The Young Emerging Leaders (YEL) are hoping to regain some of the energy the group had more than three years ago when it was founded as an offshoot of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
When launched, it was designed to help recruit and retain young professionals by providing them a network in which to meet other professionals, learn more about the region and get involved in issues and events.
Travis Lea, YEL’s board chairman, and other members of YEL met recently with a newly formed advisory council to inform them of the group’s plans in 2010, and to seek their input on how to reenergize. Lea said the group has about 270 members, with around 100 being active members. YEL membership is just $25 a year.
Discussion topics between YEL and council members included non-partisan ways the group could get involved in politics, the pros and cons of YEL making public positions on important regional issues and projects, and creating a larger regional connection for YEL.
“I would love to see more Oklahoma folks involved in YEL,” Lea said. “When we met in July, regionalism, promoting that, was one of our goals.
Linda Seubold, an advisory council member and editor of Entertainment Fort Smith, encouraged the YEL members to not be too cautious with respect to being engaged in the community. Eric Pendergrass, a YEL member and an attorney with Fort Smith-based Smith Cohen & Horan, said the level of YEL engagement is an issue the board has debated each year of its existence. He said the group has yet to reach a consensus.
Stephanie London, a YEL member and University of Arkansas at Fort Smith employee, said YEL has been active in organizing social events to keep young professionals connected. The recent events include a September YEL birthday bash, wine and dine event in Poteau, night golf and a murder mystery dinner.
The group’s big fundraising event is Bella Notte, and it’s scheduled for March 6 at Golden Living (former Beverly Enterprises) in Fort Smith. Funds from the event support scholarship programs that help YEL members participate in area leadership programs. YEL funded 2.5 scholarships for the current Leadership Fort Smith class.
The advisory council members are:
• Amanda Daniels, marketing director at Arvest Bank
• Ray Gosack, Fort Smith deputy city administrator
• Jason Green, vice president-human resources, Baldor Electric Co.
• Stacey Jones, UAFS associate vice chancellor for campus and community events
• Matt Keep, vice president and chief operations officer, Mercy Clinic
• Jill McCormick. former YEL chair and director of marketing and planning, St. Edward Mercy Medical
• John McIntosh, owner, Red Cat Inc.
• Phillip Merry, Bowen, Miclette, Britt & Merry of Arkansas
• Rob Ratley, OG&E community affairs manager
• Linda Seubold, editor, Entertainment Fort Smith
• Sherry Sims, human resource coordinator, Rheem
• Travis Stephens, former YEL chair
• Michelle Stockman, Arkansas Capital Corp
• Michael Tilley, editor, www.thecitywire.com