Leadership academy graduates 22

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Suffolk Leadership Academy graduated 22 Suffolk residents from its program in a ceremony Tuesday evening.

The Suffolk Leadership Academy, created 10 years ago from the vision of local community leader Dr. George Barnett, is designed to develop and strengthen leadership skills for citizens who want to serve the community. The 12-week course included instruction in the theory and practical application of leadership by Ross Boone, as well as sessions covering the history of Suffolk, local government, economic development, agriculture, volunteerism and more. A field trip to the Virginia General Assembly and a tour of Suffolk were included this year.

Academy participants engaged in activities such as shadowing a Suffolk leader and making presentations to the class about what they observed.

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“The purpose is just to whet their appetite for the city of Suffolk,” said Kenda Council, the coordinator of the leadership academy. “Hopefully it will inspire students to become involved in an organization, maybe work for the city or run for office.”

Participants this year included employees of the city, Western Tidewater Regional Jail, local banks, health care institutions and other private companies, and several residents.

“It was my honor to be a part of it,” said Karen Williams, a participant who works for the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. “I enjoyed taking the class very much.”

Williams said the course helped her satisfy her “curious nature” through the General Assembly field trip, tour of the city and information about Suffolk’s history and government.

“I knew a lot of the speakers socially, but it was so nice to learn more about the city in more depth and detail,” Williams said, adding that the planning committee did a “wonderful job” preparing the classes and selecting speakers.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s banquet, the Dr. George Barnett Award of Excellence went to former United Way of Western Tidewater director Tywana German. The award, given annually to a Suffolk Leadership Academy graduate who has done something outstanding in the community, was given to German because of her work with tornado relief efforts, Council said. Past recipients have included Boone, Council, Debbie George and Suffolk Police Lt. Allan Iversen.

Graduates of this year’s Suffolk Leadership Academy are: Jennifer Branham of the City of Suffolk – Office of Youth, Kendall Bristow, of B.W. Foster Funeral Home, Stephanie Davis of Mass Mutual/Commonwealth Financial, Charles Gregory of Ciba Corporation, Barney Howard of City of Suffolk – Fire & Rescue, Sherry Hunt of the City of Suffolk-Chief of Staff, William Kessinger of the City of Suffolk – Fire & Rescue, Lisa Key of Suffolk Festivals, Inc., Timothy Kigler of Western Tidewater Regional Jail, Diana Klink of the City of Suffolk – Media & Community Relations, James Lewis of Western Tidewater Regional Jail, Geoff MacMurray of Bon Secours / Maryview Medical Center, Bob Meinertzhagen of General Dynamics Information Technology, Gerri Outterbridge of the office of Dr. Vernon Rainey, DDS, Nick Renninger of the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Matthew Revelle of BB&T, Crystal Rivenbark of Farmers Bank, Linda Sleighter of Northrop Grumman Corp., Lawanda Tillett of Young Women Achieving Success, Florence Votava of Va. Dept. of Agriculture, Karen Williams of Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and Charlie Wright of Ciba Corp.