Heather Phillips will serve as president of the Haliburton Rotary Club for its 2021/22 year. She is only the third female president in the club’s history. /Submitted

New Rotary president only the third woman to serve in the role

By Mike Baker

July 1 was a day to remember for long-time Highlander Heather Phillips as she became only the third woman to be named president of the Haliburton Rotary Club.

Born and raised in Haliburton, Phillips has always had a desire to give back to the community she calls home. Having been involved in various volunteer endeavours as she grew up and got into her career as a local real estate agent, Phillips was introduced to Rotary in late 2018. Looking to increase her community workload, Rotary seemed like a great fit.

“Andrew Hodgson actually suggested to me that I would make a good Rotarian, so I started going to meetings with him in November of 2018, and ultimately made the decision to join in January 2019,” Phillips said.

That turned out to be the perfect time for Phillips to get involved, as her very first meeting ended up being a special assembly that highlighted everything the Rotary club was actively working on.

Phillips quickly fitted in, taking on a significant role in Rotary’s Welcome Centre project for Head Lake Park. The facility was completed this spring and is now open to the public.

“That was really rewarding working on the capital campaign, getting donations from the community and just watching the bricks and mortar go up. It was really exciting,” Phillips said.

As the Rotary year wound down, it became apparent that the club was going to need someone new to step forward as president. Ted Brandon was coming to the end of his term, and the individual that had been previously identified to replace him had to withdraw due to health problems. That created something of an opportunity for Phillips.

“We were in the position where we needed someone quick, and so Ted and Andrew and a few other people came to me and said even though I’m quite new, they thought I’d be really great as president,” Phillips said. “It was pretty daunting at first, I definitely had to think about it, but Ted promised he’d be around to help me out, and it was definitely a great opportunity, so I thought ‘hey, why not’.”

In truth, the president’s role is just like that of any other member – just with a little more paperwork and speaking engagements sprinkled in, Phillips said.

The local group meets weekly, every Thursday evening.

As Ontario prepares to move into Step 3 of its reopening plan on Friday, COVID-19 restrictions are set to loosen to such a point that community events and activities will be able to resume with decent crowds. Phillips says Rotary is hoping to move forward with some of their usual fundraising events later this year.

“It would be so great to be able to get back to doing what we do best. We have remained active throughout the pandemic, and in fact just recently sold out on our 2021 Annual Car Draw, so that was a huge success. Still, we’re hoping to get back to some of our regular events so that we can raise some money and help even more people in our community,” Phillips said.

She noted that the club was keen to partner up with Dysart et al once again now that it has an official plan in place for Head Lake Park, to see where else could be upgraded. Aside from that, she’s looking forward to Rotary running their beef on a bun fundraiser once again this year, with that event slated to take place on Aug. 4.

In closing, Phillips says she’s immensely proud to be only the third female president of the local Rotary club, following in the footsteps of Lynda Shadbolt and Maureen O’Hara.

The Haliburton Rotary Club currently has 27 members, and is always looking to expand. Anyone interested in joining the club is encouraged to check out the Rotary website at www.haliburtonrotary.ca, send an email to haliburtonrotary@gmail.com, or call Phillips directly at 705-754-5760.

“We’d love to have anybody. We’re a really diverse club with a lot of great members who have a lot of great ideas,” Phillips said. “But we could always use some new ideas and some new people to help push them forward.”