There are three things on which the Rotary International President and his staff evaluate a District Governor. They are: 1) progress on membership; 2) district giving to The Rotary Foundation; and 3) attendance at a District Conference. 

As a district governor, I am less interested in what the Rotary International President thinks of my effort, but rather how club Rotarians, club leaders, and the District Leadership Team evaluate our collective efforts. The criteria, I believe, will be similar but more expansive.

At this, the half way point in the Rotary Year, I have visited all 53 district clubs and can report there are positive signs based on the above criteria in all but a few clubs. Membership is growing, Foundation giving is up, clubs are actively involved in community service and international service activities, there is an increasing emphasis on public image activities by the clubs and district, and participation in the District Assembly/RU, the Avenues of Service, and Foundation and Membership seminars has been excellent.

What is now important, however, is pressing on in the second half of the Rotary year and making it even more successful. Continuity of leadership and joint training and planning for club leadership is vital. Club membership growth and involvement of new and experienced uninvolved members is vital. In March, the earliest District Conference in recent years, will take place. This District Conference will be an opportunity for club Rotarians to enjoy fellowship with a strong program at an exceptional venue.

For the first time in recent district history, the conference location will be in Napa. I chose this location because it is close enough for easy access, the Meritage Resort is a location everyone can enjoy, and where non-Rotarian spouses/partners will want to attend. We are calling this conference “A Grape Escape,” an opportunity to relax, renew and re-ignite. It will also be an opportunity to recognize the contribution of women in Rotary and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of women joining Rotary.

I made the decision for a late March conference with several things in mind. First, we could negotiate a room rate that is well below the late spring rate and equivalent to last year's conference hotel rates. Second, I have noticed that the final quarter of the Rotary year tends to be less energized in clubs; the conference’s aim is to change that trend.

The conference has a strong blend of Rotary and non-Rotary presenters and entertainers. The conference will kick off at noon Friday, March 22, with Academy Award winner Rita Moreno as the main speaker. Also on that afternoon, we will be providing a special recognition to all female past, present, and future District 5170 club Presidents and District Governors who are present.

On Friday night, we are calling it “An Evening with Rock Stars." While many of us take him for granted, we have in our presence the closest thing in Rotary to a "Rock Star," a Past Rotary International President. Rick King is one of the most sought after Rotary speakers and will be speaking Friday night. Another Rock Star will be the entertainment Friday night. His name is James Durbin. You may remember James Durbin was a finalist in American Idol. He is from Santa Cruz and will be singing and playing his guitar; he also will share some of his life experience related to his Tourette syndrome.

On Saturday, March 23, we also have an outstanding lineup. In the morning, Past Director and District Governor Robert Coultas will be the breakfast speaker. He is one of Rotary's top presenters. At lunch, the Rotary International President's representative, Jennifer Jones, will be the featured speaker. Jennifer is from Ontario, Canada, and is an outstanding presenter as well as being a rising star in the Rotary world. Saturday night, our speaker is Dick Henning. Dick runs the Celebrity Series which brought him in contact with individuals ranging from Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton, Yo Yo Ma to Cary Grant, Lucille Ball to Bill Murray, Colin Powell to Elie Wiesel, and Condeleeza Rice to Truman Capote, to name a few. Many past events have sought Dick Henning to speak about his experiences; this year, he agreed to share them with his Rotary friends attending Saturday night. The entertainment on Saturday night will be the Voena Choir, a youth choir so outstanding they sang at the last Olympics in London.

Finally, but certainly not least, will be the Sunday Brunch on March 24 which features the Richard D. King Speech Contest. It is not to be missed. This year, for the first time in many years, the actual finals of our district speech contest will take place. I don't have to tell any of you who have experienced these high school speakers that the quality of the four finalists is exceptional. Rotarians will be able to hear and experience the excitement of the winner being chosen.
In between sessions there are many things to enjoy. We have an exceptional lineup of forums. Many of them are Rotary oriented, but we also have non-Rotary forums that include everything from wine tasting to art. The Meritage Resort is also an experience unto itself. There is a pool, a hot tub, a spa, a small bowling alley, bocce ball, two bars, and hiking among the vineyards. There will be no-host receptions prior to dinner events, and on Saturday, Paul Harris Society Members will have a special reception in the resort's Trinitas wine cave. Anyone can become a Paul Harris Society Member eligible to attend by making a $1,000 donation to The Rotary Foundation this Rotary year prior to March 22, 2013.

Finally, on Thursday March 21, there will be several pre-conference events. For bicycle enthusiasts, there will be a bike ride through Napa Valley ending at the Meritage. For golfers, there will be a Walter B. Schulze Golf Tournament at the Silverado Golf Course. Also on Thursday, there will be a Wine Tasting Bus Tour for those who sign up. Finally, the annual Sidney R. Mitchell tennis tournament will be taking place in Sunnyvale.

You can go online to to register for the conference. Registration is free. You only pay for meal events. There is a meal package for the entire conference which will save $66 over the total of all meals. Thursday events and some forums have a cost. You can access the Meritage Resort to reserve a room by CLICKING HERE .

Kathi and I will see you all there; I promise you a weekend you will long remember.