Becky Smith of Bayfield says she is “bossy” – in a delightful way. That’s why it felt like a natural fit when she stepped into the role of district governor for 57 Colorado Rotary Clubs this month.
“I’m very bossy. All of this runs in my nature,” she said. “I like to say it’s a delightfully pleasant bossiness, but there is no doubt.”
Rotary Clubs around the world focus on volunteer community service and leadership projects. As district governor, Smith is responsible for managing a quarter-million dollar budget and guiding 2,000 members who are spread over 52,000 square miles in southern Colorado.
One month into her yearlong term, she is running at the challenge head-on with big plans for both statewide and international projects.
“I vacillate between feeling incredibly energized and loving the work to feeling overwhelmed because there’s so much work,” Smith said.
Smith became acquainted with Rotary when her aunt and role model became one of the first women to join the organization after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it to allow female members in 1987.
“I’ve always had Rotary on my radar,” Smith said.
She joined the Pine River Valley Rotary Club in 2006 and became club president for two years around 2010. During her tenure, the club grew from seven members to 27, she said.
She launched a new fundraiser during Bayfield Heritage Days, when hundreds of sheep pass through the town on their way down from the high country. The Rotary Club paints a ewe blue and offers a raffle: If a ticket matches the ewe’s tag, the ticket owner gets cash.
“No other club in the world does this,” Smith said.
The fundraiser helps address hunger in the Pine River Valley, connects local students with opportunities or assists international service projects, she said.
Then she helped train future Rotary Club presidents for three years as a district trainer. It was a good fit, given her long career in education during which she was a teacher in Ignacio and a member of the Bayfield Board of Education.
Her leadership caught the eye of the nominating committee for Colorado Rotary District 5470, which covers southern Colorado.
She accepted the nomination in 2018 then launched into a three-year training process. The current district governor and three governors-in-training meet weekly to plan, problem-solve and help each other meet the district’s needs.
“First of all, (I was) thrilled to death and overwhelmed,” Smith said. “Those were the two strongest emotions.”
During her one-year term as district governor, Smith is required to make in-person visits to each of the 57 Rotary Clubs at least once. District governor’s typically put 9,000 miles on their car in six months, she said.
“The purpose of going to the clubs is to inform them about what’s new in Rotary and inspire them to continue the good work of community and international service,” she said.
One of Smith’s top priorities as district governor is helping clubs re-engage and re-energize after a year of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also wants communities to be more aware of Rotary Clubs and their work.
But her most intensive project is a fundraiser to help girls in Kenya complete their education.
“My absolute life passion is opening opportunities for girls' education in impoverished countries,” Smith said.
When girls are educated, they use that knowledge in their communities. But research shows girls drop out of school when they hit puberty because they do not have access to private restrooms or feminine supplies.
Smith plans to raise $70,000 to help a Kenyan Rotary Club provide infrastructure and supplies to young students to help them finish their education. Her goal is to get every club in her district to raise $500, for at least $25,000. That money would be matched dollar-for-dollar by the district, and Rotary International is donating $20,000.
“The more we empower girls in impoverished countries, the more we empower every village in the country,” Smith said.
The Pine River Valley Rotary Club is one of four clubs in La Plata County, including Durango Evening Club, Durango High Noon Rotary Club and Durango Daybreak Rotary Club.
The local clubs put on fundraising events, such as pancake breakfasts, golf tournaments, saloon nights, the Red Ball Express and more to fund community service projects.