Leadership Hagerstown offers new insights into community

June 17, 2005|by Alicia Notarianni

Leadership Hagerstown celebrated the graduation of class 18 Wednesday, June 15, at the Fountain Head Country Club.

Mary Anne Burke, director of Leadership Hagerstown, said the program was established in 1987 through the cooperation of the Hagers-town-Washington County Chamber of Commerce to establish a common meeting ground for leaders from various sectors of the community.

Burke said the program was designed to orient participants on issues affecting the Hagers-town-Washington County community while instilling principles of leadership and volunteerism.

Leadership Hagerstown begins each year in September with a two-night retreat and continues through June with a series of monthly, day-long sessions. The sessions are participatory activities covering topics including government, education, business and economic development, culture and quality of life, and health and human services.


"The program helps participants identify and address issues and problems they are often not aware of, even if they've lived in the area all their lives," Burke said.

Ed Forrest, 42, of Hagers-town, participated in the class. Forrest is the manager of Martin's Pharmacy on Dual Highway and a member of the Washington County Board of Education. Forrest said the program gave him additional insight into both resources and needs in the area, as well as community members' expectations for public schools.

"It was a real eye-opener for me, particularly as a Washington County native. I came in thinking I knew and had seen everything about Washington County," Forrest said.

Cheryl Gouker, 51, of Boonsboro, was a program participant. Gouker, director of strategic planning and integration at Citigroup, said going out into the community and learning more about events and opportunities in the area was a powerful experience.

"It benefits the community in that it gave me a stronger desire to become involved with more community organizations," Gouker said.

Burke said participants in Leadership Hagerstown are encouraged to use their skills, knowledge and connections to establish the monthly agendas.

Terry Chrisman Jr., 39, of Hagerstown, is chief information officer at Mack Trucks. For the leadership development session in May, Chrisman arranged to have Baltimore City Mayor Martin O'Malley visit the class to share his experiences. Chrisman said he will be involved in O'Malley's upcoming plans to run for governor.

For the business and economy session, class participant Neal Glessner, 34, of Hagers-town, set up an aerial tour of the Washington County area in a 1942 Douglas DC-3 aircraft. Unfortunately, Glessner said, the flight was grounded at the last minute due to weather.

"I thought it would be neat for the class to see the growth in Washington County from that perspective," said Glessner, president of Glessner Alarm & Communications.

Burke said next year's Leadership Hagerstown class will be the largest ever with 36 participants.

"One of our goals is to encourage graduates to become involved with boards and commissions," Burke said. "We want to ensure leadership in Hagerstown year after year."

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