Leadership Wilson motivates new leaders in the community
By TOMI WILEY
Even if a person was born and raised in Wilson County, there is still a lot to learn from the Leadership Wilson program – including how to feed and milk calves, the ins and outs of the public safety system, touring the Wilson County jail, University Medical Center and Brooks House.
Lebanon attorney Mark Lee was a graduate of the Leadership Wilson Class of 1996 and recently stated that the nine-month investment was both fun and hard work. Lee explained, “Leadership Wilson provides the most well-rounded and versatile knowledge of our community and how it all comes together that I’ve had since college.”
Lee went on to become the president of the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and was recently awarded a “Lifetime Member” honor from the Chamber. He accredits Leadership Wilson for much of his success in community leadership and planning.
Sam Hatcher, CEO and owner of Main Street Media, was raised in Wilson County, and stated, “I knew, or at least thought I knew, a lot about the topics covered in Leadership Wilson.”
“What I learned that I didn’t know was about the new leaders, businesses and community leaders, who has or had decided to make Wilson County their home,” Hatcher said. “Through Leadership Wilson I had the opportunity to meet many newcomers in our community who were and are interested in contributing to making our hometown a better place to live. Their excitement about Wilson County and their eagerness to learn more about the place I’ve called home all my life gave me a greater appreciation of our community, and in many ways made me want to participate more to find out ways in which I, too, could be a better contributor.”
Leadership Wilson began in 1993 with a dream and the hard work of Lucy Lee, who led the organization for many years and likes to refer to its beginnings as “The Big Bang Theory”.
“Several things came together at once. Early in 1993 I became aware of a program in my hometown of Maryville called Leadership Blount,” Lucy Lee said. “I thought that sounded like something our County could benefit from … never dreaming my role in that would last for over 14 years!
My brother connected me with the Director of Leadership Blount, and she provided me with some good information. At the same time, Gerald Noffsinger, former pastor of Lebanon First U. Methodist Church, was talking to Sue Vanatta at the Chamber about how he could get involved in the community – he had just moved from a church in Murfreesboro.
“During this conversation, Gerald asked Sue if there was a county leadership program. He had been through the Rutherford County leadership program and realized its importance. Sue told him that she had been looking into it and had some information but just didn't have the staff or time to start such an undertaking. Gerald said, ‘Hmmm, I know just the person.’ We had worked together on a successful church project the previous Fall, and he thought I might be interested in taking this on. The late Mike Baker was Chair of the Chamber at that time and got excited about the possibilities.
Soon, we were in a meeting of four or five people to discuss the idea of a Wilson County leadership program. We were looking at taking about a year to plan the first year when a group from Leadership Rutherford said, ‘What are you waiting on?’ So in July of 1993 we incorporated, and I was named Executive Director. We selected 15 individuals from all over the county … mostly already proven leaders … to give the first class and the program some credibility. Those fifteen people agreed to be in the first class and also to serve as the first Board of Directors. We then selected another 15 interested individuals to fill out the first class. Less than three months later we held our opening class day. Granted, we were flying by the seat of our pants, but we made it through a successful year. That Charter Class is very proud to be the start of something very special in our community.”
Lucy said the program has been tweaked over the years but the basic tenets, mission and purpose have not changed. “Dorie [Mitchell, current director of Leadership Wilson] has brought a new energy, and I am so proud of how she has continued to improve it,” Lucy said. “It was kinda like giving away my third child, but I have had no regrets.”
The purpose, Mitchell said, is by selecting participants with diverse backgrounds, Leadership Wilson provides a larger number of well trained, highly motivated citizens to assume leadership roles in our civic, education and economic development groups. Leadership Wilson also strives to improve the communications network among leaders in our community.
“Leadership Wilson has been an amazing program for me. I had no idea what it was really about or even how to explain it to people who have never been though the program,” said Lisia Tucker, owner of Aqua Bella Day Spa & Hair Studio in Mt. Juliet and local Realtor with Bob Parks Realty. “I went to a Dare to Dine dinner about three years ago at [Mt. Juliet/West Wilson County Chamber of Commerce President and husband to Tonya] Mark Hinesley's house, and I have been hooked ever since.”
Tucker explained that the first Wednesday of the month for nine months, the 30 participants of each Leadership Wilson class meet “somewhere in Lebanon or Mt. Juliet, where one of our guest speakers has provided us with a great breakfast.” From there the group loads in two vans donated for the day from Cumberland University. “Then we are off to visit and learn so much about what goes on in our county,” Tucker said, adding, “Every month we cover a new topic.”
Topics include Agriculture Day, Business & Industry, Education, Public Safety, Health Care & Social Service, State Government, Local Government and Lifestyles. Leadership Wilson participants meet and get to know leaders in each of the fields and tour the facilities represented by each topic in Wilson County. But before all this starts, the group begins in September on a two-day retreat in Monteagle, where they learn about the 30 people they are going to spend the next nine months with. Participants also take a personality assessment test from which they learn a lot about themselves. Tucker said, “This helps us as leaders in our industries to understand and know how to handle people in different situations. I loved every moment of the retreat.”
One of Tucker’s favorite aspects of the Leadership Wilson program, which she recently finished, was Agriculture Day. “I was raised in New York City and had never been on a farm. That was a true experience for me. I got to feed a baby calf a bottle. I really learned a lot that day about farmers. I bow to them. We just have no idea how important they are and they get no big thank you.”
Tucker added that she felt the section on public safety was enlightening. “Every month has been an amazing experience for me. During Public Safety Month I got to ride along with a Mt. Juliet police officer. I can't tell you how cool that was. Not a lot of action that night, which was OK with me, but I got a little taste of what their day was like. It totally changed my thinking of public safety,” she explained.
Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen participates in Leadership Wilson both as a community leader and a one-time member of the nine-month program. He said that dual role brought a whole new perspective for him on life in Wilson County both as a lifelong resident and a public safety official.
“Part of our job in public safety is to know the people we serve, so any time we have the opportunity to meet the citizens we work for, what a great chance that is,” Bowen said. “I get that opportunity a lot, but it’s so important that we get feedback from [the public] about the job we’re doing.”
Bowen said that Leadership Wilson participants get the opportunity to ride with police officers, which gives them an opportunity to experience what the police officers face on a day to day basis. “That’s important,” Bowen said. “That gives the average person, the business owner, the CEO, a chance to see what it means to be in public safety. But better yet, we want to hear from the citizens that we’re serving them the best way possible – and what better way to gauge that than to have them walk in our shoes for a day, talk to our officers one on one, and get feedback after their chance to ride. Public feedback for us, as public servants, is of the most importance – it’s invaluable.”
Learning more about and from the public of Wilson County isn’t just for adults in the Leadership Wilson program – the County’s youth is involved, too, with Youth Leadership Wilson. There are 31 youths involved each year, selected from the County’s seven high schools, and these are the students and scholars who will grow up to become the future leaders of Wilson County.
“Participants in Leadership Wilson come from all occupations such as bankers, small business owners, CEO’s, public officials, community volunteers, realtors, health care professionals, and educators,” Mitchell remarked. “Participants receive over 100 hours of leadership training, community awareness and networking opportunities.
Since 1993, over 500 individuals have graduated from Leadership Wilson, and many have gone on to fulfill much-needed roles in our community because of their involvement.
“Our missions is to identify, train and motivate individual citizens in community leadership. The participants actively solicit applications for a cross-section of the County. Every effort is made to select participants on the basis of personal qualifications, potential for service and representation based on appropriate demographic factors,” explained Mitchell.
Each year a class of approximately 32 people is selected by a committee of the Leadership Wilson Board of Directors from the application process. Board members for the 2010-2011 year include:
President Jeff Hall, Vice President/President Elect Jim Mills, Secretary Tina Hutsenpiller, Treasurer Joel Usery, Past President Kathy Haskins, Susie James, Bill Potter, Kelly Hartbarger, Andy Wright, Cathey Sweeney, Melinda Bone, Terry McPeak, Jo Smith, Drew Brooks, Bobbie Allen, Mike Kurtz, Scott Walker, Ann Bridges Wright, Pauline Satterfield, Linda Schenk, Caleb Thorne, Kathy Fyke and Kevin Etheridge.
The Board plans and conducts full-day sessions each month for nine months.
Application invitations begin in February and are available on line at www.leadershipwilson.com. For more information on Leadership Wilson or how to apply email Dorie Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“All I can say is that I wish everyone could go though the program,” Lisia Tucker said. “It just opens your eyes to every kind of industry that helps you though your daily life, and you don't even know it. I hope to get involved in the Youth Leadership Wilson program. Now that’s a great place to start.”
Leadership Wilson Class of 2011
Jenny Bennett, Cumberland University
Matt Pillow, Wilson Bank and Trust
Ted Bertuca, McDonalds
Eric Pirtle, Nationwide
Buddy Brent, US Community Credit
Debbie Pruitt, Prospect
Lisa Brown, Cedarstone
Vickie Rickard, Cumberland University
Penny Carroll, Cracker Barrel
John Rossmaier, City of MJ
Chase Cowden, Custom Packaging
Chip Smith, Rose Tire
Mike Davis, Wilson County Schools
Jason Smith, Affi nion
Michael Ezsol, Michael’s Cover Up
Jan Snider, TRW
Monica Franklin MTEMC
Christian Stoucken, UMC
Jeff Gannon, State Farm Insurance
Cristy Stumb, Nurse Practitioner
Maggie Julian, Home
Instead Senior Care
Tory Treadway, Habitat for Humanity
Kimbel Lea, Five Oaks
Lisia Tucker, Aqua Bella Day Spa
Scott McCormick, Pinnacle
Tammye Whitaker, retired
Jeannie Mitchell, Novartis
Jennifer Whitener, MCA
Lee OIiver, Zaxbys
Mike Wrye, Lose and Associates
Tammy Oliver, LSSD