In four months, the Newcomerstown Rotary Club will officially make history.

On July 1, Newcomerstown Rotary member Jim Russell of Newcomerstown will become the Rotary District Governor of Rotary International District 6650 in Ohio.

"They've (the Newcomertown Rotary Club) never had a District Governor from our club," Russell, who first joined the Newcomerstown Rotary Club in 1997, said. "I'm the first."

His responsibilities will be to visit all 48 Rotary clubs within his 10-county district in Ohio. The district extends from Newcomerstown on the far southwest corner to Warren on the far northeast corner of the district. (There are only five districts within the state.) In all, there are more than 2,100 Rotarians within Russell's territory.

Besides making at least one visit to each Rotary Club in the district, Russell's responsibilities for the one-year term will also be to train all new club presidents, select all committee chairpersons and serve as the only officer of Rotary International residing in the territory where he has all legal responsibilities of the organization.

As to why he wanted to become the Rotary District Governor, he said, "I decided I was retired enough to have the time to do it."

He was also very involved locally.

Russell has served twice as club President and has chaired the Foundation, Club Service and International Service committees. He is also a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and a Paul Harris Sustaining Member.

The actual process of becoming Rotary District Governor is more than two years in the making when Russell's home club, Newcomerstown, nominated him to serve as District Governor.

Once nominated, he went on to an interview with past District Governors. Then the nominating committee makes the decision. The process is District Governor-Nominee, District Governor-Elect and finally District Governor.

"Each step has responsibilities/duties so you are ready to become Governor on July 1," Russell said.

In preparation of July 1, Russell attended a one-week training workshop in San Diego, Calif. The International Assembly trains new leadership of local Rotary Clubs. There were more than 530 District Governor-Elects in attendance with more than 200 countries and 33,000 clubs represented.

The International Assembly was hosted by Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith.

While at the International Assembly, Russell was able to secure a Rotary Group Study Exchange with Fortunato "Tato" Dimyuga of the Phillippines.

The Rotary Foundation's Group Study Exchange (GSE) program is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for businesspeople and professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 who are in the early stages of their careers. The program provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits in paired areas of different countries. For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country's culture and institutions, observe how their vocations are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.

"It truly is an international organization," Russell said.

Especially, with this year's theme of "Building Comments, Bridging Continents."

He said his job at Hewlett Packard Company, as well as his six years in the United States Navy, will be beneficial to him with the international portion of the Rotary organization, especially with the Rotary's campaign to end polio around the world.

"Rotary's US $200 Million Challenge" for 2008-2012 is the eradication of polio. Since 1985, polio cases have dropped by 99 percent worldwide. Because of the efforts of Rotary International, polio has been reduced to four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

More training is on tap for Russell. On March 12-13, he will travel to Columbus for a combined training session for all Ohio District Governors-Elect.

Russell's time as District Governor runs July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011.

Russell also has plans to attend the International Convention which is in Montreal in June 2010 and the following year in New Orleans. He said the International Convention is more of a celebration with lots of entertainment rather than training.

He said he's attended the conventions before and they are all about celebrating Rotary's international legacy.

There are more than 1.2 million business, professional and community leaders involved with Rotary in more than 200 countries worldwide. Together, they are providing humanitarian service, building goodwill and peace in the world.

Currently, there are 19 members of the Newcomerstown Rotary Club. They meet every Monday night at 6 p.m. at April's Country Kitch'n in Newcomerstown. Those interested in becoming a Rotarian are asked to visit a weekly meeting.

For information, contact any Rotarian; or Russell at 498-4278 or jrussell@nctrotary.org.

"It's going to be a fun year," Russell said. "It'll be a full-time job."

Jim Russell of Newcomerstown, l, is shaking hands with Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith, while Ray's wife, Judie, looks on.

Flags of more than 200 countries were represented at Rotary's International Assembly in San Diego, Calif., Jan. 18-24.

Jim Russell of Newcomerstown, r, is pictured with Fortunato "Tato" Dimyuga of Phillippines, which is the Newcomerstown Rotary Club's Group Study Exchange partner for 2010-2011.

The layout at the Plenary sessions at the Rotary International Assembly is pictured. Everyone was assigned a seat and attendance was taken at every session.