2015 Triennial Election Questionnaire for Vice Presidential Candidates – Bob Martin

American Rose Magazine, May/June 2015

By Robert B. Martin Jr.

Introduction: The following questions were compiled from ARS members around the country and submitted by the Editors of the American Rose Magazine. Answers were limited to 150 words per question. I personally prepared and submitted the answers.

1. Given the American Rose Society’s priorities of membership growth, financial security and relevant programs, what decisions are truly critical in the next 3 to 6 years?

I am not convinced there are any decisions that are “truly critical”. The ARS has enjoyed excellent leadership with Jolene Adams as President and Pat Shanley as Vice President. It has a fine Executive Director in Jeff Ware, and a dedicated loyal headquarters staff that accomplishes a great deal with limited resources.  And, it has remained financially sound with growing contributions to its annual giving program and solvent endowment trusts, which incidentally were all prepared by me as volunteer tax counsel. I am concerned about the continuing decline in membership, and the decline in the numbers and membership of local societies. To address the four most important issues I have proposed what I call a “Four by Four Platform” that I have posted at my campaign website, www.bobmartinarsp.com. I invite interested readers to view this essay and others I have posted there to learn more on what I consider important.

2. Over the last 3 years, how many new members are you responsible for bringing to the American Rose Society, your local rose society and your district?

Over the last three years, I have given 48 programs, authored more than 60 articles, edited three volumes of Horizon Roses, maintained a website at www.roseshow.com reporting the results of 436 rose shows, and maintained a Facebook presence both individually and on behalf of Rose Exhibitors’ Forum, the latter with more than 1,700 likes world-wide. We have hosted garden tours attracting more than a 1,000 visitors to our personal garden. I maintain an active email correspondence with rosarians throughout the country, including being a “go-to” source for questions presented at the ARS website. In every case I have promoted membership in the ARS, and have been told on dozens of occasions by individuals that they have joined the ARS because of my work. I do not know the exact number that have actually done so because the ARS does not share such information but believe it is a lot.

3. Local rose shows used to be a prime source of new members.  What can ARS do to return the local shows to relevance around the country?

As the long-term editor of Rose Exhibitors’ Forum, webmaster at www.roseshow.com and author of the book, “Showing Good Roses”, this issue is a prime interest to me. I suggest at my campaign website www.bobmartinarsvp.com several initiatives (in my essay Support Our Local Rose Shows), including: (1) publicize the ARS calendar of rose shows by making it more visible on the ARS website, (2) add a rose show calendar at the ARS Facebook page; (3) publish and deliver to local societies a guide on how to conduct a rose show expanding on the content of the White Book; (4) add to the ARS website a prominent link to www.roseshow.com, (5) publish articles and photographs of interest to those who show roses in the American Rose and at the ARS Facebook page; and (6) deliver a link to Rose Exhibitors’ Forum to all ARS members by email without the necessity of their making access to the ARS “Members Only” page.

4. Many of our local societies, districts and regions have difficulty finding anyone willing to serve as officers.  How can you and ARS stimulate our members to serve, not just as workers, but in leadership roles as you have apparently found enriching?

Ask. We will have success in getting members to serve in leadership positions by seeking them out and letting them know we welcome their participation. We need to remove artificial impediments to service such as bylaw provisions that restrict leadership, or nominating practices that recycle the same leadership year after year. We need to emphasize that we are not a closed society and the Rose is a gift that has been generously given to every one of us. But it is not in the “getting” that we receive but in the giving. By giving to roses, we generously receive from them. So also with rose societies – we need to share our experience that the more we put into rose societies, the more we will receive in return, in knowledge, joy and, most of all, in the friendship of the many people whose bond is a shared interest in the Rose.

5. We frequently hear comments that local societies and their work is meaningful and helpful, but at the same time the need for ARS may be questioned.  How do you respond to this dichotomy?

There is no dichotomy here, i.e. “a division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups.” There are about 270 local rose societies affiliated with the American Rose Society. I have described local rose societies as “the backbone of the ARS”. But a backbone is only part of the body and local societies require the support of a national organization. For example, the ARS is recognized by the IRS as an educational organization exempt from Federal income taxation. Local rose societies affiliated with the ARS are eligible for tax exemption under a “group exemption” procedure under the blanket of the ARS. Also, ARS provides critical support for local society activities through its CR program, its program of accrediting horticultural and arrangement judges, and its national publications. Working together, the ARS and our local society help us to carry our one common primary purpose – to enhance knowledge of the rose.

6. How do you feel the American Rose Society fits, or should fit into, today's style of general gardening?

The American Rose Society is a specialized plant society. It “exists to promote the culture and appreciation of the rose, through education and research, to members, to local rose societies and their members, and to the public.” That is the mission statement of the American Rose Society. Our purpose is to promote roses, not a style of general gardening. We do this through education on how to better grow the roses we have and to inform about the wonderful diversity of the rose and its utility as a cut flower and in all landscape and gardening applications. I subscribe without reservation to the vision of Dean Hole in his classic work, “A Book About Roses” –  “There should be beds of Roses, banks of Roses, bowers of Roses, hedges of Roses, edgings of Roses, pillars of Roses, arches of Roses, fountains of Roses, baskets of Roses, vistas and alleys of Roses."

7. What are your plans to strengthen and broaden the American Rose Society’s support of the nursery industry?

The American Rose Society was founded in 1892 as an organization of professional greenhouse rose growers. In 1913, it adopted a policy to accept local rose societies as members. In 1917 it expanded its membership further to individual amateur rose growers. That has now continued for 100 years and today the ARS “exists to promote the culture and appreciation of the rose, through education and research, to members, to local rose societies and their members, and to the public.” That is our mission statement. Our mission is different from that of the nursery industry. We educate people about roses; nurserymen sell roses to people most of which are not members of the ARS. We support the rose industry by buying their good roses and products, and through education of others who do the same. I believe the rose industry should strengthen and broaden its support of the American Rose Society.

8. What, if anything, should be done to improve the gardens at the American Rose Center and make them more attractive to visitors?

The American Rose Center in Shreveport, created in 1974, is the headquarters of the Society. Its Gardens, with over 42 acres, is the nation's largest park dedicated to roses. The property is owned debt-free by the Society. Operations are funded by gate receipts, events, rentals, and by interest from the Maintenance Endowment Trust, which incidentally I originally drafted years ago. This Trust has been generously funded by the citizens of Shreveport-Bossier as well as by members of the ARS. In the past, the Trust has proven adequate for the maintenance of the Center. Recently the Gardens have been impacted by severe and unusual weather. President Jolene Adams has asked the ARC Committee to submit a report to the Board for the rehabilitation and redesign of the Gardens. This is a devoted committee intimately familiar with the needs of the ARC, and I look forward to the implementation of their suggestions.