Women members strengthen Farragut Rotary

Tom KingFarragut, Feature

An ongoing goal of Rotary International is to grow our membership – especially among women. The longtime stereotype is that Rotary is a civic club made up of old white-haired businessmen who get together for lunch once a week. In some places, it may still be that way, especially overseas, but not at the Rotary Club of Farragut.

Rotary did not begin recruiting or accepting women as members until 1989. Farragut veterinarian Dr. Mili Bass was Farragut Rotary’s first female member. Its second was Joan McIntee, who also was the club’s first female president in 1994-95. Joan also was an assistant district governor.

Today, Rotary International’s female membership is 21 percent of its 3.2 million members worldwide.

Today, Farragut Rotary has 90 members and the club has 27 women – or 28 percent of its membership. Another woman is in the pipeline for membership very soon.

Rotary has been part of my life since 1987, save for two years (2003-04) when retirement began and I moved back to Knoxville from California. Farragut Rotary accepted me as a member in March 2005. When I joined in 2005, the club had five women on its roster – Joan McIntee, Linda Bellich, Jamie Northcutt, Becky Duncan, who inducted me since she was president in 2004-05, and Dr. Stephanie Myers, also a veterinarian in Lenoir City but a Farragut resident.

When 2015 ended we had 15 women in the club. Today, we have 27.

In 2016, United Community Bank’s Megan Belcher and Realtor Teri Jo Fox joined. In 2017 we welcomed four other high-energy women – Mortgage Investors Group branch manager/senior loan officer Kristin Abouelata; Julie Blaylock, who is the chief executive officer of the Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce; Beacon Insurance Advisers founder/owner Val Privett; and Candace Viox, who owns the Farragut bistro and lounge Water Into Wine (W2W).

The parade has continued this year. Arlene Weinstein, owner of Arlene’s Fun Travel, joined in January. Then in March we inducted Rosanna Iosso of Smoky Mountain Hospice; Yvonne Key, development coordinator of Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM); and Marci Stiles of Grayson Automotive Sales. Denise Bash, marketing professional, joined in July, and last week we inducted banker Sonya Ford.

When you look at our list of past presidents, seven are women: Joan McIntee (1994-95), Shawn Boles (2002-03), Becky Duncan (2004-05), Leah Berry (2009-10), Peggy Wilson (2010-11), Lee Mrazek (2014-15), and Chris Camp (2017-18).

Today, Keith Bryson is our president and following him in 2019-20 will be another of our hard-working female members – Staci Wilkerson, vice president/commercial relationship manager at FirstBank in Farragut. Staci will be our fifth female president in the last nine years.

Our club is stronger with this infusion of our new female members and the energy and leadership they bring. They have changed our club – for the better. And we’re looking for more members like them.

The club would love to get to 100 members. If you are interested in exploring membership and learning more about Rotary, whether you are a man or a woman, drop me an email at tking535@gmail.com We meet each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Fox Den Country Club.

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