New ‘trailblazer’ Hamilton Rotary president to expand club’s reach

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Fellow Hamilton Rotarian Woody Fitton called the newly installed organization’s president Flora Butler a “trailblazer.”

But the New Miami native said she was really standing on the shoulders of those who came before her, leading the 105-year-old service club founded as a male-only society. While Butler is the ninth woman president of Hamilton Rotary, Fitton said “she’s breaking a significant glass ceiling as our first African-American president of the Hamilton Rotary Club.”

The idea of “firsts” happening in 2024 for Blacks and women was astonishing for Butler, who said as a society, “Let’s keep doing it. Let’s keep moving forward.”

As the newest Hamilton Rotary president, she wants to focus on bringing “more of that inclusion, more of that diversity. All ethnicities, all genders.”

But ethnicity was not the only thing Butler thought about before her installation. She took time to reflect on the moment to be the next woman to lead the century-old Hamilton club. As she stood before a banner that marked women’s role in Rotary over its first 100 years, it highlighted many stories including one about Rotary International kicking out a California club for admitting three female members, as reported in the Journal-News on March 28, 1978.

A subsequent lawsuit followed, Butler said, and female segregation in Rotary International ended. A decade later, Hamilton inducted its first two women members: Nancy Wiley and Linda Beer. Mary Pat Essman became the club’s first female rotary president in 2000.

Though her accomplishment of being the first African-American president of Rotary is, as Fitton called the milestone, trailblazing ― “It resonates in the terms that today we change that trajectory with diversity and inclusion,” Butler said ― her installation was all about the women of Rotary. Not only did she celebrate the eight previous female presidents, she celebrated all of Hamilton Rotary’s female members, both current and past.

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Her one-year tenure leading the service club, she said, will build upon what the club has stood for at its roots since its inception. Service above self.

Inclusion will be a big theme for Butler, such as bringing in students from New Miami to join the Hamilton and Badin high school students from Rotary’s annual speech contest.

She also wants to continue her help of the underserved population in the area. She has or continues to serve on various boards and nonprofits, some of which helped those struggling in one aspect of life or another. Butler currently is a peer counselor at the Eve Center and serves on the YWCA of Hamilton’s finance committee.

Fitton said his fellow Hamilton Rotarians, and invited guests, that Butler is “a successful woman and an accomplished individual ... not just in her work but in her volunteer time.”

She also wants to either begin new or increase current collaborations with other service clubs and other area organizations in and around Hamilton over the next year.

“When you have an organization that actually supports other organizations, that is such a strong collaboration,” said Butler, whose husband, Bruce, and two adult children, Johnathan and Andrea, supported her in Thursday’s installation ceremony. “I just want to build off on that and let it bleed over.”

Butler, who is the clerk of the Butler County Commission, joined Rotary at the invitation of a member years ago, sometime after the Hamiltonian Hotel became Courtyard by Marriott, a previous meeting space for the club. After her first Rotary meeting, she was hooked.

“It was just the camaraderie,” she said. “It was just such a wonderful break in the middle of the day, and I kept coming back.”

It was also about what Rotary stood for and supported, like community projects and organizations, such as Sleep in Heavenly Peace which builds beds for kids who don’t have beds. They also support the Salvation Army through financial gifts and donations of clothes and toys.

“That resonated with me,” she said.

And the meetings were extremely inclusionary for Butler.

“These guys are jokesters,” she said of her fellow club members. “It made me feel like I was a part of them. It’s important because coming from where I came from, I didn’t feel that always. Even in this present-day time, we still have that hinge of wanting to be included, and I felt that here. I felt it and I wanted to be a part of that, in addition to that, you do things that help the community.”

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

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