Leadership North County: Connecting, Contemplating and Creating the Region's Future
They are the kind of questions you might expect an upper-division political science class to tackle: How do you lead a growing region as vast and diverse as North County? What are the challenges that our leaders face? What will the future of our communities be like? There are more ways than one to answer these questions as participants in CSUSM’s Leadership North County (LNC) soon realize. But LNC is not your typical university program and its participants aren’t your typical university students. Born as “Leadership 2000” in 1986 by a group of concerned citizens led by Dr. Fran Aleshire and Major General Marc Moore, the program seeks to cultivate leaders who will address issues unique to the North County region, while also developing harmonious working relationships within the cities. In 2001, the program was entrusted to CSUSM – today it is run out of the University’s Division of Community Engagement – and renamed Leadership North County. In its 16 year history, LNC has inspired over 400 individuals. This year’s class of current and immerging leaders includes a police captain, a museum executive director, a superintendent of a public school district and a dean from CSUSM, along with many individuals from non-profits, city departments and private industries.Meeting once a month for ten months, each class focuses on a different issue relevant to the region. Topics cover government, transportation and land use, resources and sustainability, healthcare and human services, public safety, Camp Pendleton, education and business.“Through expert speakers, tours and exercises, participants gather a variety of information about the subject. Each class builds on the one before it and at the end of the day we synthesize what we learned through group discussion,” commented Scott Gross, associate vice president for Community Engagement and LNC’s program coordinator. “Yet, I think our participants learn as much from each other as they do from the curriculum.”“I think that as leaders, sometimes we are in danger of growing complacent or even arrogant about our knowledge on various subjects, or myopic in our views,” said Veronica Villasenor, vice president relationship manager at U.S. Bank. Villasenor graduated with the class of 2011. “This program 'stirs the pot' so to speak, and causes one to take a look at issues through a new lens. For me, knowing what I know now…makes it virtually impossible for me to idly stand by and do nothing about the myriad of issues that have been brought to my attention. I am compelled to speak on topics and challenge the status quo amongst my circle of colleagues and friends.”Now residents of Canyon Lake, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula and Wildomar have the opportunity to cultivate their own leadership and community building skills through the newly created Southwest County program. Created in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation of Southwest Riverside County, the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and CSUSM at Temecula, Leadership Southwest County (LSC) is seeking participants for its first class that will begin this September.“Southwest Riverside County is trying to find its identity as a region,” commented Leadership Southwest County (LSC) Director Jim McLaughlin. “In order for the cities to thrive, it’s important that we provide a clear pathway for those interested in leadership positions.”McLaughlin is building the program from the ground up. Fortunately he has a team of volunteer leaders who are assisting in the curriculum building, including Gene Wunderlich, government affairs director for the Southwest Riverside Association of Realtors; Andre O’Harra, City of Temecula police chief; and Maryann Edwards, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Temecula.“The program will be tailored for busy professionals from all sectors of the community,” said McLaughlin. “Not only will LSC provide an opportunity for participants to network with other leaders, they’ll learn a lot about the makeup of the region, including both its outstanding characteristics and the challenges it faces.”Menifee City Manager Bill Rawlings graduated from Leadership North County in 2009 when he was with the City of Vista as director of redevelopment. He’s now helping McLaughlin build the curriculum around LSC’s Government Day.“The value of Leadership North County and Leadership Southwest County is in the significant experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise get to have. And, it’s in meeting people from different sectors of the community that you wouldn’t otherwise get to know,” he said. “We lead very busy lives. Someone considering signing up for LSC might ask, ‘can I make the time sacrifice?’ I assure you, it’s an extremely worthwhile program.”Applications for Leadership North County and Leadership Southwest County are now available. Sessions begin in September.“We are looking for people who are hungry to learn,” said Gross, “people who have a desire to transform themselves and their organizations. People who want to connect, to contemplate the issues of the day and ask, ‘What can I do?’ We are looking for people who truly want to make an impact and create the future of our region.”The application deadline for the class of 2013 is June 1, 2012. For more information, visit Leadership North County or Leadership Southwest County.