Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 23, 2018

Henry County is looking for leaders

Chamber teams with ISU extension for leadership program
Aug 28, 2017

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


Kristi Ray is excited. In every chamber of commerce Ray, Executive Vice President of Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, has worked at has had a leadership program. This fall Ray, along with Traci Vantiger, of the Henry County Extension Office, are putting together a leadership program for Henry County.

“I am a firm believer in leadership programs, I think they do great things for the individual and I think they are very good for the community,” she said.

Henry County had a leadership program a number of years ago through Iowa Wesleyan, Ray says. However, the community has been without a program for a while and Ray felt it was time to get one up and running again.

Besides bringing a leadership program back to Henry County, Ray is excited about the collaborative nature of the program. “My biggest downfall in my other programs has always been that my passion was on the community development side and I probably didn’t do as good of a job on the leadership side,” she admits. “When Iowa State University Extension came to us and said they had a leadership component I said, ‘this is perfect.’”

Henry County’s leadership program will begin in October and will wrap up at the end of May with a class graduation. Participants meet once a month and classes span the entire work day. The first three hours of the morning are devoted to course work. “They’ll be honing and toning their leadership skills,” said Ray. “Everything from conflict management to team building, hiring and all of the leadership components.”

“This is what I’m most excited about,” said Ray, “it’s the first time I’ve ever truly felt like I’m going to be teaching leadership along with having a community development program.

Vantiger has previously worked in Des Moines County with Burlington’s Leadership Program as well as Lee County’s program and is excited to bring her enthusiasm and knowledge to Henry County’s program.

“We think it’s something that we really need here,” she said of bringing the curriculum to Henry County.

Vantiger will lead the morning sessions and says curriculum is geared toward getting middle managers more involved in the communities as well as the skills to become leaders and hopefully to keep them in Henry County.

The program is called Leading Communities and has four core competencies — understanding community leadership, correctly identifying community issues and framing them, building social relationships and mobilizing resources for community action.

Vantiger said the partnership between the chamber and the extension office is vital because both entities bring different strengths to the program. While ISU has the program material, the chamber brings in the community component.

“It’s really important to have Kristi involved with this to not only help us recruit, but she brings in an important part of Henry County and what they have to offer.”

In the mornings, participants will be in the classroom at the extension office, but once the clock strikes 11 a.m., they’ll be out of their chairs and exploring the county.

“The key to a good leadership program is anyone can set up a program and go on a tour of the jail or Henry County Health Center. What I have to do is look at that building and say what does a leader need to know about that building that you can’t see on the outside?’ Show me the (behind-the-scenes) of what goes on there.”

When Ray took her Leadership Missouri participants on a tour of Springfield’s Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, she didn’t want the tour any eighth-grade class would take, she wanted to know how they got 16 tons of water in the aquarium every day. “I want to know what it’s costing them, what the true value of that is to their organization,” she explained. She plans to bring that same drive to Henry County’s program. For example, in January the session will focus on economic development. “We can go take a tour of Continental, they’re getting ready to expand. But what we want to know is what was our role as a community?” Ray said the topic will focus on the explanation of plants, what they make and how Henry County is lucky to have them. “We’re going to talk about as an Area Development Commission how do we decide when we give money, development incentives to a company? How do you decide what company to send a proposal to? Just because it’s going to bring ‘X’ amount of jobs to the community, you don’t just go after it, you have to make sure your community is going to be a fit for it.”

Overall, Ray hopes the program will bring both personal and professional development for participants, much like it did for Adam McLaughlin. McLaughlin, of L.J. Roth Restorations, says he’s been a lifelong resident of Henry County and he’s sure the leadership program would give him a more in-depth knowledge of his home. McLaughlin recently graduated from the Washington County Leadership Program. “It was a really great experience for me to learn more about Washington - the town and Washington - the county,” said the rural Crawfordsville resident.

As a graduate of the leadership program, McLaughlin has stepped up to help Ray with one of the community tours. “I’m going to help guide the class and talk about the arts and culture in Mt. Pleasant and Henry County.”

Reflecting on his own time in Washington County’s program, McLaughlin said while he gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of Washington and Washington County, it was the networking opportunity that he believes was the program’s greatest asset. “Our class was about 25 people and there were people from age 30 to 65-year-olds, so we had a great representation of the county. And you had many different leaders with different levels of responsibilities within their companies,” he said. “It was a great way for me to interact with those folks, to network and see how our businesses could help each other out.”

The leadership program is still accepting applications until Thursday, Aug. 31. For more information, contact Kristi Ray at the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance at 319-385-3101.

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