Area leaders inaugurate new program

June 22, 2005

Three people from Martinsville and Henry County are participating in a new program that helps local leaders across Virginia develop a statewide perspective on issues.

Taking part in the inaugural class of Lead Virginia are Lisa Fultz, manager of the West Piedmont Business Development Center; lawyer Kimble Reynolds Jr., who is vice mayor of Martinsville; and Kathy Rogers, executive director of the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville.

Harry Cerino, executive director of The Harvest Foundation, serves on Lead Virginia's board of directors, along with G. Slaughter Fitz-Hugh Jr., a former Martinsville mayor who now lives in Richmond.

Cerino helped identify the three local participants chosen for the inaugural class, according to Susan Timmons, president and chief executive officer of Lead Virginia.

Lead Virginia is a nonprofit program for community leaders to look at issues in-depth from a statewide perspective, its Web site shows. Ultimately, it aims to develop a statewide network of leaders who understand both state needs and regional differences, and thereby work together for the betterment of Virginia.

Fultz said the program offers participants "a chance to meet and talk with other leaders across the state who are essentially dealing with some of the same issues" as Henry County and Martinsville.

Areas that have different populations and characteristics seem to have three issues -- economic development, transportation and education -- in common, she said.

"It's interesting to see different approaches (to issues)," said Fultz, adding that the program helps local leaders develop ideas for "what we can do in our own community."

Tuition is $6,000. The money covers all expenses related to the program, including meals and overnight accommodations for meetings that are held for about three days monthly.

Fultz and Reynolds both said they used their own money to pay part of their tuition and received financial aid through Lead Virginia to cover the remainder.

Martinsville Finance Director Wade Bartlett said that, to his knowledge, no city funds were used to help Reynolds pay tuition.

Rogers said the local United Way paid her tuition using interest income earned by the organization and that no "donor dollars" were used.

Rogers called her participation in Lead Virginia an honor because no other United Way in the state is represented in the inaugural class.

Cerino was suggested as a board member after steering and nominating committee members learned of his work with The Harvest Foundation, Timmons said.

The organization was looking for people it "felt would be good to represent various geographical parts of the state" and their education, government, business and nonprofit sectors, Timmons said.

Neither Cerino nor other board members are paid, she added.

About 40 people from across the state are taking part in this year's first session of Lead Virginia, which began in April. Monthly meetings will be held through November, except in August.

Participants travel to locations throughout Virginia and meet with government, organization and business leaders.

The group visited the Danville-South Boston area in May.

The next session of the current class will be held Thursday through Saturday in the Harrisonburg-Staunton area.

Timmons said she hopes word of Lead Virginia will spread throughout the state and generate interest in the 2006 class, which will start next April. Recruitment will begin this fall.

This year's class has shown a lot of camaraderie and its members are communicating frequently via e-mails, she said.


Select News Year: