Leadership Crawford County has matured and grown over the last 20 years. Now, Crawford County’s formal program for leadership development of area professionals has for the first time in its history hired an executive director.
Pat Powell, who has spent the last 38 years as the vice president of human resources for Golden Living, will lead the organization into a new era, said Cathy Gifford, LCC board president and co-founder.
“We are very excited to have Pat join Leadership Crawford County,” Gifford said. “She will be a huge asset to the program, and we look forward to her new ideas. Pat has been a leader in her past positions and will bring a variety of new skills to our program.”
Gifford, Debbie Thomas and Lance Lanier started the organization after attending the Van Buren 2010 Vision Fair in 1998. The goal of the organization, according to the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce’s website, is “to create an awareness program that will educate and challenge potential leaders to the needs and opportunities in Crawford County and teach them the skills necessary to make a difference.”
In the summer of 1999, the first class was announced. Applications are submitted in the spring and class rosters of about 25 participants are chosen. In the past, applicants were first nominated by a board member or graduate of the program. Powell said she believes it’s better to have open applications because in order to reach all potential leaders in the county.
LCC participants spend about 10 months diving into the history of Crawford County, along with government, education, volunteerism, public safety, tourism and more. They participate in retreats and work on group projects that will better Crawford County, such as a county dump, a Van Buren marketing video, entertainment ideas and increased eye exams in schools. Alumni help out where needed, usually as volunteers at various community events, and many eventually take on roles of leadership in the county.
Powell, who graduated from LCC in 2009, would like to see alumni become more involved in the monthly seminars the classes take. She said she wants to tap into their experience and knowledge to help the classes.
“I want more participation with the alumni and not the activities in the community but participations in some of our sessions. We need to get the alumni more involved because … there is a lot of opportunity missed,” she said.
She also wants to meet with directors of leadership classes across the state to see how LCC can grow.
“We know we want some change in (the program), but I don’t want to go in and just start making changes. I want to look at what we have and how we can enhance it. It’d like to see classes do some reports, look into more things,” Powell said.
A resident of Van Buren, Powell was responsible for the oversight of up to 1,200 employees at Golden Living before the company began selling operations and downsizing staff. With Golden Living closing most of its operations and shifting to a real estate investment group with about 15 people, Powell agreed to help through the wind down and then retire.
“I was so excited (when I learned about this executive director position) because I love Van Buren, and I love the opportunity to get back in the community,” Powell said.
Janet Petty served in the role voluntarily from 2017-2020 along with the LCC Board of Directors and the staff at the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce. But after 20 classes and over 400 graduates, it was time to have a paid director, Gifford said. She said LCC also now had the funding to be able to have a paid executive director. The position, which will require about 30 hours of work a month, will be paid around $1,000 a month, which will be funded by sponsorships and LCC participant tuition.
“We are hoping that in the position, Pat will be able to bring in some more sponsorships,” Gifford said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 LCC class, which started in 2019, has yet to graduate. Powell said that class will have a one-day closing retreat April 1. Applications for the 2021-2022 LCC class will begin going out in March with an opening retreat planned in August.
“It is an honor to be a part of a program that has proven to be effective in growing new leaders in the community,” Powell said. “I am excited about the opportunity to be in this leadership role and to work with all the leaders in the community. I’d like to see the program expand and be more visible and known throughout the region.”