Morro Bay’s John Weiss Governs California’s Rotary District 5240

Early in June 40,000 Rotarians converged on Atlanta, Georgia for the annual Rotary International (RI) Convention to celebrate and introduce the new leadership for RI zones, regions and districts worldwide. Onsite and digital networking introduced over 1.2 million members to current hot topics: world peace, the scourge of human trafficking, and a celebration noting polio impending eradication.

Encompassing China Lake to Westlake to Cambria, District 5240 has 74 clubs with 3,285 members. Approximately 170 members explored the Atlanta Zoo welcoming its newest District Governor (DG), Morro Bay’s John Weiss. San Luis Obispo County Rotary Clubs have produced at least seven DGs: Brenda Cressey, Paso Robles (2001-02), Frank Ortiz, Santa Maria (2012-13), Loretta Butts, Atascadero (2014-15) and from Morro Bay: Mac Little (1978-79), Walt Milburn (1983-84), who proudly promoted voting to bring women into Rotary his year, and Chungsam Doh (1998-99), a transferred member to Morro Bay from Bakersfield by way of South Korea.

Professionally, Weiss has owned and operated Coast Electronics, a consumer electronics retailer focused on customer service in Morro Bay for 39 years expanding recently to San Luis Obispo and Buellton. “I joined Morro Bay Rotary in 2001, which led me to serve on the Chamber of Commerce board in 2003.” Weiss was Chamber board president 2006-7-8 and 2011. “When you give back to your community your business, family and community will benefit.”

A three-year training program prepares DG’s to provide leadership, motivation, and guidance to Rotary clubs under the general supervision of the RI Board of Directors, but first they’re trained to serve as club presidents before consideration to serve at the district level. Weiss was club president in Morro Bay 2009-10. A few highlights of his year were creating the ongoing Public Heroes program recognizing non-Rotarians serving Morro Bay, reinvigorating a golf tournament to include high school golfers, establishing Eco Rotary Clubs in Morro Bay and Pismo, and chartering a college Rotaract and a high school Interact club. His focus on youth and membership services was noticed by District Governor Deepa Wellingham, who invited him to serve on her team in 2010-11.

Based on a record of service, a district governor candidate must be invited. Campaigning will disqualify a nominee. After serving at the club level, then four years at the district level, Weiss was nominated by Morro Bay Rotarian Jeff Jones. He was interviewed by a panel of twelve, RI’s parliamentarian and two past DGs. Once selected training intensified. Weiss explained 535 global DG nominees convened at an International Assembly in San Diego. “It was five days nine to five and they take roll daily.” He has also participated in district training sessions for the 74 club president nominees for the past two years. His team plans the training meetings for 2017-18.

By the end of his DG year he will have presented at all 74 district clubs, chaired an October celebratory District Conference and inaugurated an Interact Conference as well as attend numerous club socials and fund raising events logging untold miles and time away from business and home. “Most DGs have completed their club visits by November,” said Weiss. “With an active business I’m a working district governor so I’m scheduling them out through the year. Luckily I have a scheduler, Deb Linden, to get me where I need to be, who I’ll see and what to wear.”

The good news is a DG selects a staff of 50 to help plan, executive and support district activities. Weiss’ SLO team members include Deb Linden, Michael Boyer, Connie Henley, Jeanne Potter, Mike Pond, and Melinda Thomas. “Assessing the president nominees, it was huge that 75% wanted to focus our year on Youth Services, which has been my passion for two years.” The better news is “My staff is amazing.” Their goals include networking millennials and baby-boomers to refine ideas and future action plans.

The best news is the support Weiss has from his wife Christine McDonald Weiss, “You need the support of your partner before going down this road. Christine has been at my side during all the training while running her successful realty company. She’s picked up so much, which is a testament to Rotary’s training for leaders and their partners.”

Now ready to serve, Weiss advocates, “The business of Rotary is to bring smiles in our community – our world — and that’s all the payment we need.”


Celebrating Love Connection in Cayucos

In 1997 Doug and Diane Pankey were first time visitors to the annual 4th of July celebration in Cayucos. She had no idea Doug had planned something she would remember for a lifetime. They had only been a couple for six months, but their January first date proved they had much in common. And while busy in their San Joaquin Valley careers – she a polymer chemist and he a flooring contractor — Doug knew he was thinking marriage to Diane.

He shared their story and his upcoming plans for a return visit to Cayucos 20 years later. “I found myself falling in love with Diane but I wasn’t sure if she felt the same until Diane’s sister Brenda and best friend Lori spilled the beans that Diane was also in love. To be truthful,” he admitted, “the idea of marriage scared me in the past but felt natural after meeting Diane.”

Once he figured out how he might afford to buy her engagement ring by selling his “prized” jet ski and working extra jobs, he puzzled about how he might pop the question. Diane had graduated from Cal Poly and they regularly visited her parents, Jerome and Marilyn Dowling, who lived in Paso Robles. “They often talked about the great fireworks show in Cayucos. It seemed logical to me that July 4th should be the day I pop the question, but how?” he wondered. “Finally, I came up with the idea of declaring my love for Diane to everyone at the fireworks show that would include her sister, parents and a few close friends by integrating the question into the fireworks show.”

Doug contacted the Cayucos Chamber of Commerce and run my idea past them. “They loved the idea and referred me to Mark Sylvara of Pyro Spectacular. Mark and I came up with the plan to create multiple six-feet tall letters on the end of the pier so that when ignited, it would be visible to all attendees of the show. The letters were created to ignite one at a time and continue to burn until all letters were burning at once revealing my proposal – “Marry Me Diane.”

He admits to being nervous not because he was worried about her answer to his marriage proposal, but because he wanted the entire plan to go perfectly without Diane being tipped off. His only confidante except the entire Cayucos Chamber of Commerce board and the staff of Pyro Spectacular was Diane’s sister, Brenda. He described his biggest challenge, “Just before they were ready to ignite the sign, a guy decided to stand directly in front of Diane. I asked him to move so Diane could see the display. At first, he was reluctant to move but I remember ‘persuading him’ in short order. At the time, Diane was kneeling on the beach and wasn’t really paying attention to the fireworks. Finally, I picked her up and said, ‘Look at that!’ pointing to the pier. As the letters ignited, it started to sink in.”

“Everyone on the beach was going crazy and cheering as the question was revealed,” he recalled. “I also remember the look in Diane’s face as she turned around to look at me to see if the display was for her. I was down and one knee with the ring and said ‘Well……will you?’ And SHE SAID ‘YES!’”

Today the couple lives in Ripon, CA. Diane has been a Real Estate Appraiser since 1998 and Doug has “had many job changes all in the real estate field…currently Realtor and Real Estate Investor.” They have two children, Daniel, 16, a “computer whiz who is on the Ripon High golf team and already has a few colleges lined up” and Kayla, their busy 7th grader who “cheers for the Ripon Chiefs, plays soccer, softball and has multiple hobbies.”


The family returned to celebrate during the 2017 Cayucos 4th Independence Day festivities with both their parents and siblings. Doug contacted Bill Shea, currently serving on the Cayucos California Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and discovered Mark Sylvara and Pyro Spectacular is still providing the fireworks off the Cayucos pier. “It will be 20 years ago this July 4th when I asked the love of my life, Diane Dowling, to marry me at the Grand Finale of the Cayucos show in 1997,” said Doug. “Twenty years and two kids later, I have not been back to Cayucos beach, but thought it would be pretty cool to re-celebrate that moment 20 years later.”

The community agreed as thousands and thousands meet in the California Beach town on the Pacific Highway 1 coastline to make their family memories during the Cayucos 4th Celebration. For 2018 details check out the Cayucos Lions Club, Cayucos Lioness Club, http://www.cayucos, and the Cayucos Chamber of Commerce