Thirty years ago, I was two years into my career at Capital City Bank, and a friend of mine named Dena Strickland was working for the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. Dena convinced me that I needed to apply for Leadership Tallahassee Class VII. I asked my employer for permission to apply, but was informed the Bank had already told Jean Lee Cottrell she would be our candidate from the Bank. The Bank did allow me to apply for LT Class VII, but if only one candidate from Capital City Bank could be in the class, then I would have to wait. Fortunately I was accepted in the Class and joined Dena Strickland and Jean Lee Cottrell along with 28 other classmates who I would get to know very well. I still remember the first day our class met – we met at the Chamber which was in the old Columns building, and Nancy Dell Lawhorn was our LT leader. Like other LT classes our class bonded on our retreat which was held in San Destin. I rode over to the retreat with Gini West and several others. I did not know Gini at the time, but I knew her Mom and her brother, Dickie Hosford. Even though I am a native of Tallahassee, there was only one other classmate (besides Dena and Jean) who I knew from Tallahassee and that was Will Butler.
However, now thirty years later, I count many of my classmates as close friends. There is a core group who still gets together for gatherings that Mark Baldino, our “Big Cheese”, coordinates, and a similar core group who shows up for Leadership Tallahassee events. LT is more than a class, or one year, experience, but only if you make it more!
Three years after finishing the Class program, I became Chair of the Leadership Tallahassee Board of Governors. Getting involved in the Leadership of the organization helped me expand my reach within Leadership Tallahassee and helped me meet new friends and leaders of our community. While I was Chair of the Board, I was approached by Board of Governors chair-elect Flecia Braswell to have LT start an awards event to honor Leadership in Tallahassee. Initially, I told Flecia that Tallahassee did not need another award ceremony honoring Leaders in our community as the Tallahassee Democrat was the convener of awarding volunteers in our community on an annual basis. Flecia convinced me that what would become Distinguished Leadership Awards was different, and she was right! DLA would become an annual award ceremony to honor leaders in the community, not just volunteers, but people who gave a lifetime of leadership! Who better to be the convener of a Leadership Awards ceremony than Leadership Tallahassee.
Now that the concept was born, it was time to get to work and make the event happen. I asked my fellow LT Class 7 classmates, Dena Strickland and Gini West to co-chair the event and we proceeded to have a fantastic event- and as I am constantly reminded by Dena and Gini , there was no budget and they had to beg and borrow to decorate for the event!
Last year while attending DLA, it occurred to me we were approaching our 25 year anniversary of DLA. A few days following the event last year, I reached out to Barbara Boone and asked her how many years we had been holding DLA, and was told in 2019 it would be our 25 year anniversary of DLA. I asked Barbara if she had a chair of the event and she did not. I told Barbara I wanted to get “the band back together” for our 25th anniversary, but I need to check with the rest of the band. Well, as they say, the rest is history! After a little coercion I convinced Dena Strickland and Gini West that we would all co-chair the 25th Anniversary of DLA! Many people have asked me why I decided to co-chair the DLA event this year. My response is generally – why not?! The real reason is Leadership Tallahassee has grown through the years and is a strong organization offering many opportunities to train leaders in our community. Twenty-five years ago, I became convinced that Leadership Tallahassee should be the organization to convene and recognize individuals for leadership service in our community. Today, I am even more convinced that LT should host DLA and wanted the opportunity to work with fellow Class VII classmates to help make the 25th Anniversary the best event yet!