LEADERship Martin County

In the fall of 1989, community leaders were asked to start the first LEADERship program for Martin County. Decision-makers from all professions were invited to serve on the Charter Planning Committee. Everyone asked said “yes” and felt this was such an important program for making a better base of leaders in Martin County.

The Program Director wanted as much information about the other programs around the country; so becoming a member of the National Association for Community Leadership gave the founders the networking and materials to learn. Visiting neighboring counties and reviewing their programs also helped in the planning stages of scheduling our topics, length of programs and retreats.

From the National membership materials, the idea of having task force assignments throughout the program proved to be very beneficial. Program applications asked the applicants for the three most pressing problems facing Martin County today. The four problems that were listed most on the applications were then utilized to divide the class into four groups. Each group was given one of the problems, which they worked on during the next eight months. At the closing session, they were asked to present the problem and possible solutions to solve the problem. This approach was successful in giving the class a challenge, learning to work together, being able to carry this project on as alumni and asking the community to participate in the solution.

Some of the task force assignment projects resulted in these actions:

  • St. Lucie River Initiative Clean-up
  • Education Foundation was formed
  • Affordable Housing Advisory Committee
  • Campaign to get people out to vote
  • Youth Leadership Program
  • Walk-In-Someone Else’s Shoes started the neighborhood visits

The class members also made the planners realize that they wanted more than could be put into day sessions. Thus, “homework” was born and they loved it. Each topic day had some extra work to do as a group or individually that had to be accomplished before the next month’s session. This was successful because it provided an opportunity to expose the class to more facilities, people in the workforce and networking with each other.

The program is based completely on volunteer effort except for the Program Director who is an employee of the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce. The application fees have been kept down to $895.00, thanks to the local businesses who sponsor and host many of our sessions. Some financial aid may be available but the applicant must request assistance through the Program Director.

The success of the program is reflected in the broad base of leaders who have gone through the program and chosen to make a difference. CEO’s of many businesses and Non-Profit Organizations have been through the program, along with elected officials such as City and County Commissioners, Sheriff, City Police Chief, Property Appraiser, Clerk of the Court, Superintendent of Schools, School Board Members and many State Legislators. Approximately 80% of the alumni are actively involved in County and City government and local non-profit organizations. It is recognized that one’s leadership is just starting when one graduates from the program.

Program Director: Cindy LaConte (claconte@stuartmartinchamber.org)
Sponsor: Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce (772-287-1088)


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