The program is sponsored by the Walker County Chamber of Commerce, and the participants, considered emerging or potential county leaders, represent a wide cross-section of professions, from government and health care to banking and entrepreneurism.
This years group began last September with a weekend retreat to Red Top Mountain State Park, where they took part in leadership seminars and team-building skills sessions.
Comprised of more than 20 individuals, the class of 2006-07 continued to meet for all-day sessions on the first Tuesday of each month to tour facilities in health care, education, business and industry, government and tourism.
They completed their course in March and were honored with in a graduation ceremony at the Chambers monthly luncheon meeting in late April.
I think we all want to see Walker County grow and prosper, said Alice Robinson, who served as facilitator over the nine months of the most recent session. By working together and encouraging and supporting each other we can do just that.
Photo: The 2006-07 graduates and facilitators of the Leadership Walker County program are, from left, Doug Volinski, Hutcheson Medical Center; Lynne Cawthorne, Rossville Bank; Brenda Evans, Hutcheson Medical Center; Susan Tankersley, Lane Funeral Home; Alice Robinson, Walker County commissioners office; Ales Campbell, Campbell Surveying & Mapping; Tim Carlfeldt, Walker County Messenger; Phyllis Meyers, North Georgia Town Planner; Rusty Haney, City of Chickamauga; Glenda Jones, Walker County Chamber of Commerce; Janie Gilbert, Bank of LaFayette; Kim Goodwin, Jimmy Simpson Foundation; Rodney Dill, Wilson Funeral Home; Robin Guinn, Rossville Elementary School; John Parker, Naomi Elementary School; Shree Stoker, Boehm Birth Defects Center; Stephen Petz, Dow Reichold Corp.; Karen Thompson, LaFayette Housing Authority; Kim St. John, Capital Bank; Mitch Sanford, Covenant Bank & Trust. (Messenger photo/Matt Ledger)
Robinson, who went through the program in 2002-03, works as the administrative assistant to Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, herself a 1994 graduate of the program.
2007 graduate Mitch Sanford of Covenant Bank addressed the luncheon audience, saying that as a person new to Walker County, the program was invaluable.
Getting to know the other people in the class was a big boost for me, Sanford said. It made me quickly feel a part of this community, which is what its all about folks being connected.
Doug Volinski, chief financial officer of Hutcheson Medical Center, is also a relative newcomer to the community, and said the aspects of behind-thescenes operations in the county was inspiring. It showed me that there are a lot of things in progress and a lot of great plans for the future. It gave me confidence in the future success of Walker County.
On the other hand, new graduate Robin Guinn has lived in Walker County all her life. The Rossville Elementary School assistant principal said the program has opened new doors for possible partnerships with the education community.
Were hoping that next year with WACOPEP (Walker County Partners for Educational Progress) we can get some more business partners due to my contacts through Leadership Walker County, Guinn said.
One of the highlights of each years program is the trip to the Capitol in Atlanta, where the local legislative delegation arranges meetings with several state government officials.
Other visits that this years group made varied widely.
They include the Patria Center, a substance abuse recovery facility; the Jimmy Simpson Foundation, which operates an assisted living and daycare facility for brain injury/disease patients; the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail at Pigeon Mountain, and the Walker County jail.
Alumni of the program have much praise for how the opportunity allowed them to get more involved in the community.
Doris White has been active in the Chamber across three decades, and was one of the charter participants when the Leadership Program began back in 1988.
Back then we had our classes after work once week over 12 weeks, she said. It was tough. We even had homework.
White said the original program was sanctioned through the Fanning Institute of Leadership at the University of Georgia, and had no on-site meetings. I went through the program again when I was Chamber president in 1994, and by then we were taking the field trips to government facilities and companies and the like. I really enjoyed that.
Louise Smith, retired after a 40 year career with Flegal Insurance, is a 1991 graduate of the program and served as Chamber chairman for three years in 1993-95.
I loved it, and would have continued on forever if I could, Smith said of facilitating Leadership Walker County during her tenure as chairman. With a laugh she added, Eventually I had to turn it over for someone else to learn.
CLICK ON THESE LINKS