MUSCATINE — In 38 years of being a member of the Rotary Club of Muscatine, Mike Ruby has only one regret: he didn't become involved with the club sooner.
Ruby, who has served as Muscatine Rotary Club president for two separate terms, was named Rotary District 6000 District Governor this year. The district includes 66 Rotary Clubs, and about 3,800 members, mostly in southern Iowa.
In the Muscatine club's 97-year history, Ruby is only the second member to be named district governor. Breck Breckenfelder was the first Muscatine Rotary Club member to earn the title in 1990. Watching Breckenfelder work as district governor inspired Ruby to pursue a similar path.
"When he was district governor, I had no clue what the district was or what the district governor did," Ruby said. "But I remember sitting next to him in meetings, and listening to him talk with this deep passion for Rotary. And I listened."
It took Ruby about 20 years before becoming fully involved in the club, and eventually being named president. He has been dedicated to the Rotary's mission ever since. In his time with the club, Ruby has traveled to Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Haiti and elsewhere, for conventions and missionary trips.
Before deciding to pursue this path, Ruby said he spoke with about 10 previous district governors.
"Every one of them, with no exception ... said it was one of the best years of their lives," Ruby said. "And that was a good enough recommendation for me. And they are correct. Jo Anne and I are absolutely having the time of our life."
Ruby spent one year as District Governor Elect before taking over as governor in July. During that year, Ruby and his wife traveled to all 66 Rotary Clubs in the district, to meet the members and understand the "personality of each club."
"It was one of the best decisions we've ever made; it was worth every mile, every minute," he said.
For the next year, Ruby will attend Rotary Club meetings across southern Iowa, head projects and initiatives in the district and be a representative for Rotary International.
While serving as district governor, Ruby wants to grow membership in the Rotary district by 3 percent.
"It's a very aggressive goal because the average Rotary Club will lose about 10 to 12 percent of their members," he said. "So to maintain the status quo and still grow 3 percent is very ambitious."
Ruby also has the goal of encouraging Rotary members to leave 5 percent of their estates to the Rotary Foundation, to help fund charity projects and scholarships. In addition, he is changing how the district holds its annual conference.
Typically, Ruby said, Rotary District 6000 holds its conference in a different city each year. But, Ruby said traveling and attending the conference can be expensive, and sometimes excludes members with families or jobs who cannot take time off. This year, Ruby will hold five events across the district, so that more members can attend.
Ruby expects this year to be a whirlwind of meetings, visits and planning sessions, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
"(Jo Anne) and I couldn't keep up this pace for years, but this year we can and are committed to making a difference," he said. "And Jo Anne has been as much a part of this commitment as I am. We literally work side-by-side."
Mike and Jo Anne Ruby, who were both previously teachers, have been dedicated to charity work, through their church and other organizations, for decades. But this year, Mike Ruby said Rotary Club is their sole mission.
Mike Ruby writes a monthly column for the Muscatine Journal.