How Rotary District 5490 Formed

When Arizona’s first Rotary club, Phoenix Rotary Club, was chartered in 1914, it became part of Rotary District 13 which was then composed of all of Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas and part of California. In 1918, Arizona became part of District 23 and in 1922, with continued growth of Rotary, Arizona became part of District 8 which still covered West Texas, New Mexico and part of California.

The first Governor of new District 8 was Charles B. Christy, a member of the Phoenix Rotary Club. With continued growth of new clubs in Arizona (there were now 18 plus Needles), District 43 was formed with George Todd, its first governor.  Arizona clubs continued in District 43 until 1937 when Arizona with 28 clubs plus Needles became District 111. Another Phoenix Rotary Club member, A. “Cap” Taylor, became the first governor of District 111. Unfortunately he was killed when he accidently walked into an elevator shaft.  R.I. appointed Bugs Boynton, a past district governor to serve out his term.

World War 11 had slowed the growth of new Rotary clubs but new impetus resulted from legislation passed in 1947 at the International Convention in San Francisco. Until that time, Rotary clubs held exclusive territorial rights within a municipality so there was only one club per city or town regardless of size. The new legislation enabled a “second” club to be chartered within the same city as an existing club, assuming that the existing club was willing to give up some of its territory. It is our understanding that the Catalina (Tucson) Rotary Club (now in District 5500) had the distinction of being the first club chartered by R.I. on January 3, 1948 within the city limits of an existing club.

By 1949, there were 33 clubs in Arizona and along with Needles it became District 166 with Harry Bonsall, Sr. of Glendale as its first governor. At this time, only Catalina was a “second” city club for it was not until 1955 when North Phoenix Rotary Club was chartered as a “second” Phoenix Rotary Club that this expansion concept took hold in Arizona. By 1957 Rotary in Arizona had grown to 40 clubs and along with Needles, District 549 was born.  Alden M. Miller of Phoenix 100 was District 549’5 first governor.

During the next 10 years, Rotary continued to flourish as the state experienced explosive population growth.  By 1967, District 549 had grown to 69 clubs so discussions concerning a new district commenced.  A Zone 1 committee composed of PDG’s Jim Rooney and Horace Griffen from Arizona and several PDG’s from California and Nevada, including Jim Bruno and Jim Speer, was formed to study the situation. It was felt initially that the new district might be composed of both Arizona and California clubs but eventually the decision was made that Arizona clubs would remain by themselves. By its own request, however, the Needles Rotary Club elected to remain with the Arizona clubs.

By the time redistricting was completed in 1971, District 549 had grown to 74 clubs with over 4,000 Rotarians, considerably above the then R.I. desired goal of 50 clubs.  William E. Craig District Governor in 1970-1971, was the last governor ·to have the entire state in his district. (His son, Charles Craig, served as president of the Wickenburg Rotary Club during 1990-91.)

During the 1986-87 year, a movement to redistrict got underway in Southern California with a number of clubs along Arizona’s western border included in their plans. To avoid the loss of Arizona’s  clubs, it was necessary for Arizona to start its own redistricting plans. DG’s Dave Cocanower (549) and AI Face (550) set about to accomplish this in 1987-88 by working with past district governors of both districts. All agreed that the state should be put together and then divided into three new districts but just how this was to be accomplished “to be fair to an concerned” was more difficult. But at the 1988 District Assemblies, a proposed redistricting plan was approved by both districts. Unfortunately these plans differed slightly so it was necessary to again put a revised plan to the vote of all clubs. This redistricting plan to form a new District 551 from clubs in 549 and 550 was finally approved later in 1988 with implementation scheduled for July 1, 1990 following final approval from R.I. The current boundaries of new District 549 contained 38 clubs.

Because of the growth of districts and clubs worldwide, Rotary International added a zero to all district numbers in 1991 making District 549 into District 5490.

Provided by Gail Peretz, Executive Director, Phoenix Rotary 100 and 5/15/2017 by Aaron Fritz



Author: Aaron Fritz

Joined Rotary in 1999. Past President of the Highlands Ranch Rotary Club, Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Castle Pines, Past President of the Rotary eClub of Arizona, and current Assistant Governor for District 5490. Multiple Paul Harris Fellow. 2nd Generation Rotarian.