Daniel Jackson, chamber president, recalled Tuesday that the Leadership Academy for Carroll County dates back to the early 1990s and an annual chamber planning retreat.
“We were down at Callaway Gardens and in the process of selecting chairs for various committees,” Jackson said. “Somebody observed that we seemed to be using the same pool of people, over and over, for the positions.”
The subject then turned to creating some system to establish a new pool of talented, younger people, who would like to groom their talents and serve in a larger way.
“Why not start a leadership academy and use the graduates for our future leadership roles in the chamber?” one person asked.
Jackson said, upon returning to Carrollton, he contacted Fred O’Neal, owner of the Carrollton Edward Jones agency, to coordinate the academy creation and “to make it happen.”
“He helped do the research and talked with other chambers to see how their academies worked,” Jackson said. “O’Neal served as chairman for the first couple of years, training chamber volunteers to plan and operate the program.”
Jackson said the academy’s curriculum has been adjusted over time, but the purpose of educating new leaders has not changed.
The 2013 Leadership Academy is now seeking nominations for its 14-week session, which begins in February. The class size is limited to 25 to keep the training personal and on a manageable level.
“We generally wind up having to cut off enrollment and start a waiting list,” Jackson said.
“The class will meet two hours, every Tuesday, through May, to help members discover their own skills and how to use them as a leader,” Jackson said.
Most classes are held at the chamber offices, except on tour days and during team building.
He noted that part of the training includes visiting various locations around the county to see how things operate. The sites visited have included farms, industries, law enforcement agencies and health care facilities.
Two days of the training, a Friday and Saturday, are held at Historic Banning Mills, where the members participate in team building exercises, such as the ropes course and ziplines.
Jackson said many of the academy participants are nominated by their employers, while others are nominated by former academy members, or even themselves. But, however they get nominated, the people should have the blessings of their employers for time away from work, to devote to the training, he added.
“We encourage employers to look around through their organizations to see which employees might benefit from the academy,” he said. “The companies also benefits from the employees’ training.”
Jackson said one misconception is that the training is only for young people, and older people, already in membership roles, won’t learn anything from it.
“It’s not just for young folks,” he said. “It’s a mixed gender and age group, and many members have been in leadership roles for many years.”
Kelly Meigs, who has been the volunteer chair of the academy committee for the past two years, said the academy is a place she can learn new things every year, and it has given her a chance to grow outside her own occupation.
“It’s one of the favorite things I’ve done since I began work at Tanner Health System,” Meigs said. “I’ve learned so much about our county’s agriculture and what happens at the university, our school systems and the cooperative extension service. I’ve learned about a lot of different things I didn’t know about before.”
Meigs said one of her favorite academy activities is where the members pick one nonprofit group in the county to help. It started with the academy dividing into teams, with each team picking a different nonprofit. However, she said they decided it worked better for everybody to focus on one nonprofit organization and to share all the various talents among the academy members with it.
“We can use our talents to help nonprofit groups who may not have these resources on their own,” she said. “People with financial training can help with fund raising and those with marketing experience can help with brand awareness. At the end of our program, we have a presentation day where we present our plan to the nonprofit.”
The academy fee, whether paid by a company sponsor or by the individual, covers all the session materials and speakers. The chamber encourages companies to support their participants.
The fee for a chamber members is $225, while a nonprofit chamber member pays $175. Non-member participants pay the $225 fee, plus the cost of a chamber membership. Nonprofit participants, who are not chamber members, pay $325, which includes chamber membership.
People interested in nominating someone to attend the 2013 Leadership Academy should call the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce office at 770-832-2446. Any business interested in sponsoring the Leadership Academy should call Suzy McCorkel, 678-890-2360.