Since she was 3 years old, Jessica Handy has been convinced that she could one day become president. And her mission has materialized, although not in the exact manner she was hoping for as a toddler.
Handy was recently inducted as the new head executive of the Kiwanis Club of Santa Monica, which she doesn’t feel is a particularly noteworthy development on its own. It’s not the White House, after all.
But the 2016 presidents of the local Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary clubs are all female, marking a significant shift in the leadership ranks of the city’s three main service organizations.
Handy replaces Robert Kronovet at the helm of Kiwanis, Susan Lee DeRemer holds the top post with the Santa Monica Lions Club and Connie Maguire is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Santa Monica.
“Having a female president of a local service club shouldn’t be something that is remarkable,” Handy said. “But that all of the big service clubs in Santa Monica have female presidents right now is a pleasant coincidence.”
Club officials said they didn’t realize the coincidence until they began talking about collaborating more in the coming year. A recent gathering initiated by Handy aimed to chart a path for future cooperation on membership drives and philanthropic initiatives.
“We sat down and had a meeting and said, ‘Oh my god, everyone’s female,’” said DeRemer, the Lions president. “We were making plans to do an event together to make people more aware of the service clubs and the organizations in Santa Monica that we support. That’s when we became aware that we were all female.”
It’s a dynamic worth acknowledging for DeRemer, who has been in charge of the local Lions club since July. Although the three Lions presidents before her were also women, DeRemer noted that the club was strictly male until the early 1980s. She’s been involved for about 7 years in the area Lions group, which was established in 1923 and which currently has about 20 active members.
“For a lot of the country, it’s still an issue to get women to join,” she said. “We actually have the direct opposite situation. The majority of our club is female. … We’re looking for more male members. The male members we have are older members.”
Maguire, who will take over for Tom Loo as Rotary’s leader starting July 1, adds to the history of a club whose local chapter was founded in 1922 and whose foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to area charities and nonprofit groups.
Maguire, a Westside native who attended Palisades High School, Santa Monica College and Cal State Long Beach, is currently a fundraising executive with Netzel Grigsby Associates. She previously worked in executive and program management with YMCA.
Handy, the new Kiwanis president, said her club is “still a little male-heavy” but that there is a good mix of men and women of different ages.
She said she’s lucky that she was raised in a world where opportunities for women are more plentiful than they used to be.
“I had known my entire life I could do anything, and I give the older generation 100-percent credit for that,” she said.
Handy said she’s looking forward to working with the Lions and Rotary presidents on joint projects in the community.
“Together we can make a giant impact if we pool our resources,” she said.