Leadership Duncan graduates Class 26, identifies project

After nine months of learning Duncan’s most intricate workings, 21 members in Class 26 graduated Leadership Duncan this month.

The graduation ceremony, hosted May 10, 2022, at the Duncan Golf & Tennis Club, recognized all 21 members, the experiences they gained and the group’s project to help better the community.

Bill Gosset, chairman with the Leadership Duncan Steering Committee, opened the ceremony. He recognized former class members and graduates families and spoke about the history of Leadership Duncan, which was born in 1977 — 45 years ago.

“It was a different designed program for the first few years,” Gosset said. “The Chamber of Commerce sponsored it, they had some visionary leaders that thought that having a community leadership program would add strength and fabric to our community and I think it certainly does.”

The leadership program has seen many changes since then, Gosset said, but it has a strong history and a rich history.

“I’m very proud and I know that the steering committee we have … is very proud of what we’ve accomplished and it’s not just what we’ve accomplished,” Gosset said. “We’ve accomplished this through the class members.”

He said more than anything, the buy-in to the program from the community — not just Duncan, but Stephens County as a whole — is what keeps it going.

Following his remarks, he thanked those who helped the program and volunteered their time to help facilitate the meetings. The meetings included topics such as politics, local government, social services, economic development and health services, to name a few.

As for the class, Gosset said they had a good mix — those from city government, insurance agencies, health services and more were included in the class.

Following Gosset, graduate Chris Rowe, selected by his peers, gave his leadership reflections. He walked through each of their experiences and spoke about the importance each class held for him and his fellow graduates.

He thanked each of the chairs who helped put on the classes and noted he learned “to build a community, we must support one another with unity.”

After Rowe, Gosset then introduced another graduate, Alan Gates, to speak about the class and its selected project — Duncan Area Heart & Soul.

“Our class had some pretty big ideas and we weren’t talk about things and we weren’t afraid to talk about some of the issues that maybe others are afraid to talk about,” Gates said.

Gates spoke about Dr. Martha Burger and an opening class called a “strategy shift.” The class, Gates said, was split into smaller groups and they were asked to identify the barriers in Duncan and why they exist and how to find a solution for it.

The group had a handful of ideas that led to deeper conversation.

“At one of these five work stations, someone started a word — I don’t know who did this, but thank you — but it said community voice,” Gates said. “We started getting this idea of, what if everyone was involved? What if everyone had a seat at the table? What if everyone has an opinion? What if everyone has a dream and a voice?”

Gates said when they talked about the class project and how to leave the mark of Class of 26, they began thinking of the “community voice.” They started turning ideas and brainstorming.

That’s when Chris Deal, Chamber President, said “it’s basically the Community Heart & Soul program.”

“We had no idea what he was talking about but it resonated and it piqued our interest and it made us want to know more,” Gates said. “So I did some research. I reached out to Community Heart & Soul and tried to ask more questions and discovered, unbeknownst to our class and myself, that our Mayor Armstrong was ahead of us. He had already met with them and had been given an overview, but didn’t quite have the support and the volunteer base to launch the program just yet.”

Community Heart & Soul is a resident process, Gates said, that engages the entire town, “to identify what they love most about their community, what features they want and how to achieve that.”

Tasked with a goal to identify what matters most, involve everyone and “play the long game,” Gates said he and the class believes this program will “grow pride and confidence within our community.”

“It will enable residents to feel more connected to each other, it will increase volunteerism, it will spur more people to get involved in city government, it will emerge new young leaders because it will increase investment dollars in Duncan, because it will improve economic conditions and it will cultivate city officials gaining a deeper understanding of what matters most to the residents of Duncan,” Gates said, announcing Class of 26 chose “The Duncan Area Heart & Soul” program as its project.

Following the presentation, each member received their keys before they received their plaques and officially graduated.

Class 27’s application period has closed and the next class will be announced this summer.

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