Organizations: Atlanta Regional Commission Regional Leadership Institute
Marking Milestones: When the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Leadership Institute convenes at the end of this month in St. Simons, it will mark the 20th such gathering to address issues of import to the Metro Atlanta area, says ARC’s Tony Landers, director of community services, who co-founded the program with former ARC Executive Director Harry West. Another yardstick: The number of program participants, which averages between 50 and 60 per year, will top the 1,000 mark this year.
Fostering Stewardship: “The idea,” Landers says, “was to create a cadre of people who we could view as regional stewards. That’s the objective of RLI, to educate people about those challenges and those oppor-tunities that we have as a regional community. We try and give people not just an idea about what our challenges are, but we try to give them an insight into how they can make a difference.”
Selection Process: Participants are chosen by a selection committee, which consists of ARC board members and local business leaders, all of whom have been through the program. Past honorees, Landers says, include representatives from state, city and county governments as well as the business and nonprofit community. Among them are Sam Olens, current ARC chair and chair of the Cobb County Commission; Ben DeCosta, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and Bill Bolling, executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. In addition to selecting participants, the board also considers those who self-nominate, whether they live and work in the metro area or not. “We’ve had county commission chairs from outside the Atlanta area do the program because they’re interested in the challenges and opportunities that the Atlanta region has and they see themselves as a part and a stakeholder in what’s going on in the Atlanta region,” Landers says.
Significant Differences: One factor that does separate this program from other leadership efforts, Landers says, is that it’s not looking to develop leaders; it’s looking to engage those who already are leaders. Requiring RLI participants to spend an entire week together, he adds, also helps develop bonds between individuals. Each class is required to adopt a project; one class is still meeting some seven years later to foster its initiative – bringing together educators and local government officials.
Time to Celebrate: Last year’s class was charged with organizing this year’s 20th anniversary celebration, which will be held Oct. 4 at the Cobb Energy Centre. All previous RLI participants are invited; the event will feature Robert Grow, chairman of Envision Utah, one of the nation’s premier regional development initiatives. – Shannon Wilder