

First, Glory Lee of Wyoming HS
Think outside the box. Get out of your comfort zone. Why?  It widens your horizons and broadens your perspective. If it is the truth, it is vital to change the world. Think about a bird. Every bird fights its way out of its shell and into life. I am ready to graduate. How does my life now differ from the real world? I suppose that it is when I am earning my own money, not chronology, which will shape this difference. Is it fair to all concerned? We naturally think that everyone thinks as we do. We must stop and look at the big picture. Melala is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. She is a driving force to broaden our perspective and spread fairness to all. Goodwill and better friendships result from the first two. Choose selfless solutions to conflict. Working for the benefit of humanity. I’m from South Korea, the other side of the world. We must break out of our egg shells to experience the new. My world was small. I was intimidated when I came to America at first. I quickly learned that I have little value if my only purpose is serving myself. I will think broader and encourage others to break out of their shell too.

Second, Kenielle Young of Shroder HS
I don’t like giving speeches or writing essays. There is no point, I think, because I am a poet. There are so many ways to write poetry. No one can correct a poet. So I ask, “Why me in a speech contest?” Change is hard. I think of a butterfly that goes from larvae to cocoon to caterpillar and then breaks free as a butterfly. Will it build goodwill and make better friendships? Many people are stuck in the pupa stage. Many don’t want to step out and truly be free. In the tenth grade, a teacher gave me a question that was to be answered at the end of the quarter. Is it fair and beneficial to all concerned? Sometimes we have to struggle in a storm before we can see the light of day. If I didn’t break out, I wouldn’t be here today. Today I stepped out and achieved my butterfly wings. How about you?

Third, Rithu Rajagopala of Walnut Hills HS
Discrimination is based on physical appearance. We mind our appearance so that it will be “perfect.” Color dictates beauty in India. The sun is my enemy. Dark skin is ugly. Big thighs are ugly. Neither is perfect. This is what we have been taught. Is this the truth: Objectification of people’s bodies versus their virtues? Take the modeling industry. Some women are excluded because they are too fat. Some men are excluded because they are too short. The truth is that less than 5% of the population has an ideal body type. Is it fair to all concerned? This thinking forces us to damage our bodies and even our minds. 30M people have eating disorders. Many smoke. Many others have cosmetic surgery. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Judging by beauty scale breeds discrimination over friendships It crushes the admonition that “You can be anything.” Is it beneficial to all concerned? We have the freedom to consider what is real beauty? This impacts both men and women. We are all beautiful in our own way.

Fourth, Andrew Smith of Shroder HS
$740M is spent. Wake up America! It is neither where you are from nor your religion, nor is it your color. Modern media is swaying us. Have you ever lost someone to drugs? I have met such wonderful people at Boys Hope, Girls Hope. I had an absent Dad. He spent my meager college fund on drugs. I dream to eradicate drugs on the street. I want bright eyes, not clouded vision. What do we stand for? Is it fair to all concerned? Addiction isn’t fair. I didn’t ask for it. Does it build goodwill and better friendships? No, it is tearing us apart. Is it beneficial? Last year I was kicked out of my house. Will you rise up against the evil that drives us apart? 

The Four Way Test Committee is chaired by Claudia Cagle. Suzy Dorward is also on the committee. The contestants will each win prize money. First place wins $150, Second place wins $125, Third place wins $100, and Fourth place wins $75.   The winner today will compete at Wright State University April 8th at noon for a First Place prize of $400. 

Ariel Miller concluded the meeting with a quick update on the activities of the Walnut Hills HS Interact Club. Two students spoke and described what they have been doing as a club to focus on making a positive impact on their community. They work with the club as a team on the following projects:    

  1. Volunteering at Crayons to Computers
  2. They helped at a center that houses people until they can get up on their feet. In the spring the Interact Club plans to work on a gardening project for the center.
  3. They made Valentine’s cards for children who are patients at Children’s Hospital.
  4. They contributed $200 towards solar panels for Ugandan schools.

Here’s how the students placed in yesterday’s speech contest:

1st Place:    Rithu Rajagopala (Walnut Hills)
2nd Place:   Glory Lee (Wyoming)
3rd Place:    Andrew Smith (DePaul Cristo Rey)
4th Place:    Kenielle Young (Shroder)


February 8, 2018

Todd Portune
Hamilton County Commissioner

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune was elected to the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners on November 2, 2000, after having served eight years on the Cincinnati City Council. Commissioner Portune has been re-elected four consecutive times and is currently serving his fifth term. Portune is the President of the Board of County Commissioners.

Hamilton County
Past, Present, and Future

“Well, Rotary, the joke’s on me with the powerpoint that has gotten confused with the State of the Union Address thanks to the Russian government!” There are many county officials who are here with me. I won’t introduce them all now as I will be referring to them during my remarks. 

There is a new rule in Hamilton County: we can’t meet in private so we will meet out in public spaces. That means more transportation time. My motto is “We are but one vote away from getting things done.” I am now in my 5th term. I work with very collegial people. 

We faced many issues last year and we are on the eve of passing the County’s Budget that Chris Monzel didn’t vote for. That made it a challenge to get a consensus vote. Everyone deserves a representation. We have better representation when we have consensus. One month ago, we adopted five budgets: the General, the Capital, MSD, ________and __________.  All were passed unanimously despite wanting a new crime lab in the wake of the opioid crisis, infant deaths, and children services. We also had “big box” issues. We had to differentiate between community wishes vs. wants. We are juggling funding for roads and bridges along the Western Hills Viaduct,  wanting a soccer stadium without any funding from county tax revenues, and a new venue at The Banks. 

We believe we will have a more efficient MSD by keeping rates as low as possible. We have now addressed how to keep all operations within budget with no bailouts at the end of the fiscal year. 

Here is the “State of the Moment.” On funding, we have a balanced budget despite some sales tax shortages. In 2017, we finalized the funding and identified the site in Blue Ash for the new crime lab.   On a cold day in early January, we actually broke ground for the new lab. It will focus on drug testing, rape kits, and the backlog of untested rape kits. We have hired a pathologist and additional test assistants. 

We have funded better 911 communications without a tax hike. The issue was that if there was an accident on the Interstate, once upon a time, the person involved had to call it in to report it or rely on law enforcement or maybe even rely on a “good Samaritan.” Now we have 100’s of calls via cell phone from observers who are driving by on the Interstate. This results in fragmentation where our emergency responders get multiple messages. We funded the 911 service to better meet the needs of the community. A challenging issue for 2018 is if we can add a simple cell phone surcharge. This will impact all 88 of Ohio’s counties. 

We are wholeheartedly seeking to attack the heroine epidemic. Today Commissioner Denise Driehaus, who has taken on the heroine effort, is meeting in Columbus to close the MSD deal. In 2017, we began a Pre-Arrest Diversion Program. This means we have assigned many of those arrested to bed with a medical issue rather than sending all to prison. We are classifying many with a medical issue rather than with having a legal issue. 

In Children’s Services, Margaret ___________ has reported many losses in the numbers of social workers. The case loads are backing up on the remainder of the social work staff. More and more have had to request escorts to accompany them into “case” homes. There has been a marked increase in the number of kids placed in foster care. We want to reduce the number of kids who are placed outside Hamilton County and even outside Ohio. We are seeking to identify and to support the issues contributing to the increased placements in the county’s foster care system. 

Infant Mortality is my passion. We want to make sure a child makes it to his/her first birthday. Hamilton County had one of the 10th worst mortality rates in the US. This is a scandal. I’ve worked on this issue for 15 years. Since founding Cradle Cincinnati, we now have 23 fewer deaths per year than the average rate from three years ago. This program educates parents on “safe sleep conditions.” This involves just two guidelines: 1. Infants should sleep on their own and 2. They should sleep on their backs inside a crib. By focusing on these two, we have lowered our ranking of infant deaths from 17 to 7. This is a reduction in the number of deaths of 24%. A second safety condition is “No smoking near an infant.”  Finally, mothers are made aware of “spacing.” This suggests that births in one mother should be spaced greater than 12 months apart for proper recovery time and for the health of that mother. If born in less than 12 months after the last birth, a child has a greater than 400% chance of death. Often these babies are born premature.

The Western Hills Viaduct funding has been secured as follows: $35M from Hamilton County, 35M from the city of Cincinnati, and $40M is from federal funds. This will shorten the time period of construction.

FC Cincinnati wants MLS to say “YES! Cincinnati.” The decision will come and we expect to hear on or before February 28. 

The needs vs. desires of Hamilton County infrastructure are vast which makes for challenging solutions. We are creating jobs to provide for the economic future. Into the mix came FC Cincinnati. On the one hand, we have the great Paul Brown Stadium in place that was built for football (used ten days/year) and coincidentally for soccer as well. We pushed this hard. On the other hand, we learned from MLS on a conference call that they “won’t even consider it.” We decided to work through the budget process to commit to spending zero tax money and to build a parking building that will generate revenue in order to meet the MLS request. We also preserved money for other infrastructure development at The Banks. This is a proposed new music venue. We can say we’ve done our part. Now it is up to MLS.

We have a new Office of Inclusion. It is headed by Robert Bell. Its purpose is to make everyone feel included so that no one misses out on the opportunities that living here provides. We’ve appointed 88 new positions with 55% of them women and 40% of them African-American. We’re looking to include the diverse, but also the disabled. If everyone was aware of what a disabled person has to do just to get up each day and get ready for work before their workday begins, they’d be greatly impressed with their work ethic. You may not be aware, but the unemployment rate among the disabled population is 80%. 

We will keep our focus on following through with the deal made by the city and MSD. There are many storm water claims on local basements. 

Our budget problem isn’t just the result of not staying within a budget. It is also that we’ve been abandoned by the state. Hamilton County is a donor county. This means that we send more, $400M more in fact, to Columbus, than we receive thus footing the bill for many other Ohio counties. 

Third, we must reach a consensus among city, county, and business interests about the future of the transit authority. We want to develop a three-state, eight county decisive plan that doesn’t stop at the boundaries. This is a priority because it is the very reason Amazon discounted our area for their new second headquarters. We don’t reflect to the world that we are addressing our transit issues. 

We have many challenges in the region, but if we all work together, we can make the future be what we all want. The only barrier to our success is the “wanting” to do it. Communities are like people when they face change. Some are defined by it and others move ahead to work around problems successfully leading to fuller lives. Which Hamilton County are we?


Thursday, February 1, 2018

“Headlines: To Err is Human, To Laugh is Divine”

John Kiesewetter has covered Cincinnati TV and media for more than 30 years.  He has written his “Media Beat” blog for WVXU-FM since 2015, after nearly three decades covering the local and national beat for the Cincinnati Enquirer. 

His stories, blog, and columns have chronicled local TV/radio personalities; the stars who grew up here; breaking news about national and local TV, radio, and media trends; the major movies filmed here; and Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history. He’s also done one-hour specials for WVXU-FM about the 1977 Beverly Hills fire, the Beatles 1966 concert at Crosley Field, and the Cincinnati Summer Music Festival, in addition to periodic interviews for “Cincinnati Edition” and “Around Cincinnati.”

He’s traveled to Los Angeles and New York as TV critic to preview shows, to visit studios, and to interview stars ranging from George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, and Roy Rogers to Woody Harrelson, Mark Harmon, Jennifer Garner, David Letterman, and Mr. (Fred) Rogers.

The Middletown native started his career at the Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, after graduating from Ohio University. The first 10 years at the Enquirer he was a news reporter, suburban and regional news editor, and features editor. 

Today he lives in Fairfield with his wife, Sue, a freelance reporter for The Enquirer. 

John immediately captured the hearts of all the Rotarians who met today at the Queen City Club with his collection of crazy uses of the English language in newspaper headlines and street signs through the years. No sooner had he started his speech than he had EVERYONE (Yes…. even President Al!) riotously guffawing as the comical sense of the headline after headline registered. In one after another, whether it be dangling modifiers, misspellings, misstatements, or even omissions, the headlines had been used and because they were in the newspaper and not on the internet, they became history. One newspaper wrote about recent trends, “Newspaper Readership Down, See Website for Details.” 

John said he began collecting headlines in 1970 when an article mentioned that 15,000 had come to see the Blue Angels and had “devoured” 5,000 hotdogs and 3,000 hamburgers or some such. In another John reminded us of Jay Leno’s 1,700 headlines each week called “JayWalking.” A favorite was when Jay asked people about how Mt. Rushmore came to be and a woman replied, “Oh, yes, it has taken millions of years of erosion.” John said, “Isn’t it interesting how erosion got the beard right on Abraham Lincoln!”  On road signs that he saw while out driving, one said, “Prophecy Class Cancelled Tonight Due to Unforeseen Circumstances.”  On another sign, pancakes were advertised for sale at Burger King, “Pancakes for $89.” The fun signage continued: CVS advertised “Ass. Fragrance Gift Sets,” a buttery breakfast pastry at Jungle Jim’s was labeled “Almond Filled Butt,” and gas at a Finneytown gas station was selling for $239. 

Back to headlines, one appeared in Hopkinsville, KY that said, “Man Charged with Possession of Math at Traffic Stop.” In the corrections section of a newspaper, one paper stated, “Brooke Astor is reported to be a Socialite — not a Socialist.” Another printed, “Affordable Car Act Repealed.”   In another a “Woman Has Awakened from a Comma.” In Oxford Ohio, John said he loved this one, “Historical Miami University to be Demolished.”  How about this one, “Textron Makes Offer to Screw Co. Shareholders.” Finally cover your eyes as you read this one, “Bailey Joins Chicken Shit.” 

After peals of laughter like at no other Rotary meeting, John told us that he is still doing the same thing he has always done at The Enquirer, at WVXU. He posts a blog each morning. In addition, he said he is trying to write a book about long-time Reds announcer, Joe Knuxhall.  

1. In the rush to publish, is history a work- in- progress with the 24-hour news cycle? Yes, there is little time to verify facts. He said many times, “I have just had to trust my gut.”  I don’t think we ever get the full story. For example, “Where is the FC Cincinnati Soccer Stadium Now: Oakley, Newport, West End, or ……………..?” There just isn’t enough time to adequately confirm stories. 

2. What is one of the more interesting interviews you’ve done? I would have to say it was when we were asked to go interview Mr. Rogers. He is just like meeting a saint! Incidentally, next week marks the 50th year of his television show. We went to Pittsburgh to interview him. Every time we tried to ask him a question or to get a picture of him, he would turn the question back to us or ask others who had worked with him through the years to pose in the picture. We felt like we weren’t getting very far until his wife arrived. We asked for her help. She said, “He is just what you see.” She went on to say that he had become a preacher who wanted to minister to families and to children. By the time we left, I decided that Mr. Rogers is the only person I’ve known who spoke slowly just to you. After we had come back to Cincinnati, I thought of a few more questions so I faxed them to him with space for him to write the answers in between. He answered the questions filling in the space provided and even began to fill in the margins. Because it wasn’t readable by the returned fax, we asked him to mail it to us. He did and we got our story. 

3. What is the craziest interview you’ve ever done? Back during the first generation of Star Trek, I was asked to interview Will Deaton (sp?). Back then Channel 19 was in Woodlawn. He came to the station and from the very beginning and all the way through to the end of the interview, Will had his back to me and he was doodling. I never published that interview.

4. In my last year at The Enquirer my boss, editor Luke Beck, moved to Columbus to work at the Columbus Dispatch. In just a few minutes I showed him how, with today’s technology, I could crop and produce alternate headlines for our various devices whether paper or online, focus the subject on the page, and proof the result. He was amazed and said, “There in just ten minutes you were able to do what it once took 6 people to do in two hours!”   

5. Errors?  Once i wrote about the Wright brothers and misspelled Wilbur’s name. Just had it wrong in my mind. We didn’t catch it.  In another, when P&G left Blue Ash, a Kentucky newspaper headline printed, “P&G Is Leaving White Ash.” Apparently one of the local towns was called White Ash. No one caught that error either.

6. What do you think of blurring the news with opinion?  I still think news is news and facts are facts. MSNBC, Fox, and CNBC are doing this with their select panel speakers who opine the hours away. Where we are with the fractured factions such as the Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians, we all need the facts. As it stands, without them, we can’t have a civil discussion.

7. Can you share any baseball stories from the Enquirer? I just love thinking back over Joe Knuxhall’s life in baseball. Joe tells one story about Gaylord Perry when he pitched spit ball after spit ball during a Reds game that no one could hit. After many innings, Malone was asked to reply with his own spit ball. When that happened, Herman Franks yelled to the umpire in inning after inning, “What was that?” Finally in the 9th inning, the umpire yelled back to Franks, “I don’t know what that was, but it was the best one I’ve ever seen!”

8. What about radio vs.television for the news? Once a radio station advertised a new mall, Plummet Mall, that was an underground mall saying, “Lowest Prices in Town!”  The owners bragged, “Radio can make town talk without TV!”

9. One time there was a radio gimmick when WEBN advertised they would pay the winner of a contest $20M by paying the winner $1 every year for 20M years. The event took place at WEBN’s sister station in Knoxville. The contest involved rolling around in sticky dollar bills in a plastic pool. Whoever had the most money sticking to them after the “rock and roll” was the winner. Apparently in Knoxville, the Federal Reserve wouldn’t supply the cash. The organizers of the contest decided at the last minute to get the money at the Cincinnati Federal Reserve who agreed to it. They had to fill many pillowcases with the money.  After the event, they had to return the cash to the Fed. They filled the pillowcases once again with the sticky bills, washed them in the washing machine, dried them, and even ironed them before returning the money. All this happened in Hyde Park at the home of Jay and Carolyn Gilbert. While they worked, they had the cash all over the living room when the door bell rang. It was a young kid delivering the pharmacy order. He looked at all that cash and said to the Gilberts, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody.” 

10. What would you tell a young person if they wanted to go to Ohio University to major in Journalism? I’d say do it. They will learn to write. I wrote for the student newspaper while I was there. Students learn to write on all platforms. I had to learn history, law, and all about how a city’s government works.  Today Ohio U. is using virtual reality to do story telling that teaches Ohio State medical students.  Doctors learn their professional skills well, but are shocked by the chaos going on around them in the hospital rooms of their patients or in surgery. Ohio U. students are filming this cacophony of sounds from monitoring devices and the distractions from nurses and doctors coming and going. After filming, they are sending the video to medical schools to make medical students award of this background chaos.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Major General Jeff Snow and Major General David Coburn

The “Meet Your Army” initiative brings the Army and soldiers to communities throughout the United States, where both civilians and local press can interact with them and learn more about whom defends their nation.  Cincinnati was named as a priority city where the Army can most effectively tell the Army story.

Major General Jeffrey J. Snow, commanding general of US Army Recruiting Command is in charge of recruiting for the entire Army.  Major General David Coburn is commanding general of Army Financial Management Command. This means he is charge of finance for the entire army. Both spoke at our meeting as well as a representative from the City of Cincinnati’s Mayor’s office who introduced each one and shared the proclamation that made January 25, 2018, “Meet Your Army” Day, in Cincinnati.

Major General Jeffrey J. Snow
Commanding General
Major General Jeffrey J. Snow assumed command of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command on June 23, 2015.  He was commissioned as a Lieutenant of Infantry in 1983 after graduating from the United States Military Academy.  His career spans nearly 34 years and he has served in a variety of command and staff assignments in the United States, Germany, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq.

His Command assignments include B Company, 2d Battalion, 6th Infantry in Erlangen, Germany; 2nd Battalion 2nd Infantry in Vilseck, Germany as well as in Kosovo during Operation Joint Guardian; 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Infantry at Fort Drum in New York as well as in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom; and 20th CBRNE Command / JTF-WMD-Elimination at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Staff assignments include Company Executive Officer and Battalion S1/Adjutant in 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry in Erlangen Germany; Company and Battalion Tactical Operations Officer, West Point, NY; Battalion Operations Officer, Chief of Operations, and Brigade Operations Officer in the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, NY; Strategic Planner to the Army G3 in the Pentagon; Senior Task Force Observer Controller at the Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany; Executive Officer to the Commanding General, Third U.S. Army/Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CLFCC) stationed primarily in Kuwait; Director  of  the  Iraq  Army  Training  and  Advisory  Mission and  Director  of Strategy,  Plans  and  Assessments, U.S. Forces-Iraq  during  Operation  Iraqi  Freedom / Operation New Dawn; Director of Strategy, Plans and Policy, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff G3/5/7, Department of the Army; and most recently, Director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).

Major General Snow is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College, and the Army War College. He has Master’s Degrees in Social Psychology and Strategic Studies.  His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC), Defense Superior Service Medal with 2 OLC, Legion of Merit with OLC, Bronze Star Medal with OLC, Meritorious Service Medal with 3 OLC, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with 4 OLC, and Army Achievement Medal with OLC.  He has also earned the Expert Infantry Badge, Combat Infantry Badge, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, the Army Recruiter Badge, the Army Staff Identification Badge, Joint Staff Identification Badge, and Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge.

Major General David C. Coburn
MG David C. Coburn was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1982 in the Infantry after graduating from Columbus State University with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He later obtained a Master of Business Administration degree from Syracuse University and a Master’s degree in Resourcing National Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

MG Coburn’s past combat arms assignments include: Rifle Platoon Leader and Weapons Platoon Leader with 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry, 9th Infantry Division; Heavy Mortar Platoon Leader with Combat Support Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division; Instructor and Assistant Operations Officer (Air) Ranger Training Brigade, United States Army Infantry School; Platoon Trainer, Infantry Officer Basic Course; Commander, C Company, 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

His Financial Management assignments include: Ranger Program Manager, United States Army Special Operations Command; Resource Manager, Management Directorate, Office of the Chief of Staff, Army; Budget Officer, United States Army Office of Military Support; Chief, Program Management Division, Advertising and Public Affairs, United States Army Recruiting Command; Program Analyst, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence; Comptroller, Southern European Task Force, Vicenza, Italy; Comptroller, 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade, Kirkuk, Iraq; Deputy Financial Controller, Joint Forces Command; J8, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, Baghdad, Iraq; Executive Officer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller; Director, Management and Control, Army Budget Office; Director Operations and Support Army Budget Office; G8, United States Army Central Command. Currently he is the Commanding General of the United States Financial Management Command.

His military education includes: Infantry Officers Basic and Advanced Course, Combined Arms Services Staff School, US Army Command General Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

His decorations include: Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal, with two oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Korean Defense Medal, NATO Medal, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, and Ranger Tab.

Presently MG Coburn and his spouse of 30 years, Denise, reside in Carmel, Indiana. They have two daughters – Erin (29), and Dana (26).

Meet Your Army
The Civilian Aid to the Secretary of the Army introduced the two Generals to the club. He said, “The best time I can spend is with soldiers, especially when they are Generals.” It is my great pleasure to be the eyes and ears of the Army and to help the public get to know their service. At present we have 184K soldiers in 48 countries. 450K soldiers are on active duty. We are in the process of building the force back up. I travel to the Pentagon in Washington once every month. I see those who are in support of our service men and women. Today at our meeting we are privileged to be with Brad Wenstrup who is both a soldier and a congressman. 

Our first speaker, Major General Jeff Snow, is the Commander of Recruiting Command. I “get briefed” by the Chief once each month. I have gotten to know him when I traveled with him to Afghanistan. He is a “no nonsense, strong-willed” leader. 

Major General Snow: The Army’s two highest priorities are the readiness of the force EVERY day. Secondly, consistent with this, they need to recruit the best possible soldiers. I need your help to recruit more than 95K of the best of the best. In 2016, The Defense Authority Act was passed under Obama. After four years of drawing down the size of our forces, we found that we were not large enough to meet the responsibilities required of us. The Army has three component forces: the Army, the Reserves, and the National Guard. We have not managed a mission of this magnitude in two decades. Recruiting is a “no- fail” mission which means, “Failure is not an option.” I must hasten to admit that we are on schedule since the new act was enacted. Young people today want an education and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.  The challenge is that 50% of young people “don’t know much about the services.” For example, many can’t name the military’s service branches. If you ask them about movies and news, they score higher, but two-thirds of them think they will come back “damaged” if they volunteer. They don’t realize that we provide the opportunity to become engineers, or human resources persons, or logisticians, cooks or fire fighters or police officers, to name a few. The Army provides its people with the opportunity to earn multiple degrees and to learn multiple languages. 90% of Army jobs are parallel to those in civilian roles. 

I joined the Army to play hockey and to get a free education. I only meant to stay long enough to do both, but I fell in love with the people so here I am after 38 years. Research studies show that veterans “voice, volunteer, and contribute” to their communities. Our biggest challenge is the lack of familiarity of our young people with military. We are a family business in that we often have fathers, then sons/daughters who serve. For example, in 1990, 40% of youth knew someone in the service. Today, that number is 15%. As I travel throughout America I see young people who want to contribute. I see a brighter future among high schoolers. Yet, at the same time, young people aren’t as active as their predecessors in high school. The problem we face is that 70% of them don’t qualify for service. A majority are obese and can’t withstand the physical tests. Others are unable to read and to write comprehensibly. The good news is that much of this can be overcome. They can be inspired to achieve. Of consequence, though, is the number of young people facing moral issues. We can’t overcome egregious moral issues. 

There are 9,000 recruiters in the United States and its Territories. Our mission is to go into high schools to make our youth aware of the opportunities awaiting them in the Army. In Ohio, there are 30 recruiting stations in malls and high rises. You can see our effort by observing our website.


The Army is committed to the preparation of our youth for the SAT and ACT tests. This is a gift to youth who have no other way to prepare. A prep course costs hundreds of dollars. We offer it free with no required future commitment for participating. Another program, called PAYS (Partnership for American Youth for Success) is a partnership program for students with young veterans. 

Our second speaker is Major General David C. Coburn who is head at the enterprise level of financial management. 

Major General David C. Coburn: The financial management function is critical to financially supporting the Army’s “classified” worldwide. This means we provide the accounting for the entire Army in Columbus, OH. The Army’s Audit Compliance is conducted in Indianapolis, IN. 

In 2011 we adopted a new accounting system. It is an “SAP based ERP.” It is meant to meet the requirements of an independent audit by a public accounting firm. Presently the Army is not compliant with industry standards, although it has been working towards this for 28 years because we are a “not for profit” organization, we do not have universal transactions. Nor do we have the ability to reconcile across the organization, but we are 94% there. This is now a top priority for me. I am in charge of training and in maintaining the financial function among the Reserves and the National Guard, which comprises 67% of our authorized force, but not all of it. We are working to change that.

Presently, our budget expires on Feb. 8, 2018. CR holds us to the spending levels of last year and it puts us on hold for any future spending. That means we cannot plan ahead with acquisitions for future programs. This makes it very risky for contractors and costs the Army ever more. One consequence of the recent shutdown, occurring earlier this week, was that we were unsure as to whether we would get to travel here. You might have had no speaker! Other consequences of the shutdown were all TDYs were required to return. Long-term schools were stopped. In California two helicopters crashed, killing both pilots. No one was able to go to the pilots’ families to express condolences. 

1. How are you dealing with cyber security through the shutdown?  This is a growing priority. The Pentagon prioritizes our activities. We also get a lot of support from Congress. 

2. How are you balancing the short-term with the long-term spending? Not well. This resolution is adversely impacting our mission. The Marines and the Army have borne the brunt of our fighting in Afghanistan. As a result of our long-term involvement there, other countries are outpacing us. At one time we were superior. Now we are not. We know exactly what we need to do, but if the funding is held up we cannot plan ahead enough to solve it. At present we are simply not large enough. The world is more and more chaotic. Readiness is clearly our mission priority. My second highest priority is reforming financial management so we can optimize our funding to spend our resources better. We need better data analytics to prioritize our spending efficiently. Special Forces does a better job. They are leaner and therefore more efficient. We are studying their system. There is a tendency to buy cheapest without regard to best value. We have to reverse that thinking in order to save in the long run.

3. How do you feel about young people sitting through the singing of the National Anthem? Here is the Military’s response: “I wear the uniform to give those the right to sit.”  It is becoming more political in the services than ever. 

At the end Congressman Brad Wenstrup stood and passionately said, “The funds have been appropriated in the House. It is the Senate that is holding up the funds!” Call your Senators. 

Major General David Coburn then said, “I need to advertise, but I can’t — due to the lateness of the funding. You are not getting the best out of your Army. This has done more over multiple years to harm than the threat of China, Russia, and North Korea!

President Al thanked both Generals for their words and their time with us making this the first “Meet Your Army” Day in Cincinnati. 

As he concluded President Al said, “When I was asked by a youngster if I had killed anyone while serving in the Army, I responded by saying, ‘I sure hope not. I was a cook!’”


January 18, 2018

Elias Leisring
Founder of Eli’s BBQ

Al Koncius introduced Elias Leisring. Elias said at one time he had had a comedy routine, but it
wasn’t funny when compared with Michael Schatzman’s punny intro!

How Eli’s Got Started
Before Eli’s, I spent time trying to figure out how to get $5 from everyone. I got the idea while
riding a Ferris wheel as I looked down over thousands of people below me. I didn’t necessarily
want millions of dollars, but I did need many “gifters” to make my fortune. It was 2008 and
I was working at US Bank. It was a food desert with few options. On Tuesdays a pop-up-market
food truck came by with great burgers and cheese during the summer, but that was pretty much it.

In time there was a mutual phasing out of the relationship between US Bank and me. Soon after,
I began grilling chicken with corn and offered it on Tuesdays at Fountain Square. I continued
all summer every Tuesday and by the end of the summer, I was invited to come back the next year. I decided to open up in the same spot as Eli’s BBQ and joined Tom + Chee. It was successful enough that I began thinking I needed a brick-and-mortar step forward.

Now that I look back, the very thing that had created Eli’s nearly cost us. We were unorganized, yet we were a creative “seat of the pants” organization. We could neither “predict nor project our nemesis.” About this time the possibility of buying Fireside Pizza presented itself in the Samuel Building at the intersection of McMillan and Stanton. Entering this type of business meant we had to pay to open. It wasn’t as creative, therefore not as much fun, but doing it meant we would have another business to pick up the slack when Eli’s was lagging.

We opened Saundra’s Kitchen at 6th Street downtown that offers lunch on skewers, meatloaf, wraps, chili, etc. It isn’t a restaurant per se: it is a delivery service after an order is placed. In this arrangement labor is the only cost and it is possible to control. All else is uncontrollable, like food costs. We decided to incur an app development cost of $160K. This was to insure success in the digital world. The digital costs must be paid for in the physical world. We worked through all the app start-up problems so we are stable now.

Eli’s “blew up into a big business in terms of volume.” Hiring more, we also opened up in Findlay Market, just off the street car’s route. We’ve been there for three years. It is going well. In time the workers demanded higher wages. This caused us to ask ourselves how we might grow. We want to keep the people who helped us grow from the beginning. This brought us to a “crux” that typically separates the strong from the weak. I have about 5 – 6 employees that I call “the Ivy League.” They help me make strategic decisions because I can’t say that I know what I’m doing. Because I have to step out with confidence in spite of never having been here before, we have assumed more of a corporate structure to wade through the problems. For example,
one of my best employees had a baby not long ago and asked for 3 weeks off with pay. I would have said, “Sure and take the rest of the summer too!”, but the Ivy League said, “No.”

We decided to partner with Kroger at Holiday Manor in Louisville. This means we have entered another phase of business model: we moved into retailing by selling our products at Kroger. That landscape is so valuable, but it is so competitive. I thought I’d just sell BBQ at Kroger, but there has been so much more to consider. For example, getting our sauce to our manufacturer that “doesn’t want to make sauce” is just one of many road blocks.

At the Kroger in Newport we added pickles to each order in order to earn $0.50 more per plate. On Saturdays, we sell approximately 1,000 plates of our BBQ. Well, instead of paying the $0.50 extra, customers began cutting back on items in order to get the pickle. Another example of this is at Saundra’s Kitchen. People come to our location to pick up their orders. While they are there, I have said to them, “Do you realize that you don’t have to come here. We can deliver your order to your office for free with no tip?” They usually respond by saying, “Oh, yes, but I really
just want to get out and stretch my legs.” I offered, “Maybe you could have it delivered first, then you could go stretch your legs.” There was no change. We decided to quit fighting it and to just say we learned something new about human behavior.

We recognize that we just got lucky by being at the right place at the right time!

1. Why don’t you have a liquor license at the Eli’s at Riverside? The house is so small there isn’t room for the additional plumbing that would be required. When we decided to operate there, we recognized we had to make do with it as it is. We kept the original store front. When the building inspectors came they got agitated when we mentioned the license. We decided to let customers “do what they want.” There are no rules. Probably it is this very feature that has
enabled us to get to 2018! It’s just easier this way. We did open a bar nearby that does have a liquor license.

2. Considering how successful Eli’s has become, why have you wanted to try other business ventures? At the time when the other opportunities presented themselves, we had no idea how well Eli’s would do. After all, Eli’s is located on the river. It is, therefore, vulnerable and seasonal. We kept thinking the other areas would pick up the slack. We thought the wood-fired pizza would be a cinch, but at first it didn’t do as we expected it to. Because “I fly by the seat of my pants,”
I got us into the wood-fired pizza business. It just fell into my lap when the owner decided he was moving. It was across the street from Eli’s. We soon learned, however, that the pizza business is different from BBQ. Luckily Fireside is now turning around.

Largely, opportunities presented themselves and we picked them up, especially if it meant I could partner with another party. Many like Iggy and Elton John had some success, but many more flopped. I originally wanted to be a musician, but wound up making a living cooking instead, a second “best.” Early on, when I was young, I didn’t want to have to dress up in a suit and tie for my work every day. “Believe it or not, that really drove my decision-making.” I wanted a multitude of opportunities for success, not just one.

I bought a building near Freeman by Liberty on Bank Street. It is a big commercial building with a 12-car garage. We cleaned it up and filled it with food trucks. This gives the food truck employees a home-base for maintenance and safe storage. You might call it “an incubator for gypsies!”

3. Where do you smoke the meat for all your locations? It is done at each location. It is a simple process and it is consistent.

4. Where is Herzog Records? It is on Race Street in the City Beat Building in a studio (from about 1945 until the 1970’s) on the second floor. Herzog had the largest radio station, 700 WLWT. He invited all manner of celebrities like Earl Scruggs and Patsy Cline to the studio. Hank Williams recorded 13 songs there. It was the last standing studio for rock and roll, blue grass, etc. until it was turned into King Records where it became even more than just a producer of records. King had the first black president of a company. Their strong suit was they could record and could get the recording out of the studio and into juke boxes within 24 hours. They were very progressive for their era.

Apparently two failed musicians brought employees to watch the Red’s Opening Day Parade from the building. This forged a friendship that led to music history.

5. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book entitled What the Dog Saw, he noted that mustard has experimented far and wide with its flavors, but catsup has never broadened beyond two. After his research, he determined that it is the umami (savory flavor) that gives catsup its unique flavor. Apparently, if anything altered that, it wouldn’t be catsup. Actually there are only two
things that matter in getting the “right sauce.” It is getting the right taste and offering it at the right price. I think you have definitely gotten the right taste. With that in mind, has Malcolm Gladwell influenced you? No, I haven’t read his book. We use Heinz 57 catsup in our BBQ sauce. It amounts to 40% of the sauce. At one point in time, one of the Ivy League came to me and offered to change in the catsup from Heinz 57 to another brand in order to save approximately $150K per year. We decided that we wouldn’t alter a “good thing” so we kept Heinz 57 and it is worth
the extra cost. Catsup is basically vinegar and tomato to hold it in place and to disguise the vinegar. There are even some who look down on Miller High Life beer.

6. Have you thought about franchising? Yes. One guy calls me nearly every day about franchising. You’re not him, are you? Actually, we haven’t gotten beyond the phone call. He sounds too “salesy.”

Governor John Brown, who bought Kentucky Fried Chicken, came to Eli’s BBQ at Riverside and liked it. We have a secret technique where we smoke the meat, cool it for a day, then reheat it before serving. This keeps it moist and makes it very flavorful. It makes a good BBQ 100% of the time, while not the best BBQ 80% of the time. That same day we took the Governor to Eli’s at Findlay Market so he could see how the BBQ would be if it were franchised. We know we can’t disappoint the customer. The Governor hasn’t offered to participate in franchising yet.

7. Will you be a sponsor at our Believe 2 Achieve fundraising event next summer?
Give me more information. We do enjoy helping out.


Thursday, January 11, 2018


“Cincinnati Attorney Awarded “Alternative Nobel” Prize”

 Our speaker this week was Rob Billott who recently won an international award known as the “Alternative Nobel” prize. He is known for the New York Times Magazine article entitled,“The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” The article described his 30+ years working on a case on chemical pollution of the Ohio River.

Jack Scott introduced Rob Bilott to the club. Jack said Rob had represented Terracon Consultants many years ago. Jack said he had been so impressed with the quality of Rob’s work, that Jack had written a letter to Taft Stettinius & Hollister (TSH) law firm recommending Rob “be made partner” at TSH.

Afterward Jack went on to say Rob became involved in a case with a major chemical company in West Virginia whose impact has been felt world-wide thanks to an article in the January 10, 2016 issue of The New York Times Magazine entitled “The Lawyer Who Was DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” Soon after, he was awarded the “Alternative Nobel” Prize from Stockholm.

Rob lives with his wife, Sarah, and their three sons in Crescent Springs, Kentucky. 

Rob began by saying he was going to tell us a 30-minute lunchtime story spanning 18 years. He said I joined TSH as a lawyer 27 years ago. At that time there were no chemical companies involved in TSH’s Environmental Department. It all changed one day, however, when the phone rang in late 1998. It was a farmer who said he had had over 100 cows to die on his farm. Rob asked him why he was calling with this information. The farmer said he had gotten my name from “my grandmother” who also lived outside the same town, Parkersburg, WV. The farmer said for many years he had noticed a pipe discharging a sudsy, foam substance onto his farmland where the cattle stood. He had called it to the attention of everyone in town, including DuPont, who happened to be the largest employer… no avail. Washington Works, a division of DuPont, manufactured Teflon in Parkersburg. After consulting lawyers, the EPA, and DuPont, showing each one incriminating videos for years, he reached out to me nearly at wit’s end. He sent me the videos and when we at TSH saw them, we thought that something was “clearly going on.” The problem was that the farmer clearly had a case, but he couldn’t pay. We decided to do it “on contingency” which means that we’d get paid if he won. 

I began by pulling all records, permits, and licenses. No problems were recognized. I talked with the DuPont lawyers. I called in experts like independent scientists. By late 2000, I couldn’t find any chemical connection. DuPont concluded, “The farmers are killing their own cows.” Back then there were no emails for discovery, so I arranged everything I had collected chronologically. I saw one letter about PFOA. I couldn’t find any information about it so I asked DuPont and learned that I must obtain a “court order” to compel them to report on the chemical they were using (PFOA). I learned that it was a chemical that had been used since 1951. It was a “man-made” chemical created by 3M. DuPont called it C8 due to it’s having 8 carbons. It was used to manufacture Teflon. After it was used in manufacturing,  it was dumped into the Ohio River, onto landfills, and its fumes escaped up the smoke stacks at the Washington Works plant. It was a “grandfathered” chemical so it was beyond regulation. I saw many memos about the amount (100s of thousands of tons) within DuPont. I learned that it is a unique chemical in that it never degrades. Once ingested, it coats “blood and organs” forever and it continues to accumulate. It was confirmed to be an animal carcinogen by the 1980s.

By 1984, DuPont sampled the local drinking water and confirmed that it was also in the public’s drinking water. They decided not to tell the public. By 1988, DuPont was regulated to keep the composition to 1 part per million, but the reality was they registered 2 parts per million and again did not report this. When the chemical’s foam was found in the landfill, DuPont settled the farmer’s case. The public’s drinking water hazard remained. I sent the information to the EPA on March 1, 2001, thinking the “Feds” would set standards. There was no action taken. 

By this time, the community learned about the problem and wanted it out of the drinking water. DuPont saw increasing cancer rates, just as they had seen in the animals, but claimed there was no evidence of PFOA being the cause in the rise of human cancer cases. We filed a class-action suit against the world’s largest chemical company, DuPont, when the chemical wasn’t even regulated. By 2002, the Ohio River was sampled. At least 70,000 people were drinking this water. It was determined that not only were they exposed, but also its contamination extended at least 48 miles down the Ohio River to every community along the its way. 

You might wonder what the EPA was doing. In 2003, the EPA thought it might ban PFOA. In 2004, the EPA sued DuPont. DuPont settled the lawsuit. It doesn’t disclose the suit. 

Eventually DuPont was forced to pay for the drinking water to be filtered with granulated carbon. The community wanted to know about what this did to people drinking the water. Three epidemiologists were selected to look at all the information that was published and unpublished.  In 2005, DuPont paid $70M to the local community. The community decided to use the money to pay class-action members to have their blood analyzed. No one had ever sampled this many people. As it turned out, nearly all 70,000 people came in right before Christmas. Each one walked out with a check. Entire families came. This became the largest human health study ever done. Twelve different studies were designed over seven years. DuPont paid another $33M. Each class member was to be monitored. If someone had the disease, they were paid damages by DuPont. When blood levels were as low as 0.5 parts of PFOA per million, cancers such as kidney, testicular, and thyroid were detected as well as high cholesterol levels. DuPont couldn’t dispute the results. They had 3,500 people with at least one of the six diseases. In all three trials, DuPont was held liable for consciously contaminating the community without disclosing the ramifications of its actions. 

In 2006, the EPA settled with DuPont for $16M which, incidentally, amounted to one day’s worth of profit for DuPont. DuPont said it would not make any more. 

I thought, “What about these chemicals (PFOA and its derivatives) that are already out there in new products like stainless carpet, fire extinguishing foam, and cable wire to name a few that are continuing the leaching process into the drinking water? In 2012, a sampling of the US drinking supply was urged. The use of PFOA still had not been regulated. I thought it had to be a nationally recurring problem. 

By this time the article in the New York Times Magazine had come out (January 6, 2016). This is the same time as Flint, Michigan’s water pollution problem was uncovered. In the last year, all communities are learning about this. 

In 2016, the EPA asserted an informal guideline about PFOA. It is still not regulated. Fortunately, the states are now stepping up.

This chemical is used in fire-fighting training activities. There is a need to sample the drinking water at military bases. Everyday a new community learns about this. The Department of Defense (?) is paying millions of dollars to filter drinking water. 

Related chemicals, like PFAs, have never been studied. Dupont’s GenX with 6 carbons is thought to be less toxic. Yet in 2013, the first cancer study was conducted and it found that GenX caused the same tumors as PFOA. This demonstrates the need for a new system for filtering our public drinking water. EPA regulations still can’t force clean-up. 

This problem has been brought to light by the US Tort system. The US Tort system, one of the best legal systems in the world, is the only way the people are being helped. This time it is all because one farmer stood up. 

We all have it in our blood. A UC researcher saved blood samples from 1990. 

 The average level of PFOA nationally was 2 – 4 parts per million.

 In Cincinnati the average was 16 parts per million and in N. Kentucky it was 13.

 In West Virginia, it was 23. 

Cincinnati put in a granulated carbon filter activation system in 1992. Northern Kentucky did the same in 2013.