At 33, Megan Tunnell O’Rourke became the youngest president in the 103-year history of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles when her term began July 1.

But she comes to the job with some old shoes to fill.

O’Rourke runs two downtown L.A. companies with her father, Ben Tunnell. He served as president of the downtown Rotary Club in 2004-05. A generation earlier, her grandfather was president of the Beverly Hills Rotary.

“There is a lot of family history, excitement and honor mixed in this event,” she said. “It’s a big change to have a young woman as president of such an old-line, venerable club.”

The downtown organization is one of the largest Rotary clubs in the nation with about 400 members. It is called LA5 because it was the fifth Rotary chapter. It holds lunch meetings every Friday at the California Club.

O’Rourke figures her home life differs greatly from most members, who are older men. She and her husband, Stephen, have two sons, 3 years old and 8 months.

“I’m probably the first president to ever have such young children at home,” she said.

He Called It

When the U.S. unemployment rate of 9.2 percent was reported July 1, it was no surprise to Michael Levine. He predicted 18 months ago that the rate would be 9 percent or higher this July.

Back then, at the dawn of 2010, his prediction could have been laughed off. The economy at that time was starting to recover from the severe downturn that began in mid-2008. Many assumed the economy would be roaring by now.

So how did Levine, 57, a Hollywood publicist who admits he’s no economist, nail his prediction? He figured the economic problems had become so deeply embedded for so long that this would be no normal recession-and-recovery cycle.

“If you’ve been digging a hole for 25 years,” he said, “you’re not going to be able to fill it up in only 25 days.”

He’s a little cagey about any prognostications about the long-term future – “Five years is hard to predict,” he said – but he’s not sanguine in the short or medium term.

“Twenty five years from now, we’ll look back as see this as more of a cancer than a cold,” Levine said.

African Adventure

Christine Deschaine usually represents landlords in retail lease deals around Los Angeles County. But she just finished an extraordinary kind of build-to-suit project.

A principal at Lee & Associates-L.A. North-Ventura Inc., Deschaine last month helped build and open a small retail store in the Ugandan village of Kihura. The project was part of humanitarian work she does with two organizations, Uganda-based Bringing Hope to the Family and U.S.-based Embrace Uganda.

She and other volunteers along with locals spent 48 hours erecting a small retail shop out of a concrete slab and bamboo. But it was toward the end of the construction process that her career experience served her well.

“I was asking them, ‘Where is the sign? What’s it going to say?’ and ‘How do you get people into the store?’” Deschaine, 51, joked.

The store will sell local arts and crafts as well as rent out clothing and supplies for weddings and other events, with all revenue going back into the village.

Unlike Los Angeles, where it can take 18 months to get permits and approvals to open a business, it’s much simpler in Central Africa.

“You don’t need to pull a permit,” she said. “That’s why we could get stuff done so quickly, and the local villagers need the work.”

Staff reporters Joel Russell and Jacquelyn Ryan contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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