By Jeffery Whitfield
Claudia Mertl has met thousands of residents since she began visiting Rotary clubs throughout Georgia from as far north as Polk County, as far west as the Georgia-Alabama state line and as far south as the Georgia-Florida border.
And last night, Mertl, the Rotary District 6900 District Governor, made her final visit -- to her home club in Clayton County.
“I've met and been part of 11,000 people since July,” said Mertl.
She is the first member of the Rotary Club of Clayton County, a 54-member group, to serve as district governor, a role that requires she visit all 70 clubs included in the district.
“It's truly an honor,” said Richard Calhoun, president of the Rotary Club of Clayton County. “I think the club has been in existence 42 years ... Any way you slice it, it's a big honor to have one of our members as district governor.”
Mertl was elected from the district's 70 clubs to be district governor. She assumed her duties on July 1, 2005.
Rotary District 6900 is one of the largest districts in the world and has 70 Rotary clubs and nearly 5,000 Rotarians. There are over 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide in 32,000 clubs in 168 countries. Rotarians are businessmen and businesswomen who subscribe to the philosophy of “service above self,” a motto Mertl said she strongly believes.
“I have been so blessed to do so many things to give back,” the Jonesboro resident said.
As district governor, Mertl said she has sought to bring awareness to the district. She has promoted issues such as education and literacy as well as clean water. She has asked that Rotarians in her district help clean the Flint River along a westward stretch from Atlanta to the Alabama state line and south toward the Georgia-Florida border.
A member of the Rotary Club of Clayton County since 1991, Mertl has maintained perfect attendance; was president in 1999-2000; been named the club's Rotarian of the Year in 2001; and received the “Service Above Self” award from the club in 2005. She has also served the district as assistant governor for three years.
Though she likens the visits as having a full-time job, Mertl said visiting every club has been unique. Her 10-member staff has operated Leisure Lines Playground & Recreation Equipment Co Inc. while she visited other Rotary clubs.
“I have a fabulous staff,” she said.
Mertl has also attended six international Rotary conferences in countries such as Japan, Spain and Australia.
She has been a member of numerous other organizations in which she has served leadership roles. Mertl has been president of the Georgia Parks & Recreation Association, Clayton County Chamber of Commerce chairman of the board, chairman of the Clayton County unit of the American Cancer Society, where she is an honorary life member of the board. She has served on the Georgia Board of Corrections and the Metro United Way Board. She has received the Spivey Leadership Award from the United Way for outstanding community service and she is a member of the Peachtree National Bank Board. Mertl is former chair of the Southern Regional Medical Center Foundation Board.
Mertl attended Georgia Southern University and received her bachelor's and masters degrees in recreation administration. Mertl was assistant director of the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department until 1981, when she resigned to start Leisure Lines Playground & Recreation Equipment Co Inc. The firm is celebrating its 24th year as a sales and installation company for commercial recreation equipment throughout eight southeastern states.