As a member of Leadership Columbia County's inaugural class, Grovetown Merchants Association President Sonny McDowell hopes to network within the group and learn more about resources available in the county.
"I'm real interested in learning how governments can work together," said McDowell, president of Grayco Detention Equipment Inc.
McDowell is among 25 others chosen to be part of the first Leadership Columbia County class.
After meeting for orientation Tuesday, the group was introduced at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's bi-monthly Success Columbia County Style networking event at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
The chamber is managing the leadership program, which is intended to promote the development of leadership within the community.
"Not only are they learning, but they're being made aware of what might happen in the future and how they, as community leaders, can help resolve those problems," said Tammy Shepherd, the chamber's director of programs.
The first course, to be held Thursday, will educate the members on the county's history with a trip to Savannah Rapids Pavilion, Clarks Hill Lake, the old courthouse in Appling and museums in Grovetown and Harlem.
An overnight retreat and team-building exercise is scheduled in September.
Throughout the nine-month program, the class also will learn about such topics as media, criminal justice, local government, military, health care, arts, tourism, economic development, state government, local industry, regional economic development, public safety and fire, education, and community service. Some classes will cross county lines, Shepherd said.
Pat Goodwin, the chairwoman of the Columbia County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, was selected to co-chair the program with chamber board member Barry Barth, vice president and general manager of WFXG-TV, Channel 54, serving as vice chairman.
"They are dynamic," Goodwin said of the group. "This is going to be an exciting year."
Goodwin, who graduated from Leadership Augusta in 2001, said she hopes class members gain a sense of community trusteeship through the program.
A total of 14 class sessions will be held, complete with homework assignments. Class members will graduate in May and must complete a class project that is designed to help the community, Goodwin said.
"They're going to meet a lot of key leaders," she said. "It gives them a realm of influence."
Kanta Kondur, owner of Best Western and Baymont Inn and Suites, said she joined the group to learn more about community affairs.
"It's kind of neat to know you're going to be the charter class," she said.
The members of the inaugural Leadership Columbia County class are:
Trey Allen, Learning Express Toys
Stacie Adkins, Columbia County
Craig Archer, SRP Federal Credit Union
Tina Baggott, Comcast Cable
David Bagwell Jr., Bagwell Insurance
Rhonda Banks, Keystone Homes
Charles Bennett, Queensborough National Bank and Trust
Darrell Byrd, Regions Bank
Bobby Christine, lawyer
Casey Cliatt, Augusta Telephone
John DeFoor, DeFoor Realty
Leah Eldridge, CSRA Federal Credit Union
Sean Frantom, Spherion Staffing Services
Jesse Hughes, Hughes Business Services
Deborah Humphrey, MCGHealth Inc.
Scott Johnson, Columbia County
Stephen Kendrick Jr., Kendrick Paint and Body
Kanta Kondur, Best Western
Debbie McCord, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions
Sonny McDowell, Grayco Detention Equipment Inc.
Chris McLaughlin, Georgia Bank and Trust
Lee Ann Meyer, Red Oak Manor
Troy Post, Development Authority of Columbia County
Jenny Stanley, The Stanley Group
Karen Swim, Doctors Hospital
Tommy Vigneri, Serotta, Maddocks, Evans and Co.
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