Who Needs District Officers, Anyway?

Maybe you're wondering if District Officers do anything -- or who they are. Certainly, you might sometimes wonder if they're necessary. I know that I spent my first year as a Toastmaster knowing that Ann Wuori was my Area Governor only because she had a fantastic party one weekend for the clubs in her area. We said "hi." As for the District Governor, we had one in our club, and it sounded like an important job. Nonetheless, our club was doing well, we were having fun and growing; I didn't think we needed District Officers.

The Area Governor is your Friend
Mary Baker tells a wonderful story of when she was a brand new Toastmaster. Her small club made her its new president. Within a month, she had a call from a man who identified himself as Jim Farasey, told her that he was her Area Governor, and said that he would be visiting her club this weekend. Mary wondered what she had done already that was so terrible as to bring someone to her club from California. It's important for all of us to know that our Area Governor is not to be feared (especially not Jim Farasey), and that they actually live nearby. (Maybe those are the two reasons they often host parties.) Area Governors do wonderful things for clubs. They have usually been in Toastmasters for a few years and have been a successful club president; they know how some things get done and have advice for clubs. As an Area Governor, I helped one club rise from six to nineteen members. I worked with a second club to moderate a parliamentary fight that two members were picking with the everyone else. The other clubs were successful and moving on their own initiative, so I visited them and made progress reports without interfering. A key thing about Area Governors is that they don't impose their ideas on a club; they make suggestions. Clubs do not report to Area Governors -- Area Governors work for clubs.

The Division Governor Knows You
The Division Governor doesn't work as closely with clubs as do Area Governors, but this officer knows all about each club. As a Division Governor, my major concern was that the members in the division get value from being a Toastmaster. I helped Area Governors sponsor contests and worked with my staff on Division contests. I worked with Area Governors on special programs, membership growth, helping new clubs form, and finding alternative clubs for members of dying clubs. I didn't know many names and faces, but if you told me your club, I knew all about what was happening with it. If that club wanted my help, I was ready to give my suggestions to the Area Governor and help in any way the Area Governor asked. Remember this: Division Governors work for Area Governors. The Division Governor's job is to help Area Governors look good.

The Big Three Don't Make Cars
I can't speak from direct experience anymore, but I've worked closely enough with Administrative Lt. Governors, Educational Lt. Governors, and District Governors to understand some of their jobs. If you look at the long list of these three positions' responsibilities, it comes down to: travel, paperwork, and committees. The three travel throughout the District to wherever an event needs some support. They begin with Officer Training and continue with speechcrafts, seminars, Toastmaster University, and anything else where they can encourage members to do their best. Paper shuffling comes next (the reward for being motivational and organized). These three fill out forms for, goals, status reports, agendas, budgets, ... you get the idea. Many of these reports go back to International Headquarters and help HQ develop programs that Districts' members need and want. They also oversees numerous committees: member retention, speechcraft, club extension, Forum 56, and the District Directory to name a few. There is far too much work for the Big Three to do themselves, so they spread their expertise among committees.

But Do We Need District Officers?
If you never attend a contest, don't want to visit other clubs, are content doing all of the publicity for your club, and never attend seminars, then maybe not. If your club has enough members, knows when all of the paperwork is due, will train its own officers, and never needs a knowledgeable outsider to settle a dispute, then maybe not. Yet, even in this imagined nirvana, it's nice to consider that District Officers are there if we want them, ready to serve the people for whom they work: the club members.