WEIRTON - The Rotary Club of Weirton observed the anniversary of the club's founding Saturday with a dinner at Williams Country Club.
The 58th Charter Night for the club, which also is the 350th Rotary club to be a 100 percent Paul Harris Fellow Club, provided an opportunity to look back on some of the club's activities for the year and celebrate its history.
Club President Mike Gianni welcomed those in attendance, thanking them for their service to the club and the community.
"I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of you for helping me serve this club as we continue to serve this community through the scholarship endowment, our sponsorships of the WRYSL, RYLA and HOBY, our contributions to the Weirton United Way, Weirton Salvation Army, Weirton Christian Center and Boy Scouts," Gianni stated as part of his president's message.
Gianni admitted he initially had not been sure if he was the right person to be president of the club, but added the last several months have changed his whole perspective about the Rotary organization and being a Rotarian.
"I've enjoyed it," Gianni said. "I look forward to the second half of our year."
GUEST SPEAKER — West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler, at right, served as the guest speaker during Saturday’s Charter Night dinner for the Rotary Club of Weirton. Kessler discussed West Virginia’s financial status and ideas for the state’s future. Club President Mike Gianni looks on during the speech. -- Craig Howell
Gianni noted some of the club's activities, from a fundraiser for Marland Heights Park to a Breakfast with Santa.
Gianni also was selected by club members to be this year's Rotarian of the Year, while Rotarian Rhonda Quattrochi received the E.R. Hartman Award, named in honor of one of the club's founding members.
The special guest for the evening was Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Glen Dale, who said West Virginia is doing well financially, and he believes it has great potential with developing energy resources and economic development opportunities.
"West Virginia, compared to much of the country, is quite frankly doing better," Kessler said. "I think our best days are in front of us as well."
Kessler noted some of the opportunities already seen in the region as a result of natural gas exploration and production, explaining Marshall County in the last few years has seen assessed tax values go from $1.5 billion to $3 billion.
He also noted the construction of three small ethane crackers in the region - each at an investment of approximately $500 million - and the possibility of larger operations in the future because of the available resources.
"When it comes to supply, West Virginia has a very rich source of what the world needs," Kessler said.
Kessler also discussed his proposal for the West Virginia Futures Fund, which would set aside a portion of severance taxes acquired by the state from the natural gas industry and save it for the state's future needs.
The idea is similar to existing programs in Alaska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
As part of the current legislative session, Kessler said he believes there will be focus on education reform and work to tackle child poverty.
The evening also included the recognition of several new Paul Harris Fellows for their contributions to the Rotary organization.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)