President Chris Krueger called the meeting to order asking Lolita Wiesner to offer the Invocation and Ted Williams to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.   She thanked Polly Cady for serving as greeter as members and guests arrived for the meeting.
District Governor Jim Erickson again highlighted Mesa West in his weekly video message.  CLICK HERE to view it.
Rotarian Richard Capan was visiting from Kansas City, Missouri.  Allan Cady introduced Bill Cole from Estes Park, Colorado and Bruce Solari from Anaheim, California.  Jeanie Morgan introduced her 2009-10 District Governor classmate, Steve Dimuzio from Casa Grande.  Lola McClane introduced Mesa Rotary Club visitors President Craig Henry and President-Elect Tom Schildgen.  John Pennypacker introduced District Governor Jim Erickson.  Dick Myren introduced Assistant District Governor Lee Holm and Sharon Boyd from the Superstition Mountain Rotary Club.  Eileen, from the Rotary Club of Cayman Islands exchanged flags with President Chris.  Eileen's husband was a founding member of the Cayman Island club.  Rotarians, Erwin and Joan Reiman, were visiting from Rapid City, South Dakota.  Tom Mellen, who is almost a member, was introduced.  His last step to become a Mesa West Rotarian will be his induction, which will be scheduled soon.  Fountain Hills Rotarians, Tony and Michelle were in attendance.  Frank Ewer, originally from England, is now residing in Jalisco, Mexico.  He is President Elect of his club there, and chose to attend Mesa West while in the Phoenix area to attend Grand Canyon President-Elect Training Seminar (PETS).  Carla Rowe and Curt Ward from the Gilbert Rotary Club were both in attendance.  Last, but not least, District Governor Elect David Simmer was introduced.
Allan Cady won the $5 attendance drawing proceeds, when his badge number was drawn.  Chuck Flint explained that the weekly raffle winnings would be $58 and if the person holding the winning ticket were lucky enough to draw the ace of clubs from the remaining cards in the deck, they would win $572.  Looking for an honest face, Chuck asked DGE David Simmer to draw the winning ticket.  He drew his own, but was not lucky enough to draw the ace of clubs.
Happy Bucks
Greg Okonowski served as Sgt. at Arms collecting happy bucks from those present.  Allan Cady paid $5 because he was happy to be at the meeting so he donated back his attendance drawing winnings.  He paid an additional $2.  He and Polly are enjoying being aids to and getting acquainted with Rotary International Director-Elect Johrita Solari and her husband Bruce.  John Pennypacker contributed because he is always happy.  Ray Smith informed everyone that February 28 is hump day for tax season.  He seemed glad to be on the downhill side of that mountain of work.  He was also happy and a little amazed that all the club members who are in professions that get buried in work during tax season were present at the meeting.  Steve Ross was proud  to announce that the Gilbert High School basketball team, whose members always help as referees at our spring Olympics, finished at the top of their league.  Members were sad to hear of the death of Sherry Mathis.  Sherry's husband was a member of Mesa West and Sherry played the piano at club meetings for several years.  Kurt Klingenberg celebrated his birthday by donating $100 each to Sarah's and Jenna's Paul Harris Fellows.  Dick Myren continued Rod Daniel's tradition of giving a dollar for being "happy to be a member of Mesa West."  Penny May was happy to have survived difficult driving conditions between Yuma and Phoenix during a rainstorm.  Warren Williamson contributed, confessing he had accidentally taken his Rotary badge home and left it there.  Lola McClane contributed "buying happiness."  Jim Schmidt contributed, happy about the 10th straight grandbaby boy born into his family.  DGE David Simmer contributed all of his raffle winnings back to the club.  Dan Coons contributed, sharing that when he first joined Rotary, he was a member of the Gilbert Club.  He thanked their members who were guest for the life lessons he learned about giving while a member of their Club.  Don LaBarge contributed.  He had recently been in the Indianapolis Convention Center.  It was very cold there with 50-60 mph winds, but on TV in the lobby were scenes of snow in Arizona.  Pam Cohen paid happy dollars.  She and Chuck Flint had gone to California to visit Fred and Billie Scott who formerly visited Mesa West regularly.  Fred is turning 94 this year.  When they visited in Mesa, He made toys and donated them.  Billie is recovering from breast cancer for the second time.
A reporter from the Associated Press named Lucinda was introduced.  Lucinda wanted to interview some interested people who were present:  Johrita and Bruce Solari.  She understood they were trying to get a zoning permit for their home.  Johrita Solari, RI Director-Elect for Zones 26 and 27 and her favorite husband, Bruce want to install a transmitter of airwaves for their home which would communicate:  "Be a Rotarian."  "Do good things."  "Service above self."  They know the airwaves work.  Their daughter, Teresa, is a Rotary e-club member and in the Governor line in her District.
When asked, Bruce said that he first joined Rotary in 1994 in the East Anaheim club.  He was looking for a deeper connection with their community.
Johrita said she joined in 1993.  They had started a business in 1993.  Bruce received a letter from the Rotary Club, but he sent her, because the letter was addressed to the president of their company, and that was her position.  The club had erroneously sent the letter to the Vice President.  When she went to the meeting, Johrita admitted she went with a large gender chip on her shoulder, but said she was wrong.  The men in the club were very welcoming.
Johrita said her most rewarding Rotary experience was a trip with a team of 10 to Nigeria.  In two weeks, 7,400,000 children were immunized.  On their last day there, a bus delivered tricycle wheel chairs for polio survivors.  The chairs were given to "crawlers,"  people who had been crippled by polio and if they got around at all, they had to pull themselves along the ground any way they could.  One girl had flip flops on her hands.  She made her way to the cycle Johrita was standing by.  She pulled herself up and for the first time, she was out of the dirt and mobile.  It is still the proudest moment of her Rotary career, causing her to have a true and deep understanding of Rotarians being the change makers and peace makers of this world.  Johrita went behind the bus to cry and found the rest of her team members there for the same reason.
Lucinda asked Bruce what he believes is Rotary's biggest challenge.  He talked about the need to find an answer to revitalize clubs and encourage membership growth with a focus on retention.  The club he first joined was small and declining.  It eventually dissolved. has an excellent resource for new Rotarians or members who want to learn more about the larger organization they are a part of "basics of Rotary."  Members can go on line and take it at their own pace.
Johrita is on the RI Membership committee.  She mentioned grant resources as she was talking about this, but didn't go deep into the subject.  An "outside the box" thinker might want to explore this and brainstorm with a few others to see if an innovative way to attract and focus on retaining members could be explored through a grant to develop new best practices in this challenging area.
The Solaris' business is property management and development with a focus on affordable housing.  They now have over thirty staff and 120 buildings.  They also manage for other entities.  They specialize in housing for seniors, people with special needs, low to moderate income, beginning police officers, veterans, etc.
Business skills that have aided Johrita in her Rotary career are:  writing, business writing, public speaking, team building, but over time, Johrita found that her experiences in Rotary honed all of these skills and it is hard today to tell whether business helped her advance in Rotary, or skills learned in Rotary helped them grow their business, or if the real benefit has been being immersed in both.
Lucinda told Bruce it was time for true confessions.  She asked him what his real reaction was when he learned that Johrita would be our next RI Zone Director.  He said his first reaction was OMG - he was losing a bet with their youngest daughter, who had predicted her mom would one day be a director, and he had indicated he didn't think that would ever happen.  The daughter's reaction at the time was "Have you met your wife?"  He said, in truth, he is very excited.  He knows she will bring a lot to the position and her influence improve Rotary.
Johrita said her key question will be "Why?"  She said leaders who inspire exude their belief and passion.  These essential qualities make it easier to answer the inevitable "How?" and "When?" questions.  If we can answer why we do what we do, we will be better people.  
Johrita had already formed some opinions about Mesa West Rotary.  She enjoyed the obvious camaraderie, leadership, and record of service.  She was aware that two declining clubs had merged into Mesa West.  She said "This club rocks."  We should continue to be who we are and tell our stories.  She said, "You have great stories!  Tell them!"  She also had learned about the Rotary vocational scholarship program in Arizona.  She had a good suggestion about finding ways to get on Public Television stations, since they are required to air local good news stories.
Bruce said their personal relationship is solid and fun-loving.  He said Johrita is so special.  She is a rock-solid achiever.  She values people and relationships.  She has a deep-seated passion for the underdog.  Having grown up in the Salinas Valley of Central California, she befriended migrants.  She spent time in their homes and learned Spanish, but not so well that she didn't make mistakes.  One was apparently bad enough that her friend's mother angrily chased her out of the house when she misspoke.
Bruce and Johrita both enjoy scuba diving.  They are members of the Rotary Scuba Fellowship.  He has logged over 600 and she over 500 dives all over the world.
Switching gears, Johrita honed in on membership.  Rotary is losing people in North America.  The problem is not about attracting members, but about retaining members.  We have to figure out ways to make the club experience better.  While discussing this, Daryl Bethea suggested that we contact past members of our club.  Johrita mentioned that Rotary International has a membership leads program, but that North America is the worst about failing to follow up on those leads.
Johrita will be one of 17 directors in the world.  Delegates at the Rotary International Convention vote for the directors.  She will be the first woman to serve as director for our zones.  The directors are responsible for making policy and managing implementation.
Lucinda asked Johrita if there was any chance of her one day being the first woman to be Rotary International President.  She answered that once she has served as director, she would not have to wait any specific time period to qualify to run for that position, so it would be possible, but likely - probably not.  Some interesting facts relayed during this portion of the conversation:  
  • To be a District Governor, one must have been a Rotarian seven years.
  • One must be a Past District Governor for three years before applying to be a Zone Director
  • At this time, there are no females serving as zone directors
  • As of July 1, 2019, Johrita will be one of two women serving as zone directors.
Lucinda asked Bruce if he wanted to make a prediction.  He said he would not be making any bets.  He believes that two years from now the first woman will be nominated for RI President.  He did not go so far as to state whether or not it would be Johrita.
Before adjourning the meeting, Chris announced that everyone should be ready for a community service hands on project doing some interior painting. More specific news will follow.