Thursday was graduation night for four teams comprised of 18 Roanoke citizens participating in the first Innovative Leadership program. The program was a partnership between Virginia Cooperative Extension, Roanoke’s Office of Neighborhood Services and the Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates.
Stephen Niamke was instrumental in getting Dr. Martha Walker Community Visibility Specialist with the VCE to conduct the program in Roanoke. In September of 2010 at the Statewide Neighborhood Conference held at Hotel Roanoke Niamke was so inspired when she spoke that he knew he wanted the Innovative Leadership program to come to Roanoke.
Niamke lobbied successfully and received the blessing of city manager, Chris Morrill. Morrill said, “I think you all represent what is really unique to Roanoke … it has become part of our culture that we are a community that gets in and gets things done.” Morrill and Mayor Bowers handed out the certificates to each participant in council chambers.
The six week program was led by facilitators that were trained in the six modules of leadership lessons; Bob Clement, Roanoke City Neighborhood Services Coordinator, Stephen Niamke, Sheri Dorn VCE Agent, Braxton Naff of Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates, Serena Todd with the VCE and Dr. Scott Tate Extension Specialist with VCE.
Clement was looking for a way to take the city’s nine-week Leadership College program to the next level. The Innovative Leadership program fit right in.
Dr. Walker’s program teaches the language and process of leadership, the opportunity to build leadership skills, increase awareness of community issues and work with other leaders and become more engaged in community, civic and government activities.
Before you can influence anyone else you have to “ask the right question at the right time and in the right way … listening and reflecting are definitely a part of leadership,” she said. “One person does not have all knowledge.”
Part of the program required each team to scour the community to identify a project and present it at graduation. The team comprised of Estelle McCadden, Pat Reynolds, Marjerie Carson and Pat Hill came up with a solution to increase neighborhood organization participation using Skype – a free computer application that is used to visually communicate over the Internet. Officer Travis Akins sat at the Roanoke City Police Station and was live on a council chamber projection screen talking with the team.
Dan Karnes President of the Roanoke Valley Veterans Council lobbied to bring the National Guard back to Roanoke. Team member Mary Hagmaier presented a site location and Bill King past president of the National Guard 29th Division Association gave an impassioned plea to the Mayor and council members. King said, “I’m a little bit disappointed Mayor [Bowers] … the National Guard was here when the city needed it.” The National Guard was called up for assistance in the snowstorm of 1997 and the flood of 1985.
A team led by Lee Bosworth and fellow teammates Virginia Turner and Terry Little took on a project to organize and revitalize blighted and unused properties and keep green spaces green. The goal was to replace the properties with green houses and playgrounds while helping developers find alternatives for development.
The team of Basil Akers, Sonya Echols, Garland Gravely, Christine Lofgren, Matt Nulf and Mike Simmons turned the Star City of old to the Star City of the future by proposing a nationally renowned city market plaza. Action items included one-way traffic, limiting on street parking, pedestrian traffic only in Market Square and limiting vendor access through the Kirk Avenue alley. A video of Quebec City in Canada was an example of what could occur in Roanoke.
With funding Clement hopes to have another Innovative Leadership program. He has 12 on a waiting list he said. The Innovative Leadership Conference “Change Within Communities” will be held in Roanoke on May 22. Of the 100 seats available only 23 seats remain said Clement.