ST. CLAIRSVILLE-"It was a great experience to sit down with other leaders involved in their communities and learn from each other. I saw clearly how by working as a team, you get more accomplished," said Jeff Gazdik of Colerain Township. He was a member of the first Belmont County Leadership Academy class which graduated on Wednesday. Seventeen representatives from chambers of commerce, community agencies and local governments presented their final projects and received plaques at a catered picnic.
Jane Keyser, county director and extension educator of The Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Office, developed and facilitated the academy, something she's done for other areas. "Belmont County is going to need strong leaders for the growing economic development taking place."
"You read about what's going on [in communities] in the paper, but you don't see all of the decisions, all the calculations that are behind it," noted Mary Mowrer, a Master Gardener and teacher. "This program has helped me to understand how everything works in our community."
T-L Photo/GLYNIS VALENTI
The first graduating class of the Belmont Leadership Academy includes, seated, from left, Mary Mowrer, Rev. Kimberly Snyder, Judy Bonifield, Lou Ann Bennett, Pam Smutney, Natalie Brown and Jennifer Woollard. Standing, from left, Jane Keyser, facilitator from OSU Extension, Gordon Price, Dale Betts, Rob Kinnick, Jerry Campbell, Jim Grear, Frank Shaffer, Ed Mowrer and Rick Kolb. Not pictured are Greg Bizzarri and Jeff Gazdik.
In his keynote address, Dr. Richard Greenlee, Dean of Ohio University Eastern and Union Local alumnus, encouraged these leaders to work together, go after their goals and be proud of the Appalachian heritage.
Gazdik found the teamwork exercises and grant critiquing particularly helpful during the eight month program and added that he would "highly recommend" it to other trustees and village officials.
County Commissioner Ginny Favede explained that the academy was "an investment in the future of Belmont County." Thinking long-term, she said, "The idea is to educate and train people in the communities, and those communities will directly benefit from it. The potential is limitless. In five years we could have 100 people trained throughout Belmont County, and the whole county will benefit."
The workshops were sponsored by Belmont County Tourism, Cafaro Company, Inc., Project BEST, Inc., Walmart Super Center, Caiman Energy and St. Clairsville Memorial Park. Program partners included The Ohio State University Extension Office, the Belmont County Commissioners and the Belmont County Planning Commission.
The first academy graduates are Lou Ann Bennett, Dale Betts, Greg Bizzarri, Judi Bonifield, Natalie Brown, Jerry Campbell, Jeff Gazdik, Jim Grear, Rob Kinnick, Rick Kolb, Ed Mowrer, Mary Mowrer, Gordon Price, Frank Shaffer, Rev. Kimberly Snyder, Pam Smutney and Jennifer Woollard.
Keyser said that another Leadership Academy is a possibility if they can find available funding and added that she was able to make some new community contacts, also. "There was a lot of networking with the different townships. Everyone has different backgrounds. When they worked together you could see that each was able to bring his or her own experience to the table."
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