Written by Theresa Rose on September 21, 2015

Members Began Training September 15
The Lee County Leadership Program has accepted eight leadership trainees to the Class of 2016. These eight participants began their training on September 15 at the Kingsley Inn in Fort Madison. Members are Nicole Baker, Transit Director for Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission; Emily Benjamin, County Youth Coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach of Lee County; Diane Fader, Banking Center Manager for First Community Bank; Cindy Greer, Primrose Path Manager for The Kensington; Corby Hawkins, Sales and Marketing Manager for Seither & Cherry Co; Jaclyn Lansing, Office Manager for the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce; Andrea Rogers, Assistant General Manager for Keokuk Municipal Waterworks; and Richard Tebbs, Natural Resource Manager for the Lee County Conservation Board.

Deb Tootle, Iowa State University Community Leadership Specialist led the morning session in which the leadership trainees learned the importance of community leadership development and analyzed local primary and secondary data. Tootle is utilizing new curriculum from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. It is a modular and interactive community leadership program based on cutting-edge research on community leadership (as opposed to individual, business or organizational leadership). Lee County is the first county in Iowa to utilize this specific approach to leadership development by piloting the program.

The afternoon was filled with local speakers and tours including Rebecca Bowker from the Iowa State Penitentiary; Jerry Sloat, local historian; and a tour of the Kingsley Inn. This portion of the program is part of a countywide networking process in which leadership trainees will meet diverse community leaders and partners from throughout the county. In the process, people from diverse backgrounds and experiences will work together to learn about community building in a wide array of social, economic and cultural conditions.

“We are holding the program in communities throughout Lee County so participants can create a sense of broader community outside of their own town,” Shelley Oltmans, executive director of the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce and ISU Extension and Outreach CED specialist said. “It is important in rural communities to work with regional partners to build capacity.”

Throughout the process, participants will also use their learned skills to implement projects for the better of the communities in Lee County. Area nonprofits have been asked to submit project proposals, and projects will be announced in the near future. In addition to building skills and implementing community projects, the class of 2016 will attend the Iowa Legislature’s Great River Region Days in Des Moines to network with government officials and lobby on behalf of Southeast Iowa.

The Lee County Leadership Program is a partnership between the Fort Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. It is also supported by a steering committee with representatives from the Lee County Health Department, Fort Madison Partners, Lee County Charitable Fund, Keokuk Area Community Foundation, and Southeastern Community College. The program is sponsored in part by Alliant Energy, Fort Madison Community Hospital, and Keokuk Area Hospital.