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Leadership Southwest County: Connecting, Contemplating and Creating the Region's Future

Members of the Leadership North County (LNC) Class of 2012 participate in a helicopter demonstration by San Diego County Sheriff personnel during Public Safety Day in February.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 Southwest Riverside County? What are the challenges that our leaders face? What will the future of our communities be like? And, most importantly, what can we do about it?There are more ways than one to answer these questions, as participants in California State University San Marcos’s (CSUSM) Leadership Southwest County (LSC) will soon realize. But LSC is not your typical university program and its participants aren’t your typical university students. A new program that will bring together up-and-coming “movers and shakers” with established leaders, LSC seeks to build an outstanding network of individuals who will work to ensure the long-term health and prosperity of the region.Created in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation of Southwest Riverside County, the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and CSUSM at Temecula, 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 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 make-up of the region, including both its outstanding characteristics and the challenges it faces.”Meeting once a month for ten months, each class will focus on a different issue relevant to Southwest Riverside County. Topics will cover government, transportation and land use, resources and sustainability, healthcare and human services, public safety, hospitality and tourism, and education and business.Menifee City Manager Bill Rawlings graduated from Leadership North County – a program administered through CSUSM’s main campus, which serves as the model for LSC – 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.”Through expert speakers, tours and exercises, participants will gather a variety of information about each subject. Each class builds on the one before it and at the end of the day students synthesize what they learned through group discussion. Yet, past participants in Leadership North County have said that they 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 about subjects, or myopic in our views,” said Veronica Villasenor, vice president/relationship manager at U.S. Bank. Villasenor graduated from LNC 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.”Maryanne Edwards is helping to build the curriculum around Human Services Day.  She says that not only will the program build strong leaders but it will help the entire region prosper.“Communities thrive when strong relationships and open communication exists among the stakeholders,” she said. “Leadership Southwest County will provide a forum for leaders to come together to build those  relationships and share information that will strengthen the community in areas vital to preserving the exceptional quality of life Valley residents enjoy.”“If you live or work in Canyon Lake, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula or Wildomar, then this is your opportunity to cultivate your leadership and community building skills,” said McLaughlin. “If you are hungry to learn and have a desire to transform yourself and your organization…if you want to connect, to contemplate the issues of the day and ask, ‘What can I do?’ then you are a great fit for Leadership South County.”The application deadline for the Class of 2013 is July 2, 2012. For more information, visit  www.csusm.edu/LSC or contact Jim McLaughlin at 760-750-8779.About California State University San MarcosCalifornia State University San Marcos combines the ambiance of a mid-sized, personal, modern campus with the unequaled value of the California State University. Since its founding in 1989, the campus has distinguished itself. Students benefit from the latest facilities and equipment, a superb faculty that enjoys teaching, and a rigorous academic program that prepares students for a successful life in and out of the workplace. A recent survey reported that our annual spending in the region was $161 million, generating a total impact of $307 million on the regional economy. 85 percent of CSUSM’s alumni stay in the region. CSU San Marcos is located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the city of San Marcos. It is fifteen miles east of the ocean; just thirty miles north of downtown San Diego.