Home News Local News Through local involvement, Burnett’s optimism shines

Through local involvement, Burnett’s optimism shines

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Roger K. Burnett was recently selected to serve as lieutenant governor for the New Mexico/West Texas Optimist District, Zone 4. Burnett is a charter member of the Sunrise Optimist Club of Roswell. (Submitted Photo)

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Roger K. Burnett has a set of skills and accomplishments when looking over his career that ranges from the world of education to writing historical nonfiction.

In this file photo from June 2017, during an Outdoor Adventure Day, Roger Burnett, right, helps out with one of the many youth-focused events the Optimist Club supports. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

When it comes to his service to the citizens of Roswell, Burnett’s list is also a lengthy one.

One of his areas of service comes with his dedicated work for the Sunrise Optimist Club. He recently took some time out and spoke about how this work with the organization first began, and how it has expanded over the years.

“I first got involved with the Sunrise Optimist Club when I was asked to help charter a new club by a friend in 2000,” he said. “At that time, I was selected as charter vice president. I have now been a member of the club for 20 years. My wife is also a charter member and is still very active in the club, serving as both president and secretary.”

Born in Eunice and raised in Hobbs, Burnett received his Bachelor of Science at Eastern New Mexico University.

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“I taught school for 31 years, as well, with the last 20 years here in Roswell,” he said. “After retiring from education in 1999, I was the administrative director at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico for 14 years, and during my tenure, I wrote a book entitled ‘Legendary Locals of Roswell.’”

While working as a historian, Burnett received the Edgar Lee Hewett Award from New Mexico’s Historical Society for his work in designing, raising funds and overseeing the construction of the Historical Society Archive Building, located just north of the museum. The award was given for his outstanding service to the public.

Having been president of the Sunrise Optimist Club three separate times, Burnett has been involved in every aspect of the organization. Just recently, however, he has donned a new hat within the club.

“I have served on the board for 18 years,” he said. “I am the chairman of the Sunrise Optimist Vern Stahl Memorial Scholarships that the club awards every spring, and in the past 20 years, we have awarded over $55,000. Just recently, I was selected as lieutenant governor for the New Mexico/West Texas District Zone 4.”

This selection is yet another avenue where Burnett can help others.

“This is a position in our Optimist Zone,” he explained. “We have a district governor and each zone under him has a lieutenant governor that works with the local clubs. I very much like the idea of serving in this position because it will give me a chance to work with other clubs and hopefully improve our zone, which, therefore, improves our district.”

Burnett was very happy when he got the news of the selection.

“It is always nice to know people have confidence in you to get things done,” he said.

He has served on a slew of boards, organizations and groups in Roswell. To name just a few, Burnett has been a board member or president of the former Roswell Chamber of Commerce Board, the MainStreet Board, the Chaves County Tourism Council and REDTT (Rural Economic Development Through Tourism).

The Sunrise Optimist Club promotes optimism, education and a healthy look at the world. The club’s goals are some that all should take a look at. They work to develop optimism as a philosophy of life; inspire respect for the law; promote patriotism, and work for international accord and friendship among all people; aid and encourage the development of youth in the belief that the giving of oneself in service to others will advance the well-being of man, his community and his world.

He further broke down their mission: “These are the standard philosophies and objectives of Optimist International. Although we follow these, our main objective is to make Roswell a better place for our youth. All of our projects are for the youth, or money raised is donated to programs focused on the youth. We donate over $14,000 back to the community each year.”

Burnett spoke about how sponsoring new “optimists” is something everyone in the club wants to do.

“We are always trying to bring in new members. This past year, I was recognized by Optimist International for recruiting 42 new members into our club in the past 19 years,” a fact that was heralded by the district club advisor of the NM/West Texas District 4, James E. White.

“Only about 11% of all Optimist members ever bring in even one new member,” White said. “I sometimes think my 30 members in 40 years is a great accomplishment until I find someone like Mr. Burnett — a man who has great dedication to our organization.”

His recruitment numbers also earned Burnett another award in the form of the “40 member” pin he will be given from Optimist International. He is chairman of the local NOW program, which stands for New Optimist Wanted.

As Burnett looks toward the future, there are a number of upcoming events the Sunrise Optimist Club will put on to raise funds for the youth of Roswell, and they will also sponsor activities such as essay contests and oratorical contests for youth that will award prize money to help further their education.

At 73 years of age, Roger Burnett — along with his wife of 38 years, Patricia Burnett — are the true picture of hardworking marvels who want to help people and the youth of Roswell achieve a better life. The couple have been mentors to their four grown children who have gone on to be highly educated and successful in their career paths.

In a world that sometimes looks more dark than bright, kindness, benevolence and support are still very much a part of our society. Because of dedicated citizens, optimism can still shine.

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Amy Lignor Special to the Daily Record