Posted by Tony Sheard
Dear David,
 
Congratulations on becoming the Governor…!
 
As I said in my June Newsletter, I am the last of the Road Warrior Governors and the first of the Virtual Governors so visiting clubs, the largest time constraint on the role has evaporated overnight. By digital means we can be anywhere in the world. Our RI Directors, the District Team, Governor, Clubs and all our members are now more accessible than ever before. As someone said we may be further apart but we have never been as connected.
 
There is an expectation among some members that the DG is the fountain of all knowledge about Rotary. While this is very flattering and I enjoy interacting with members I encourage all members to simply google the question they may have before phoning or emailing the Governor as many of these questions can be quickly answered by a quick referral to Rotary.org or the District6330.org. Some of the most common questions are: “What are the current Rotary Dues?” “How do Paul Harris Points work?” "How do I apply for a District grant?
My role with our Leadership Team, in the last quarter, has been to ensure we maintain connected, provide us a forum for sharing and exchanging ideas and advice to ensure our clubs stay vibrant and as a result some of our other activities were put on the back burner.  To this end we offered Zoom accounts to all clubs, instituted regular District wide Zoom calls and provided a central repository of information on the District Home Page. Our approach was recognised as a best practice by Club and District support and has been replicated by other Districts.
 
At the onset of the Pandemic I recall meeting you in Florida to discuss the implications and since then we have become telephone buddies, almost calling daily and sometimes more at peak times to bounce off ideas and chart the way forward in this rapidly changing environment. I now count you as one of my friends
 
While you will miss out in the near future on visiting your clubs, meeting face to face and seeing the impact of club’s work in the communities they serve, you now have more time to devote to helping evolve our organisation and provide more effective support to our clubs and members. However, I do hope you do get the opportunity to visit clubs later in your year.
 
The onset of COVID-19 Crisis has forced us to look at life differently. The District now has the opportunity to capitalise on the windfall of the freeing up of time, savings in costs and the increase in connectivity that has resulted from us operating in a virtual environment.
 
Through Zoom and other digital means, we can now deliver key messages concurrently to all members in our District and receive immediate feedback.
 
As Chris Cummins said at our First Virtual District Conference “we will only grow if we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone”. This message is true of us as individuals as it is of growing our membership and our Foundation.
 
This year membership has stayed steady but we have charted 2 new Rotaract Clubs (London and Flint), one new Interact Club in London and I am proud that my last duty on June 30th was to sign the Charter for the new Global Passport Rotary Club.
 
There are 2 tasks that were put on the back burner due to COVID-19, the revamp of the District website and the campaign to increase Foundation Giving particularly in relation to the number of endowment bequests to the Foundation. During the coming year I have committed to supporting both these initiatives to get them back on track.
 
Our major Youth Programs, RYLA - Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders and Rotary Youth Exchange have had to be deferred for a year and both organizing groups are now taking advantage of the timeout to review and re-design the program contents and look at promotional ideas to enhance participation in these life changing experiences.
 
As the Covid-19 situation begins to ease we need look at the re-entry path from virtual to in person gatherings, clubs need to reflect and re-evaluate how they wish to operate going forward, building on the best of the virtual environment and respecting government advice, past traditions and members views on how comfortable they are meeting until a vaccine is available. Our training, conferences, service projects and fund raising will have to be re-imagined to fit with the changes to society that the pandemic has forced upon us. These are not easy choices and through the coming months we have the opportunity through your Leadership to plan and transition successfully to the new future.
 
As I transition to a “Past It” I will remain an integral part of the Leadership Team along  with you, DGE Erin, DGN Mike and Vice Governor Don as together we look to grasp the opportunities that this pandemic has thrust upon us to effectively support our clubs, members and our District Programs. Our theme for last year “Rotary Connects the World” and our Theme for this year “Rotary Opens Opportunities” cannot be more apt as we together chart our path forward.
 
I thank Vice Governor Diane for being my mentor throughout the year and I reserve a very special “Thank You” to Sylvia for being my aide, supporter and critic, my club and the District for giving me the privilege of stewarding the District for a year and all the people throughout the world of Rotary who have offered me advice throughout my time in Rotary.  
 
On behalf of Sylvia and myself I am delighted to able to play much of this advice forward and we send our very best wishes to you and Sue as you embark on your stewardship journey.  Be yourself and you will have a blast…Enjoy!
 
Tony Sheard
Past District Governor 2019-20