An Exclusive Interview with District Governor Steven Weitzen
With the 2020/21 Rotary year coming to an end, so does the tenure for this year's District Governor.    
Newsbits (NB) sat down this week with District Governor Steven Weitzen (SW) to have a conversation with him about this Rotary year, his thoughts on the future of the District and his own future in Rotary.
Here is the verbatim transcript of the interview.
NB - Let’s start off with an easy one: what did you think of this Rotary year?
SW - Well, it was a year unlike any other.  I am channeling Jim Nantz’s intro to the Masters Golf Tournament.
NB - Can you explain?  Not the Nantz part.
SW - There was no play book from which to borrow or model.  Clubs' venues shut down.  Clubs scrambled to meet in some fashion.  Everyone needed to adjust and adapt.  It turned out that Rotarians are very good at that.  There were some complaints at the beginning about Zoom fatigued and technical glitches with Zoom.  As people worked their way through these challenges, we found that participation increased; and often there was greater participation on Zoom than in person before the pandemic.
NB - Do you feel that you were short-changed this year by not being able to attend club meetings in person?
SW - No.
NB - Would you mind expanding on that answer?
SW - My chief aide, Susie Callahan, District Governor Nominee, Chuck Pretto and myself spent about two months and many hours laying out this Rotary year.  We calendared the official Governor visits to clubs.  We put together a District Conference Committee co-chaired by Dawn Van Siclen and Roshanak Clune.  We had the whole conference mapped out.  That old proverb that man plans and God laughs certainly applied here.
That being said, I would not have traded this year for any other year.  I was able to visit each club on  average of three times via Zoom.  I got to know what the clubs were doing in the way of community services projects.  Which, by the way, were extraordinary given the restriction of the pandemic.  I was fortunate enough to induct many new members and present Paul Harris pins.  Often, these ceremonies were scheduled on a moments notice.  Doing these inductions and pinnings was a great thrill for me as Governor during this year. 
NB - Were there any particular challenges that stand out to you?
SW - Not really.  Are you kidding me?  One of the challenges was keeping the clubs together - on track.  We had an exemplary class of presidents who really led their clubs during the dark days of the pandemic.  They were creative in having socials on line.  Things such as cooking demonstrations, happy hours with mixologists making new, exotic drinks; trivial pursuit nights.  The whole gamut. 
NB - Is there anything you are most proud of this year?
SW - We were adjusting to the new normal on the fly.  For the first time, we had three membership seminars.  In every other year we would have an annual membership seminar in August. We were flexible and listened to what the membership wanted.  Those who attended had an interactive experience.  Ideas were exchanged to help retain members as well as attract new members.  This format was well received by all who attended.  An unintended benefit of this format was that those who participated could attend from home or their office - at no charge.  
There are three things that have meant, and mean, a great deal to me as Governor.
First, is our Anti-Human Trafficking initiative.  David Oates chaired our committee of ten great Rotarians from across the District.  These folks committed themselves to take on this horrible scourge.  We made progress by bringing the issue before the clubs.  We supported safe houses to help survivors transition back into society.  We collaborated with law enforcement to provide information about those taken in by exploiters.
We were also able to secure a $70,000 Reverse Global Grant to provide teacher training for teachers to identify the signs of a student who is being trafficked.  This will be significant for the next school year.
The second thing is our Environmental Sustainability Committee chaired by Emilie Catheline.  Three weeks before Rotary made the environment its Seventh Area of Focus, Emilie pulled together a committee of twenty-five members from across the District to educate our clubs offering ways and means to improve our planet, community by community.  A good number of clubs have created Environmental Sustainability committees within their club.  This is a very good thing.
And, finally, the third thing is an alliance/ partnership with District 4100.  District 4100 is made up of Baja California, Baja Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa.  District 4100 Governor Guillermo Nava was a driving force in creating this partnership.  We brought along our Governor line, District 4100s Governor line and Governor lines of District 5320 (Orange County), District 5330 (Riverside County) and District 5495 (Greater Arizona).
The significance of this effort will be seen once the border opens up for travel.  Our members will be able to travel to areas in 4100 to work on International projects.  
We can all have the international experience without the time or expense that sometimes is associated with an international project.  We will be able to form relationships with Rotarians from Districts 5320, 5330, 5495 and, of course, 4100.  These relationships will enhance our Rotary experience.  Many new projects will come out of these relationships and experiences. 
NB - Tell us about the clubs?  What did you observe about the clubs?
SW - Clubs stepped up to support their community with food drives for those in need.  Clothing and shelter were provided to the underserved, particularly the youth.  
As the vaccination program rolled out, Rotarians pitched in with logistical support at vaccination centers across the counties.  And, the service didn’t stop there.  More recently, the country of India sustained a new wave of COVID cases.  Many of our clubs answered the call and sent $25,000 to India for COVID kits that would help keep people away from the hospitals thus  preventing the spread.
Besides that, the clubs found a way to still have fun and stay connected.  It was very cool to see. 
NB - What have you learned from your experience as District Governor?
SW - Good question.  Do you have another question?
NB - Really, we would like to know what you learned.
SW - All right.  I’ll give it my best shot.  But don’t hold me to this.  First, whatever anyone (a past governor in particular) tells you about being governor, take it with a grain of salt.  Actually, don’t believe them at all.  I learned that at some point the unexpected is going to happen.  Something that is not predictable or foreseeable.  Would a pandemic count as something unexpected?
Second, I learned that Rotarians are extraordinary people.  So giving.  So generous.  So selfless.  There isn’t anything a Rotarian wouldn’t do for someone.  I am steadfast in my belief that Rotarians are a solution in search of a challenge.
NB - What did your wife, Ava, think about this year as the Governess?
SW - Boy, you’re nosey.
NB - We are just doing our journalistic duty.  People want to know.
SW - If you put it that way ... Ava is my biggest critic.  She is also my biggest fan.  Perhaps that explains my split personality.  I believe she is happy that we were able to make an impact and have such a meaningful experience together.  I also think she is happy the year is coming to an end.  That’s natural, right? 
NB - What’s in your Rotary future?
SW - I do have a Capital One credit card in my wallet.  I haven’t given it much thought yet.  Although, I hear there is an opening for RI president.  My people will be in touch with the mothership sometime in the next few weeks.  We’ll see.  
NB - Anything you would like to add?
SW - Well...Past District Governor Scott Carr said anytime I mentioned his name he would make a $5 donation to the Rotary Foundation.  Scott Carr.  Scott Carr.  Scott Carr.  Scott Carr.  Scott Carr.
That’s it!
NB - Thank you soon-to-be Past District Governor Steven Weitzen.
SW - As this is the last Sunday Morning Musing, I can’t thank all Rotarians enough for your support and encouragement.  Thank you for  reading and listening.  Thank you for being there.