February ENews- Guest Editor Kelly Otte, LT 21

Leadership Tallahassee has been an important part of my relationship with Tallahassee and commitment to community service for 14 years. I enjoyed my class year (class 21) and classmates, learned many things about Tallahassee I didn’t know before and developed a few close relationships. My favorite during the year was our class project working with Tallahassee Girls’ Choir which most of us didn’t know existed.
It was good but Leadership Tallahassee really began for me after our class year ended. I was committed to increasing opportunities for subsequent LT classes to be exposed to the ways poverty, class and race impacts all of us living in Tallahassee. It’s important for leaders to recognize we each have a limited view of the community unless we make a concentrated effort to understand what it’s like for others. I think LT has done a fantastic job of expanding member perspective. Under Barbara Boone’s leadership and the strategic guidance of the Board of Governors, LT has been invested in ensuring its definition of leadership is broad. Being involved with this process has been the best part of my LT experiences.
It’s important to remember LT doesn’t end at graduation. It’s intended to be so much bigger than that. Through service with LT, I have met hundreds of people I would have never met if I had called it quits after the class year ended. While you might think I’m exaggerating it’s true. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to serve in LT including Curriculum Chair (class 23 – the second to the best class) and co-chair of human service day for class 35. I’ve also served on the Board of Governors and a gazillion committees including member luncheon, 25th anniversary, nominations, Building Better Boards, DLA, awards, member selection, Opportunity Tallahassee, and more.
LT has provided me with a venue to meet so many leaders who have an impact on the work I do. At PACE Center for Girls 50% of my board of directors are LT alums: Mike Phillips (LT 21), Gina Giacomo (LT 34), Darryl Jones (LT 20), Stefanie Bowden (LT 32), Jamie Van Pelt (LT 34), Sha’Ron James (LT 21) and Nyla Davis (LT 34). During their class years I spent time with Christy Daly LT 24) who is now the Secretary of DJJ and Rocky Hanna (LT 31), the Superintendent of Leon County Schools, and both are very important to the work I do at PACE. Property Appraiser Akin Akinyemi (class 21) helped me create the Commission on the Status of Women & Girls when he was a County Commissioner.
In these opportunities I’ve been given a chance to know more about Tallahassee and how I fit in. And to meet people who are different than I am and to connect with them to improve the community. Nowhere was this more evident to me than when I opened the Oasis Center for Women & Girls. Oasis was this tiny nugget of an idea in my heart until 100 people from the community came forward and provided start-up funding. 30% of those people are members of Leadership Tallahassee or affiliated with an LT member Kathy Bye (LT 21), Nolia Brandt (LT 21), Kathleen Brennan (LT 18), Kim Moore (LT 24), Catherine Jones (LT 24), Lena Juarez (LT 17), Kathy Bell (LT 19), Barby Moro (LT 28), Tony Carvajal (Affiliate), Andrea Jones (LT 27), and Sam Varn (LT 21) are just a few of the people who came forward to help.
Finally, LT has become a family affair for the Otte’s. Both of my children are YLT grads, Alex was in class 7 and Samantha class 13. This past spring, Sam and I made LT/YLT history by becoming the first mom/child alums to chair a joint YLT/LT program day. It was very special for both of us, but especially for me. Fourteen years after entering the LT family, my daughter and I planned a day that would expose 80 LT/YLT class members to the realities of how poverty in our community impacts 40% of the citizens in Leon County. I walked into LT unsure what it was all about and many years later, I know it’s about being a part of influencing the future of Tallahassee. And I’m grateful to be part of it.

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