Programs seek, train local leaders

FAIRMONT — Some people might be considered born leaders. Others might have had the role thrust upon them, but whether it’s a church, civic organization, non-profit or local government, leaders are vital to the success of any community.

The Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce is seeking candidates for two leadership programs, Leadership Martin County which begins this September, and the Blandin Community Leadership Program that begins in October 2019.

“Leadership Martin County will start Sept. 5 and end in May 2019. We do this program every other year,” said Margaret Dillard, president of the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce.

Leadership Martin County is designed to enable participants to learn about county resources values, strengths, weaknesses and challenges.

“It’s a great program for those who have been here for a long time even,” Dillard said.

The optimal number of candidates participating is 23, with these individuals chosen from a pool of applicants representing business, industry, education, public and private agencies, civic groups, non-profits and virtually all other sectors of the professional community. More than 90 people have completed the leadership program.

Previous participants praised the program and what it offered.

Linsey Preuss, Fairmont economic development director, called the Leadership Martin County awesome.

“Even if you’re from the area, you’ll learn a lot. It’s just a great program,” she said.

Robert Bartingale, former administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, was a newcomer to the area when he participated in the program.

“It provided an excellent and in-depth overview of the entire community,” he said. “Most of all, it demonstrated what an incredibly strong community we have in Fairmont and Martin County. We have a lot to be proud of and a great future to look forward to.”

Like Bartingale, Joe Brown, Fairmont Area Schools superintendent, participated in Leadership Martin County as a new resident, saying the program gave him an understanding and appreciation for the potential we have as a regional center for quality living.

“I also appreciate how business, education, city and county government, health care and multiple organizations are connected to each other,” he said. “What a great way to learn about the community you serve in just nine action-packed days.”

Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month with a focus on a specific topic. The first seminar on Sept. 5 is “Opening Day” and offers a time for participants to get acquainted with each other and the program. Subsequent meetings spotlight education, economics, government, health care, public safety, agriculture, quality of life, and culture and diversity.

Tuition for Leadership Martin County is $650, payable when a participant is accepted into the program. Dillard said employers or sponsoring organizations often pay the tuition because they see it as a solid investment in their workforce. Scholarship opportunities also are available.

Deadline to register is July 31. Sponsors for the program are Fairmont Economic Development Authority, Martin County EDA, Mayo Clinic Health System and Rosen’s Diversified Inc.

The Blandin Community Leadership Program will allow 24 participants from the Fairmont area.

“Fairmont has been selected to be in the Blandin Community Leadership Program only twice before, once in the 1990s and once in the 2000s,” Dillard said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been involved.”

The Blandin Foundation provides funding for many different projects to strengthen rural Minnesota.

“They’re connected to so many things in this area like the border-to-border broadband grant in the county, the community calendar, the Chamber’s social media breakfasts, summer coding camp for kids,” Dillard said.

The Blandin Community Leadership Program began in 1985 and has served more than 7,000 leaders from more than 600 rural communities. The program trains community leaders to be more effective at framing community issues, building and sustaining social capital, and mobilizing for community action.

“This will be more intense than Leadership Martin County,” Dillard said.

The program involves eight days of training. The first five days for Fairmont’s group will be held in October 2019 at Sugar Lake Lodge in Grand Rapids. The remaining three days will involve one-day sessions held in Fairmont.

The program is designed for established as well as emerging community leaders who want to be more effective in their communities. Participants should be actively involved in community life, open-minded, open to risk-taking, passionate about their community’s future and willing to work collaboratively to promote their community.

The Blandin Foundation uses $4,000 to cover the entire cost of each participant’s tuition, food and lodging for the five-day retreat, as well as tuition and food for the one-day sessions held locally, so there is no cost to the participant other than time away from work and family.

For more information about either of these leadership programs, contact the Fairmont Chamber at (507) 235-5547, or stop at the Chamber office at 323 E. Blue Earth Ave.