Leadership of Arlington Rotary Takes on New Look


(Sunday, October 21, 2007 5:55 AM EDT)

Attend a service club meeting in Arlington, and you'll find that many members and leaders are older men. But the Rotary Club of Arlington is bucking the trend - almost all its officers this year are women.

President Elizabeth Harr Bricksin, president-elect Kim Durand, secretary Linda Valentino and treasurer Beth Napper have all stepped up and become leaders of an organization they are all proud to be part of.

(Sergeant-at-arms Ward De Groot is the only non-female officer.)

Their involvement is especially significant because the mere presence of women is a relatively new thing for the club. Women were not officially welcomed into Rotary until 1989.

Valentino remembers being a little nervous about joining in 2003, because she was one of only two female members.

“I felt odd that I was younger and female but, I also felt, you've got to start somewhere,” she said.

And with that start, women now make up between 10 and 15 percent of the club's membership.

For Harr Bricksin, becoming the club's president was “a natural fit.” (She is only the second woman to become president of the club.)

“I love being a dynamic part of a group,” she said. “When I joined, Linda [Valentino] and I were the only women, and to make a change, I became part of the leadership.”

And it seems that most of the women in the group subscribe to this mentality, and want to take an active part in the Arlington Rotary.

“I just think the women we've attracted are high-energy, go-getter leaders,” Harr Bricksin said. “There aren't many wallflowers.”

“We have a commitment to Rotary,” Napper said. “We're going to step up and ask what we can do.”

Since the four officers are all relatively new members, taking on leadership responsibilities was a little daunting, but all have found the club's veteran members to be very helpful.

“I was a little concerned, because I don't know much background on Rotary,” Durand said. “But people said, ‘Kim, you can do this!' There's a safety net of people to help me step up and be a leader.”

Both the newer members and those with more years have felt the benefits of a more diverse membership.

“It's good to have a generational mix, to create an interesting atmosphere,” Durand said.

“The older members are excited that we're taking on these roles. They feel a vibrant energy and think it's fun,” Harr Bricksin said. “As young business leaders, it's fascinating to learn from them.”

The four women said they respect the procedures of past Rotary leaders, but their aim is to make club business more open. So far, Harr Bricksin has observed that the difference in approach is “monumental.”

“Our leadership style is more inclusive,” she said. “We're leading through consensus.”

This year is the first time directors have had co-directors (mostly younger members) to help spread the burden of all the work to be done.

And it's cooperation and teamwork that Harr Bricksin wants this year's Arlington Rotary to be remembered for.

“I've worked hard on building partnerships,” she said. “It's about consensus. You can do more in numbers.”

Treasurer Beth Napper, president-elect Kim Durand, president Elizabeth Harr Bricksin and secretary Linda Valentino make up the first primarily female group of officers in the history of the Rotary Club of Arlington.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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