Each year a class of community leaders is selected to spend time learning more about leadership and much more about our community. This dynamic process unfolds over a ten month period. In this time there are leadership workshops that better explain the finer points of leadership and individual assessments to assist each team member in understanding their own leadership strengths and weaknesses. Just as important, the members of the class each month remove themselves from their own silos and venture into the community at large to take a peak. And it is an eye-opening experience. This is Leadership Sevier.
The class has had in-depth discussions delivered by the political and staff leadership of all the cities in Sevier County. A day was spent in the Smoky Mountains National Park learning from the remarkable people who each day tend to tourism, wildlife, ecological and security issues of our natural wonder. The class had a literal “bird’s eye view” of the development in the community (by helicopter) followed by in-depth discussions on our future development by dedicated professionals who work on this every day.
The class learned of the evolving economy from farming, logging, moonshining up to the present day when tourism reigns as the coin of the realm. This included a presentation by the Kyker Family on their Tennessee Century Farm with 206 years of continuous agricultural production. This family has been farming here for nine generations. A look at the new economy was experienced by visits to KaTom Restaurant Supply in Kodak and The Island in Pigeon Forge.
Health Services day gave the class a look at the fantastic facilities and staff of LeConte Medical Center that provides health care services to local residents and tourists. The class learned of the heartbreaking condition known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and the dedicated professionals who are fighting to stop substance abuse during pregnancy and care for babies that are dealing with the horrible impact of this abuse. The class spent time learning of the many services provided for our senior population through our local Senior Center. From birth to golden years, our community cares.
The class had a hands-on presentation from our community emergency services and law enforcement agencies. Class members fought fires, used the “jaws of life” to extract car crash victims, witnessed firsthand the dangers inherent in a traffic stop and fired automatic weapons under the supervision of the Gatlinburg SWAT team. The class now understands much better the debt of gratitude we owe each day to these quiet professionals.
The year will end with program days on education and quality of life. These programs are yet to come but will add to the class awareness of a complete community. The class members that attended the opening retreat are changed now. Through exposure to comprehensive community activity and services there is greater pride of community, greater awareness of issues and a greater willingness to help address them. In short, better leaders. Class members are now friends for life and will forever announce to anyone that will listen that Leadership 2015 was the best class ever. One closing comment on our leader Ellen Wilhoit. Being with her through this process has made us all better leaders and better people. My vote for the next community statue goes to her. Yes, I am a member of the 2015 Leadership class.