Budding leaders invited to take chamber course

Jul. 10, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Locals wanting more insight into their community and how it functions have until Monday to sign up for a class, held by the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, that will give them a closer look.   

Spots are still available for the chamber’s 16th annual Leadership Sanford class, which is open to business people and others in leadership or management positions and consists of one meeting per month from September to May. During the course, participants will learn about the community, politics, various industries and personal leadership.

Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Jennifer St. Clair — who participates in the class every year as part of her position — said there’s always a mixture of established community members and up-and-comers, as well as people from a variety of backgrounds. The chamber’s website notes that if the number of applicants exceeds the class’s 15 open spots, finalists will be picked to promote geographic, racial, gender and occupational diversity.

St. Clair said that having a variety of participants is beneficial because the focus of the class is on the community as a whole, not just business or politics or any single niche.

“There is some leadership building, some personal leadership lessons,” she said, “but the bulk of it is learning [about] our community.”

Pamela Senegal, vice president of economic and community development at Central Carolina Community College, graduated from the class in May. She said she felt it was well worth the cost — $950 for Chamber members; $1,200 for everyone else. The college is a chamber member.

“I’m a newcomer to the region, and I just got some really great insight into Sanford’s history, Sanford’s culture, and how things get done,” Senegal said. “And as a bonus, I met 15 or 20 great people, so I really increased my network. I don’t know which is more valuable.”

St. Clair said the chamber’s hope is that people will leave the class better prepared to serve in local government or on boards of nonprofits or civic groups in Lee County, and that they’ll also be able to use their new skills and knowledge to grow professionally. For those who can’t afford the cost, which includes meals and materials, some scholarships are available.

“By the time they leave, they should have a really good grasp on how the community works,” St. Clair said.

Senegal said that’s certainly the case for her, and that she has been excited to hear fellow Leadership Sanford classmates echoing some of her own talking points — which she said is helping along her own professional goals more than she could have done by herself.

“We’re always looking for ways to get word out about things we’re doing at the college ... and I’ve heard my classmates talking about those things at other events,” she said. “It’s one thing for me to say it, but it’s a whole other thing for other people to be spreading our message.”

Those who are interested in signing up can find more information and an application at www.sanford-nc.com/leadership.cfm.