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Rotary District 6970 governor visits Jacksonville
Rotary Club of Jacksonville President Bill Mason and Rotary International District 6970 Gov. Art MacQueen.
Cherri Coombs Ohmer and club Executive Director Miriam Funchess, who is retiring after 20 years of service. Ohmer has been selected to succeed Funchess.
The Rotary Club of Jacksonville had a special guest Monday when Rotary International District 6970 Gov. Art MacQueen visited the club.

MacQueen lives in Palm Coast and has been a member of the Rotary Club of Daytona Beach West since 2001.

He was elected president of that club for the 2004-05 Rotary year.

He said one of his duties is to visit each club in the district to deliver a specific message.

"It's my job to say 'thank you.' The role of the district governor is not to tell you what to do – it's to cheerlead you on," said MacQueen.

District 6970, also known as "Florida's Crown District," comprises Alachua, Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Union and Volusia counties. There are 3,200 members of 59 Rotary clubs in the district.

MacQueen set out his goals for his term in office, including increasing the support of the Rotary International Foundation from the clubs in the district.

He said the district's charitable contributions to the foundation have declined by more than 30 percent in the past five years. He attributed the reduction to the economy and to "donor fatigue" with the 25-year-old campaign by Rotary International to eradicate polio on a global scale.

He said only 120 cases of polio were diagnosed last year in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia. India recorded no diagnoses in that time and if the trend continues, within 18 months India will be considered free of polio, MacQueen said.

"I know we're tired of talking about it, but let's finish it," he said of the worldwide effort.

Adding to Rotary's membership in the district and diversifying the membership is another goal for MacQueen.

"It's not just Northeast Florida or Florida, it's the entire United States – we're getting older, we're too male and we're too white. That's not reflective of our community," he said.

MacQueen said there are many African-American and Hispanic business leaders in Northeast Florida who have not discovered Rotary.

"Maybe it's because they haven't been asked. Invite them to lunch," he said.

Club President Bill Mason said the Rotary Club of Jacksonville marked two milestones 25 years ago.

In 1987, the club inducted its first African-American member, Willard Payne, and its first female member, Frances Bartlett Kinne, who was elected president of the club in 2000. Payne was elected president for the 2003-04 year.

"We have a great tradition of diversity. We need to build on that tradition," Mason said.

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