Rotary focuses on leadership not age

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2011

It wouldn’t exactly be fair or accurate to call T.J. Parnell the new kid on the Ironton Rotary Club’s proverbial block.

Although he is the youngest current member of the club, the 28-year-old isn’t a kid and doesn’t carry himself as such. He isn’t even the club’s newest member, having been involved for the past two years.

But T.J. is certainly among the youngest — if he doesn’t hold that title outright — to ever be named president of the civic organization that has been around for 91 years.

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Rotary is often perceived as an “old-boys club,” but T.J. is a perfect example that those stereotypes aren’t entirely true.

However, there are a few members who may have been around since fundraising efforts included dinosaur rodeos and Conestoga wagon races. I won’t name any names, but they know who they are.

In recent years the club has gained some younger members to go with the core group of long-time Rotarians who really make the club go.

“I’m humbled by this honor. I have great respect for all the members of Rotary,” T.J. said. “All the men and women of the club are what makes Ironton a great community. … I hope to make them proud.”

Love for the community is something that has driven T.J. ever since graduating Ironton High School in 2001. He went to Ohio State University, moving back to his hometown after completing pharmacy school.

For T.J., being given the honor of serving as president of the club, an organization his father Tim was a part of for years and once led, makes it extra sweet.

“Dad was greatly influential in me getting involved in Rotary,” he said. “… Dad loves Rotary, loves the Ironton club. It is really special.”

T.J. likely strives to balance his professional life with his personal one that includes community service through Rotary and his commitment as a youth minister at Central Christian Church.

That juggling act will become more important than ever this fall as he and his wife of almost four years, Taylor, will add a new baby boy to the family. The new addition will be welcomed by 2-year-old sister Tara.

But despite these changes in his personal life, T.J. said he is looking forward to his new role with the club.

“My goal is use technology a little more to get the word out about Rotary. I want to use all the resources we can to gain membership and also to grow service opportunities,” he said. “I hope we can increase members our age (Although I have to confess that I have about eight years on him) to ensure the club continues and continues doing great things for Ironton.”

Ray “Doc” Payne, the long-time sergeant-at-arms, says he welcomes all the new blood.

“You young guys can have it,” he said with a chuckle.

For Bret Hensley, the club’s chairman of the membership committee, T.J.’s age is irrelevant.

“It all comes down to attitude and work ethic,” he said.

“T.J. is very conscientious, very community minded. He had choices coming out of college and made a pro-active decision to come back to Ironton. He is definitely interested in the welfare and betterment of Ironton. He is just very committed to the community.”

Age is just a number. Dedication to civic duty and Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self” are qualities that cannot be as easily measured.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at