JULY 2017
Meet District Governor Ralph Smith

Dear Fellow Rotarians,

As your new District Governor, I look forward to the coming year and the opportunity to meet and make many new Rotary friends throughout Northern Iowa. Allow me to share some information about myself and my perspective on the Rotary experience.

I was born and raised in Charles City. I graduated from Charles City Community High School in 1969, completed a bachelor’s degree in history from Carlton College, Northfield, Minnesota, in 1973, and graduated from the University of Iowa Law School in 1976. I returned to practice law in my family’s firm until my retirement on July 1, 2017.

I married my college sweetheart, Ruth Hisanaga (a Japanese-American from the State of Hawaii), in 1975. We have two children, Karl, who lives in Independence, and Rachel, who lives in Dubuque and belongs to the Dubuque Rotary Club.

I joined the Charles City Rotary Club in 1976 and served as its president in 1978 and 2015. I was motivated to become a District Governor after my experience as a group study exchange team leader to Poland in 2008.

In 1976, Rotary was a selective group of Caucasian businessmen who attended meetings in coat and tie. The “movers and shakers” of Charles City, these men represented a vibrant local economy based on many small retail businesses, manufacturing, and related service businesses. With globalization of trade, advancements in communication and transportation, and the development of a large-box retail economy, main street Iowa suffered a decline and much of the traditional economic base for rural Iowa Rotary club membership disappeared.

On the positive side, women have contributed a new source of talent and work ethic to our clubs, and club membership has become and individual choice rather than the dictate of an employer. Our members, many of whom pay their own dues, have a greater investment in and loyalty to their local club. And many of our communities are adjusting to new economic circumstances and finding ways to grow and prosper in this new economic world.

At the Zone and International levels, Rotary has become a more urbanized, professional organization placing increasing emphasis on professional training (PETS), professional fundraising, and large-scale projects done in partnership with other organizations (Polio eradication).

Nonetheless, I believe Rotary’s strength and focus remains in the local club that serves the needs of its community. While we can share in the pride of Polio eradication made possible through our financial contributions, this cannot substitute for the satisfaction of the day-to-day and face-to-face involvement with our local residents. Accordingly, my focus in this year will be on “participation” in the Rotary experience at the club level.

Let’s have fun in this new year!


Above: Outgoing District Governor Jim Coloff, right, congratulates Ralph Smith at his District Governor installation in Charles City on June 26.