We The People

Local AARP Chapter Dissolving Over Politics

Submitted by AMAC Member Brig. Gen. Stanley W. Wisnioski Jr. –

from the Jackson County Floridan – by Deborah Buckhaler –

The local AARP is disbanding after 30 years in existence, and the reason has to do with politics.

Ernest McNeill, vice president of the local chapter, said he and all the other board members resigned their posts because they believe the national AARP engaged in partisan politics, against its stated policy, in the last presidential election. Although the AARP has denied that it has made any such endorsements, McNeill said he doesn’t believe that, in part because, he said, he received AARP material, saw ads on television and heard through other means that convinced him otherwise.

McNeill was the first to announce he was resigning, and was quickly followed by the other members of the board, he said. Because no other members of the local AARP stepped up to take those positions, the group came to the decision to dissolve itself.

However, the board has one more meeting to go, and at that Dec. 17 luncheon session the group may decide to meet under some other name because of their friendships and need to stay informed of issues of concern to seniors. McNeill said he also wished to stress that the local chapter’s dissolution does not mean that any local AARP members will lose any of the coverage’s they have under their membership in the national organization. Likewise, their individual national memberships will not be affected in any way by the local decision to fold.

He said the vote was 19-3 to break up the group. About 40 people typically attend the monthly luncheons, although there are about 100 members on the books.

McNeill said he personally received flyers and other material from the national AARP which he felt endorsed President Barack Obama in his bid for re-election. McNeill said he would have objected just as strongly and would have also resigned if the AARP had endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

He said he believes it is extremely improper for AARP to endorse any candidate.

He also said he feels that AARP did so in order to advance its own supplemental insurance business, since the president’s health care policy calls for mandatory purchase of insurance coverage.

“I pay close attention to those newsletters, and we know what the bottom line of the national AARP is ,” he said. “It says it’s nonpartisan, but I’ve gotten (endorsement) fliers that came through the mail, so I know. I’ve been a member of AARP for 16 years and I can’t remember anything like this happening before.

“We’re not doing this just to be against President Obama. We as Americans should support our president. This was strictly that AARP just happened to endorse him and we felt that it should have been non-partisan. All this started in July, and since then over 60,000 members of AARP have resigned nationwide. A lot of older people had an AARP membership because of some of the services available through it, like dental and health insurance, and we don’t want anyone misunderstanding about that; they can continue their national membership and none of that will be affected whatsoever.”

After paying one special expense, the local AARP will give the money in its bank account, about $550, to three local charities – the Jackson County Salvation Army chapter, the food bank associated with First Presbyterian Church in Marianna, and the Jackson County Special Olympics. But first, the organization will write a $35 check to the state, its fee associated with the formal dissolution process.

“Noon Monday is the ending of one chapter and the possible start of anther organization that people can come to and fellowship and learn useful information,” McNeill said of the upcoming final session. It will be held at the First United Methodist Church Youth Center on Clinton Street in Marianna. Normally, a session will include a special program of specific interest to seniors, but this one will be devoted to discussion about that possible new organization.

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