Leadership Fayette transforms for 2014 graduates

The Fayette Chamber of Commerce honored the Leadership Fayette Class of 2014 at a luncheon and graduation ceremony Aug. 21. The class comprised Fayette County business and community leaders who participated in the eight-month leadership program designed to increase their knowledge and awareness of how our community works and build relationships with local leaders. The program highlighted the interdependencies between sectors of the local economy and the interrelationships of local issues, challenges and opportunities.

Each full day session took place in different venues around the county correlating with the session themes. Covering topics such as education, healthcare, justice and law enforcement, civil discourse, economic development and cultural competencies took participants to Fayette County High School, Fayetteville’s Historic Courthouse, Fayette Senior Services, NCR, Piedmont Fayette Hospital, the Fayette Justice Center, the Fayette County Jail and the Fayette Chamber. Session information was presented in a variety of formats and the class heard from business and civic leaders from across the county and region, such as Doug Hooker, Director, Atlanta Regional Commission; Chris Clark, President and CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Joseph Barrow, Superintendent, Fayette County Schools; Maritza Soto Keen, Public Services Associate, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development; Michael Burnett, CEO, Piedmont Fayette Hospital; The Honorable Jason B. Thompson; Cal Beverly, Publisher, The Citizen Newspapers; and Fayette County Sheriff Barry Babb.

“Lifelong learning is the hallmark of successful communities for the 21st century,” said Dr. Tim Hynes, President of Clayton State University and Leadership Fayette Program co-chair. “Leadership Fayette took advantage of the multiple places in our community in which current leaders—in education, law enforcement and justice administration, non-profit services, economic development, for example—help frame questions future Fayette leaders must ask and answer. Within those questions and answers will come a Fayette County whose best days are yet to come.”

In addition to attending program sessions, class participants were required to complete a class project considered to be the capstone to the Leadership Fayette experience. The 2014 class project evaluated the civic health—the overall engagement of citizens in a community—of Fayette County. The class segmented into groups focusing on four key areas of Fayette’s civic health: social connectedness, community involvement, political action and confidence in institutions. It was quickly discovered that very little civic health data was available on the county level and as a result the class developed and administered a local public survey, said Fayette Chamber of Commerce Communications Manager Paige Muh.

Muh said survey results helped the class provide a foundation for understanding strengths and weaknesses related to Fayette County’s civic health. In a final class presentation, each group presented a recommendation to enhance civic health in their focus area. Specific recommendations included proposed programs to encourage resident engagement with one another, to leverage ways to connect citizens and non-profit agencies, to encourage youth engagement through service learning opportunities, and to inform and encourage citizens to have positive civil discourse and vote.

Kimberly Schnoes, Financial Planner with Peachtree Planning Corporation and Leadership Fayette co-chair noted that the future strength and competitiveness of Fayette County relies upon the civic health of the community and engagement of its citizens.

“Attention to civic health provides opportunities for collaboration between citizens, businesses, schools, safety net organizations and government officials,” Schnoes said. “Collaborative success results in less duplication of community programming, assists in recruiting businesses, improves educational opportunities, leads to safer communities and enhances the health and well-being of citizens.”

Though their program has ended, the 2014 class members intend to meet in the future to determine if one or more of their recommendations can be put in place to benefit the Fayette community, perhaps in concert with the Fayette Visioning Initiative.

During the ceremony held at This Is It Event Center, Hynes, Schnoes and Virginia Gibbs of the Fayette Chamber awarded each graduate with a commemorative gift recognizing their achievement. Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America was also recognized for their sponsorship of this prestigious program.

The Leadership Fayette program has been developing county leaders for more than 30 years. In 2013, the program underwent a transformation. With oversight by Schnoes, Hynes and Gibbs, the program broadened in scope and focus, offering more in depth leadership development and interactive activities. The 2014 class was the first class to graduate from this expanded program.