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Leadership Marshfield program kicks off this month

Inaugural class tops out at 12 for first cohort

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This week marks the beginning of a new program in Marshfield that officials hope can enhance leadership skills of participants while also educating them on opportunities and challenges in their community.

Feb. 12 is orientation day for the first cohort of Leadership Marshfield, an initiative organized by local business leaders and the University of Missouri Extension office in Marshfield. The program runs over seven dates through October, with participants meeting monthly – except for July and August. The last session will include a graduation ceremony and banquet.

Each session will be planned as a full day of learning, said Blair Gann, one of the initiative’s organizers, who also is assistant vice president of commercial lending at Central Bank in Marshfield. She said the class sizes are intentionally small to foster group interaction and create the best learning environment possible.

“We were originally going to take 10, but we decided that we really couldn’t cut anyone out, so we just went ahead and let all 12 in,” she said, noting all participants must fill out an application and commit to attend at least five of the sessions, including those in February and October.

The inaugural class comprises Mallory Barnes, Al Berry, Aubren Dudley, Rebecca Lawrence, James McConnell, Kathryn McConnell, Melissa Mall, Kelsey Ragsdale, Deborah Reece, Julie Rideeoutte, Leah Shelby and Jennifer Steen.

This first year’s tuition is waived for participants due to sponsors covering the costs, Gann said. Organizers sought out companies over the past few months with several providing either $1,000 or $500 for gold and silver memberships, respectively. Gold memberships are Central Bank, city of Marshfield, Donco 3 Construction LLC, Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce, The Seymour Bank and Tyler Pipe Co. Southern Bank and Webster Electric Cooperative are silver members. Monies collected cover class materials, logo gear, field trips, continental breakfasts, lunches associated with each session and the graduation banquet in October.

“Other communities charge, but we didn’t want to create a barrier for people who couldn’t afford a $500 tuition cost,” Gann said. “We asked businesses to front that at least this first year. Then, we will see how it goes after this year.”

Gann said the memberships also give the businesses representation on the Leadership Marshfield advisory board.

“We’re using them to help us program the days too, so it’s not just like they’re telling us what to do, but they’re actively participating,” she said. “We are leaning heavily on our advisory members to help us do what they think is important. We want them to be involved so we can best benefit these students.”

Finding inspiration
Gann said she visited with officials in Lebanon and Camdenton about their leadership programs and studied information from Leadership Springfield’s website for inspiration.

“We just kind of put it together from there, how we thought that it fit into our community,” she said, noting like those other programs, Leadership Marshfield lasts nine months. “We need a program where people can go around and meet all the leaders of Marshfield so that they feel more comfortable just networking with them and providing solutions if they have them.”

While specifics about each session are still under development, Gann said attention will be paid to areas such as health, education, finance, community service and natural resources.

The March session will focus on city and county government, an effort being spearheaded by Marshfield City Administrator Sam Rost. The city official said he’s working on a PowerPoint presentation he calls an introduction to Marshfield municipal government that will include an organizational chart with all the departments and how they function.

“It’s going to be this 100,000-foot view,” he said, noting the session also will include visits to facilities such as the Police Department and a water tower. “People want to know what the inside of a water tower looks like. They often think the whole thing is just full of water.”

For Rost, he hopes Leadership Marshfield spurs participants to get more engaged in the growing community. Marshfield’s population was 7,686 in 2022, up 3.1% from 2020, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.

“We’ll also show them how they can get involved, whether it’s simply coming to the meetings, following meeting information on our website, or if they want to put their name in a hat to volunteer on a committee or commission,” he said. “We want people to get as involved as they want to be. Get involved in person and not just on social media.”

Being collaborative
Carrie Richardson, executive director of Leadership Springfield Inc., said although she hasn’t visited with organizers of the Marshfield program, she’s always open to collaborative efforts that make the region stronger.

“Our philosophy is that we love being collaborative partners for any regional communities that are looking for support in whatever that may be. That could be meeting with them and talking about programs or lending some insight or expertise,” she said. “Our role is to help support and elevate leadership development and community leadership regionally. We want to be willing partners in whatever way that makes sense.”

Leadership Springfield has two cohorts that run simultaneously from September through May for its Signature Class program, now in its 38th year. Richardson said around 3,100 have graduated from the program, which is now accepting applications through April 1 for Signature Classes 47 and 48. Tuition for its Signature Class costs $2,950, according to the organizations’ website.

The Springfield organization, which employs five, has previously looked to expand its programs beyond city limits. David Burton, community development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension previously told Springfield Business Journal that a Republic Leadership Access Class scheduled in October 2022 was canceled due to lack of interest from potential participants.

“There are some great potential partners in Republic,” Richardson said, adding no plans for future classes are currently in place. “We’ll see what happens in the future.”

While Leadership Marshfield plans to keep its sessions in town, Gann said she wants the initiative to plant a seed in other Webster County communities.

“We want to do it well here and then go to Seymour and get a group there that will do it for their community. And Rogersville the same way,” she said. “We want to create a wave so that each community will have their own so that they can make their communities better.”

The program also is intended to inspire participants to learn more about Marshfield, which Gann, as a lifelong resident, believes can strengthen their desire to stay and make connections – both business and personal – in the community.

“These are my people, so we want everyone to feel like these are their people, too, and that they can succeed in their own community,” she said. “We want to show that there’s promise within their own community to get good jobs and make a good living and make a difference.” 

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