Some of the best and brightest are joining a popular program in its seventh year in El Dorado County. Many experts in their respective fields are being given an opportunity to broaden their horizons and learn something new, whether it be all the products and services El Dorado County offers, or introductions to the people running them.
Leadership El Dorado, a program put on by the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce each year, gathers a group of applicants from around the county in various leadership positions and helps mold them into well-rounded individuals. The program entered its seventh year in September and has churned out graduates spanning various companies throughout El Dorado County.
From current Superintendent of Schools Dr. Vicki Barber — and her successor Jeremy Myers — to Dale van Dam, dean of instruction of Folsom Lake College, El Dorado Center, the program has helped mold some of the administrative leaders in education in the area. But that’s not where it focuses, or ends its attention. Leaders span county government employees and owners of businesses large and small, to even this newspaper’s publisher. The near 150 graduates is a who’s who list of big whigs in El Dorado County.
“For a new resident to El Dorado County, the Leadership Class provided me with an opportunity to learn about the different businesses and government entities within the county,” said El Dorado County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kim Kerr, a Class 6 graduate. “Also, the on-site classes to agriculture businesses, the El Dorado Irrigation District, Folsom Lake College-El Dorado Center, Marshall Hospital and Superintendent of Schools were excellent. These on-site classes and interaction with the Film Commission and Visitors Authority were very informative. Overall, I would recommend anyone who wants to learn about the county attend this excellent program.”
The program introduces classmates to El Dorado County’s features in once-a-month sessions. Guest speakers, many of them former students of Leadership El Dorado, provide detailed presentations about their respective fields, using on-site tours of facilities to give students a firsthand experience.
“It’s a 360-degree view of our county and its services,” said El Dorado County Chamber CEO Laurel Brent-Bumb. “It’s my proudest effort as Chamber CEO. It’s working; we have alumni that are elected officials, serving on non-profits boards and running for office. They are working to support the community they live and work in.”
When Brent-Bumb took on the challenge of creating the program seven years ago, she wanted to bring leaders together in a group setting while also showcasing all the beauty the county provides.
“When looking for new chamber board members we realized it was time to start grooming new leaders,” she said.
Included in the training is lots of self-reflection. Students are forced to share their experiences in life to make them realize their potential. Upon completion of the program, the group selects a project to undertake as graduates. Class 6 organized and put on a stand-up comedy show called “Stand Up for Kids,” which was a huge hit on March 2 at the Placerville Shakespeare Club.
“The monthly question really peels away the layers and bonds the class together,” Brent-Bumb said. “And the class projects benefit the community and the graduates. For participants, the program promises a life-changing experience.”
Those currently enrolled in the seventh class, which began in September 2012 and ends in August, are raving about its effect.
“I had some idea about what the class was like, having spoken with one of my colleagues who had recently graduated from the class. She spoke very highly of the class, so I was looking forward to it,” said Brian D. Poulsen Jr., deputy general counsel for El Dorado Irrigation District. “I think the two most important things I am taking away from the class are my relationships with fellow classmates and a much deeper and broader connection to El Dorado County at large.”
How each individual entered the class varies. Some, like Poulsen, hear about it and are intrigued. Others, like Logan Lemming, senior director of IT at the El Dorado County Office of Education are asked — or heavily encouraged — to attend and do so.
“I was asked to participate by my friend and mentor Jeremy Meyers, the incoming superintendent of schools, so my initial reaction was to be excited. I have seen a lot of incredible leadership qualities in him, and he had nothing but praise for the program, so I expected the program to develop those leadership qualities,” Lemming said.
“What surprised me about the program was that it hasn’t been a motivational program, like many leadership courses are,” he added. “There is no hoopla or catchphrases, just nuts and bolts leadership stuff. A leader needs to be informed, so that data is there. A leader needs to be able to speak in front of others, so we are constantly put up in front of the class. It has surprised me by being very practical and effective.”
Some participants are even forced to attend as training for work, then end up appreciating it in the end.
“Although I was assigned to attend, I have not minded at all,” said Lt. Jackie Noren of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. “The benefits of the class personally and professionally go hand in hand. Interacting with others from various walks of life, listening and forming an understanding of other points of view always help develop and expand personal viewpoints and knowledge bases, which are always a benefit.
“There are also many facets of the county — types of industry, developing businesses, resources and programs — that I was unaware of. That is information I have been able to share with colleagues, acquaintances and friends. I think the success of the program is that the topics and interactions are thought-provoking and enjoyable.”
Brent-Bumb is happy with the success of the program, but more importantly, with the products the class has created for the county.
“Because of the program’s success, we have turned out six (complete) classes, about 150 people to date that live and work in El Dorado County and have a working knowledge of our strengths, weaknesses and needs,” she said. “They are committed to give back and support the county’s future.”
For more information, or how to apply for the eighth Leadership El Dorado class, visit eldoradocounty.org/leadershipeldorado.html.