Village News Reporter
Carole Hodges is a Toastmasters area director this Toastmasters year.
Hodges will be the Area 3 Director for 2023-24. Area 3 consists of Hodges’ Fallbrook Village Toastmasters club, the Chamber Club in Escondido, the Downtown Escondido Club and Rancho Bernardo Toastmasters.
The area director works with club presidents and other club officers. “I’m simply there to support them,” Hodges said.
Toastmasters International formerly called the area director position an area governor. However, the role of an area governor was to be a liaison between the district and the area’s clubs and the area governor had no actual power other than to schedule speech contests. San Diego County is in District 5 (Imperial County and Yuma are also in District 5), and that district now only has the International Speech Contest (the district winner advances to a higher level and the final level is at the international convention). In recent years, multiple contests were scheduled by the district (District 5 has 29 areas in six divisions; Area 3 is in the Inland Division); details of the 2024 area, division and district contests have not yet been finalized.
Hodges lived in the Bay Area for 25 years before moving to Santa Monica to be closer to her mother. She joined Toastmasters International in 2003 and was initially in Santa Monica Club 21, which is in District 1 and was the 21st Toastmasters chapter.
Some members join Toastmasters to improve their public speaking skills while others join to become comfortable with public speaking. Hodges had been involved in musical performances for 25 years before joining Toastmasters. “I was very comfortable being on the stage,” she said. “Coming up with your own words and standing up in front of people is an entirely different skill.”
During her time in Club 21, Hodges was an area governor for 2009‑10. After her mother passed away, Hodges moved to Fallbrook in 2011. “I took a couple of years off from Toastmasters,” she said.
The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce was the first organization Hodges joined after moving to Fallbrook. “I didn’t know anybody much in town, but I found the chamber,” she said.
Hodges is professionally a business profitability coach. She is also one of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce ambassadors (who are liaisons between the chamber administration and the chamber’s member businesses). The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce also has an honorary mayor, which is determined by which candidate raises the most money for a local non-profit organization. Hodges ran for that position two months after moving to Fallbrook to allow her to get to know the community. (Lila MacDonald, who is now Lila Hargrove and the chief executive officer of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, raised the most money in the 2011 campaign and served as honorary mayor for that term.)
“Toastmasters gave me the confidence to decide to be honorary mayor two months after I arrived,” Hodges said.
Twenty-five years ago, Fallbrook had two Toastmasters chapters: Fallbrook Toastmasters and Fallbrook Village Toastmasters. Both of those clubs had disbanded by the time Hodges moved to Fallbrook. Hodges joined Carlsbad-Oceanside Toastmasters, which meets in Carlsbad, in 2012.
The Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) is Toastmasters International’s highest educational achievement. In 2006, Toastmasters International restructured its educational program and created separate communication and leadership tracks. Those who achieved both the highest communication track level (Advanced Communicator Gold) and the highest leadership track level (Advanced Leader Silver) earned the DTM award. A Toastmasters member who achieved Advanced Leader Bronze could obtain Advanced Leader Silver by serving a full term as a district officer (including an area governor), completing a high-performance leadership project, and serving as a sponsor or mentor for a new club or as a coach for a struggling club.
When Hodges joined Carlsbad-Oceanside Toastmasters she needed only to sponsor or mentor a new club (or coach a struggling club and bring that club back to the 20-member threshold for new clubs) to obtain her DTM. Hodges became the sponsor of the provisional Fallbrook club.
The new Fallbrook Village Toastmasters is not a revival of the former chapter by that name. “The other one was not in existence for years,” Hodges said. “We were a fresh new club in 2014.”
Fallbrook Village Toastmasters obtained the minimum 20 members to charter. Hodges received her DTM in 2014. She also became a member of the new Fallbrook club. “I didn’t need to drive to Carlsbad,” she said.
Distinguished club status in Toastmasters is based on membership and educational achievements. “We have been a top-rated club in Toastmasters ever since we started,” Hodges said.
The winners of the club contests affiliated with the district advance to the area contest, and the area contest winners advance to the division contest. Fallbrook Village Toastmasters members have won multiple area contests since the club chartered. “We’re sending good speakers to contests,” Hodges said.
Areas and districts also have criteria for distinguished status. Hodges understands that the goals of individual Toastmasters members are more important than district goals. “You have to balance what’s good for the club, what’s good for the people. That’s what leadership is really about,” she said.
As an area director working with chapter presidents – and as a former club president herself - Hodges understands that club presidents have to focus on the needs of the chapter and its members rather than on district-originated criteria. “Being president is a learning experience every time,” she said.
All clubs transitioned from in-person meetings to video meetings during the coronavirus shutdown. Some of those clubs did not survive the loss of in-person meetings, some clubs have returned to meeting in person and other clubs still have remote meetings. Rancho Bernardo Toastmasters still meets on-line, and since the duties of the area director include making club visits, the remote format for those 7 a.m. meetings is actually beneficial to Hodges. “It’s actually just getting on a call. I don’t need to leave my house,” she said.
Area contests during 2022-23 were remote with multiple contests being held on the same day. “Most people did not want to sit in front of a computer all day,” Hodges said.
District 5 has not yet decided whether this Toastmasters year’s area contests will be in person, on-line or by a hybrid format. “Our club contest will be 100 percent live,” Hodges said.
Until the details of the area contest are decided, Hodges’ primary task as an area director will be to assist with the growth of the Area 3 clubs. “It’s a worthwhile effort. I’d love to see more people,” she said.