Tag Archives: scottsdale leadership

What’s Behind the Scottsdale Brand? How Can We Protect It?

Andrea AkerBy Andrea Aker, Class 28
Aker Ink®

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.

What comes to mind when you think of Scottsdale? Luxury, golf and shopping… or “Snobsdale” and perhaps smugness? A variety of terms and connotations emerged during our class day, Beyond Scottsdale City Limits, where local leaders shared their thoughts on the role of collaboration among cities as well as the state of Scottsdale’s brand.

While all cities battle conflicting viewpoints to some extent, it seems the passion and pride of Scottsdale residents has been put into question a bit more since voters struck down the General Plan late last year. This issue has come up during many of our classes since the election, and it resurfaced once again as dignitaries from around the Valley converged.

Have the recession and other events from recent years altered Scottsdale’s brand? While it’s clear that many residents want changes – especially among those who hit the polls – I don’t believe the brand has suffered permanent damage. However, I do think more leaders and residents need to find common ground, goals and priorities.

Rachel Sacco, President and CEO of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, shared five key distinctions that make Scottsdale a desirable place to live and visit. Promoting these aspects of our city, she says, will help protect the Scottsdale brand.

  • Desert Recreation – No doubt the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a local gem. More than 30,000 acres of pristine desert landscape and 120 miles of trails within city limits are certain to draw residents and tourists alike.
  • Resort Lifestyle – There are many benefits to being dubbed a resort destination, especially in attracting affluent tourists who impact tax revenue. I also don’t mind living near a stone’s throw of poolside service.
  • Arts – The Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts serves as a hub for the arts community, but artistic endeavors are present throughout the city.
  • Events – Think Barrett Jackson, Phoenix Open, Parada Del Sol, Scottsdale Culinary Festival, etc. These events draw people from all over the Valley, state and even the nation.
  • Transportation – This might be a weaker point from my perspective, but certainly worth noting and discussing. Ever been on Ollie the Trolley? Me neither, but I want to catch a ride one day!

Do you agree or disagree? At what level should local leaders focus on supporting these distinctions? How can Scottsdale collaborate with neighboring cities to further strengthen positive branding?


Filed under Class, Community, Leadership

4 Lessons Learned During a Scottsdale Police Ride-A-Long

AkerBy Andrea Aker, Class 28
Aker Ink®

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.

Scottsdale Leadership is designed to take us out of our comfort zones – and I experienced just that recently, riding shotgun with one of Scottsdale’s finest. Officer Jennifer Cook, a 13-year veteran of the Scottsdale Police Department, gave me a peek into the hustle and bustle of street patrols.

SPDFollowing November’s Safe Communities Day, Class 28 gained a much deeper understanding of how local law enforcement works, as well as the people, canines, tools and resources that keep our community safe. Officer Cook brought many of these lessons to life during two “committal calls” (transporting individuals who appear unstable to mental health facilities) and neighborhood disturbances. Here’s a sampling of what I gleaned:

Women Rule – While I was quite aware that women rule in general, the ride-a-long served as a thoughtful reminder about the additional challenges women overcome in male-dominated fields such as law enforcement. Officer Cook has put in extra effort to gain much of the same respect her male counterparts receive from the public, without issue. However, women have advantages too. They tend to be very effective communicators which can be crucial when diffusing tense situations that could escalate into physical violence.

Traffic Stop Danger is Unknown – Officer Cook informed me that police officers are most likely to get injured during traffic stops, which is why they may appear extra cautious or serious when approaching your car door. The process may seem routine to outsiders, but officers never know who they are pulling over, and what secrets they may be hiding. In recent months, a Phoenix police officer was assaulted during a traffic stop, and a DPS officer in Payson was shot during a traffic stop. A simple traffic incident can quickly turn violent.

Police Officers are People Persons – Stereotypes of stern and often insensitive officers are false. Each of the officers I encountered were friendly, accommodating and passionate about protecting the community. Effective cops must relate well to others – doing so can help prevent crimes, diffuse risky situations and calm victims. (And that doughnut stereotype is totally untrue, too – fudge brownie bites were passed around during the briefing.)

Scottsdale is Among the Safest Cities to Live – Safe neighborhoods are one of the primary reasons Scottsdale is such a desirable city to live. Highly trained and skilled officers like Officer Cook directly contribute to an extremely low crime rate. In fact, LawStreetMedia.com ranked Scottsdale as the fifth safest city in America in 2013 (with a population greater than 200,000).

Scottsdale residents, students, business owners and city employees can take part in ride-a-longs. If you want to see what a day in the life of a Scottsdale police officer is really like, call the Uniformed Services Bureau Secretary at (480) 312-1907.

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Pssst… Wanna Join a Nonprofit Board?

LloydBy Stacy Lloyd, Class 28
Lloyd Media Group

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.  The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it. -Albert Einstein

Serving on a nonprofit Board is a great way to “put back.” But first, read this blog!

Our last Scottsdale Leadership class was Boardsmanship Day. Honestly, I was fairly confident; it was going to be bor-ring. Imagine my surprise, when it was the exact opposite.

Board Panel Our panel – charged with teaching us the roles, responsibilities and expectations of serving on nonprofit Boards – was a who’s who in the world of Arizona nonprofits. Steve Davidson, Class 10 (CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale), Pam Gaber (CEO, Gabriel’s Angels), Patricia Lewis (ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation) and Eileen Rogers, Class 2 (nonprofit Board all-star) emphasized that it’s important to do your homework before serving on a Board.

Say you’ve found the nonprofit of your dreams. You’ve heard wonderful things about it. You’re eager to join the Board. Whoa… not so fast! Having passion for a nonprofit is critical, but so is doing your due diligence. There are essential things to grasp before joining a Board for the first time. Here goes….

You definitely want to meet the Executive Director.

It’s imperative to know that as a Board member, you are a fiduciary. You’re managing assets for another party, often with the legal authority and duty to make decisions regarding financial matters on behalf of the other party. No matter how the organization is structured or the degree of authority delegated to staff or committees, the Board and therefore the individual members are ultimately accountable.

Inquire if the organization has proper insurance coverage. Patricia Lewis said, “Don’t join a Board unless it has directors’ and officers’ liability insurance.”

Ask financial questions as it’s your responsibility to understand the Board’s financial statements. If you notice any red flags, stay away.

Board members must understand the facts and circumstances of accounting issues and the overall financial health of the organization. To do this, Board members must be actively engaged in the governance process. This means getting educated on Board governance and the nonprofit’s bylaws.

Ask about the Board term length and the expected time commitment. Don’t join something if you don’t have the time to serve. Oh, and be careful of any conflicts of interest.

Wait – you’re not done yet. Our experts said to test-drive the Board first. Join one of the nonprofit’s committees. You can see firsthand the organization’s inner workings. Plus decide if the current Board members are people you want to work alongside.

Don’t go blindly into joining a nonprofit Board. Put on your extra-strength spectacles and do your due diligence.

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Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry?

GoodmanBy Alison Goodman, Class 28
Scottsdale Quarter

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

With the recent and heartbreaking death of movie star Paul Walker, the topic of speeding and its potentially fatal outcome cannot be ignored. According to the LA Times, speed may have indeed been a factor in causing this tragic accident on a quiet road with a 45mph speed limit. A road full of warning signs alerting drivers to slow down as they approach an uphill curve… the same uphill curve near the site of the accident.

In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracked 10,395 lives lost to speeding, which equates to 32% of all fatal car crashes. More than 900 people a year die and nearly 2,000 are injured as a result of red light running, with half of the fatalities being pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles who are hit by red light runners, not the red light runners themselves. And as we saw from the video footage on Safe Communities Day, the risk for casualties is high and the outcome terrifying.

How does all of this relate to the drivers of Scottsdale? Photo radar, a subject hotly debated when the cameras were first introduced and still a source of discussion today. As a former member of the Lead Foot club, I know all too well the feeling of panic that ensues when running late and how it seems reasonable to speed in order to get to the desired location on time. However, and as much as fast drivers will hate to admit it, speeding rarely gets you to your destination more than a minute or two quicker than if you hadn’t sped to begin with.

“But will pushing the speed limit up 5mph really make a difference?” you ask. “What about 10? What about 20?” We fundamentally know that speed limits are put in place because they are the designated safest speed at which to travel a road– is getting somewhere a minute or two faster so vital that it’s worth putting your life and the lives of the others at risk?

As annoying as photo radar can seem, it’s not just a quick way for the City of Scottsdale to make money – it really does make our roads safer. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anywhere I need to be that justifies driving at a speed that could potentially cause harm. In summation: slow the [bleep] down.


Filed under Class, Community, Uncategorized

Eureka! There’s Help in Them Thar Libraries!

LloydBy Stacy Lloyd, Class 28
Lloyd Media Group

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

I wasn’t expecting to evoke the California Gold Rush when writing my blog about Scottsdale Leadership’s Economic Development Day.

After all, economic development is the process of building strong, adaptive economies not searching for gold. In fact, Danielle Casey, Economic Development Director for the City of Scottsdale, defines it as, “the process of creating wealth through the mobilization of human, financial, capital, physical and natural resources to generate marketable goods and services.”


Class 28 was exposed to many economic concepts that day – from an economic update to economic trends shaping our community; all things you would expect during a crash course on Economic Development. But I was surprised when Casey had a spot in her presentation for Carol Damaso, Scottsdale’s Public Library Director, to talk about the Eureka Loft.

The Eureka Loft, located at the Civic Center Library, is a co-working space. It’s part of a new initiative between the Scottsdale Public Library and ASU Venture Catalyst, the startup unit of Arizona State University. This joint effort is designed to help entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses.

(Full disclosure: the Eureka Loft is actually named after the famous “Eureka” moment of Greek astronomer, inventor, mathematician and physicist Archimedes. It has nothing to do with finding gold. But hey, I understand the concept of panning for gold much more than I do Archimedes’ principle.)

The Eureka Loft combines elements of collaboration spaces with expert library fact-finding services and ASU startup resources all in one place. On top of that, they can get advice and access to some pracademic classes both online and in the library. (Pracademic is the mixture of academic and practitioner.)

Michael Beck, Class 28 classmate and Adult Services Coordinator at Scottsdale Public Library, runs the Eureka Loft program and says its benefits are numerous.

“Anybody can come into the library and get free one-on-one assistance with mentorship, access to library databases, business databases, mentorship with ASU and business community leaders”, said Beck. “They can also receive help with their filings for limited liability corporations.”

Members of the Scottsdale library staff have become champions of the program. Each library champion has gone through ASU’s Rapid Startup School which is an introduction to entrepreneurship.

The long term goal of Eureka Loft is to support Scottsdale’s entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses and the like that need help to advance their ideas. The collaboration spaces allow these people to gather to connect, network and share ideas. They are free and open to the public during normal library hours.

Here’s what I like best about the Eureka Loft… economic vitality shouldn’t just be on the backs of Scottsdale’s high powered movers and shakers. Thanks to the Eureka Loft, we can all take part.

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Are the right standards in place in our school system?

RodneyHeadShotBy Rodney Smith, Class 28
First Financial Equity Corporation
Helping Hands for Freedom, Co-founder

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

It was a teacher in 7th grade that saw something inside this skinny, white haired kid from Thornton, Colorado that “changed my stars”.  He believed in me. He connected with me. He inspired me.

On Friday, October 25, 2013, I was able to share with my amazing classmates in the Scottsdale Leadership program a spectacular day with some of the most passionate, talented, and committed people in our education system. It became very apparent to me as the day unfolded that many of the standards we use to measure the success of our education system fall into the categories of: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Test scores as a measurement of success, access to money, or a means of job security need to jump in a canoe and float down the river. At the end of the day, if a child feels “connected” the odds increase significantly as to that child finding passion and direction to live a fulfilling life. That is the measurement that needs to be defined and held accountable.


Kim Dodd, Mary Masters and Kim Hanna (Class 27 graduates of the Scottsdale Leadership Program) provided the structure and direction of Education Day.  Mary emphasized, “A primary goal of the day was to inform the class all that “education” encompasses such as each child’s own level of readiness, constraints and obstacles the teachers face, evolving curriculum, and political differences when it comes to expenditures.”  One of our true leaders when it comes to Arizona education, Dr. Lattie F. Coor from the Center for the Future of Arizona, spoke to the group and simplified it best, “Understand the issues, and do something about it.” The current standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.

Dr. John Balles, Clinical Services Coordinator for the Scottsdale Unified School District, started the day defining the challenges facing our children. Of course, bullying, drugs & alcohol, home environment, and social environments 

remain obstacles that our children have to overcome, but technology and all the different types of communication available in cyber-space are also a major factor whether or not our kids feel accepted and connected. Can you imagine if we had to worry about how many “LIKES” we have on Facebook to feel good about ourselves? PARENTS BEWARE!


It was John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Arizona Department of Education that really opened my eyes regarding our school systems limited view of how we hold the system accountable. Mr. Huppenthal feels a holistic approach to education needs to be at the forefront and I agree. As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. A complete, well-rounded view of education as a whole should be where we develop, evaluate and measure. Caring and supportive teachers create a classroom environment which encourages students to behave in responsible ways and emphasizes learning over performing.


The theme of “connectedness” was even more apparent during a panel discussion featuring  the “Best of the Best” representatives speaking from a multitude of education sectors including charter schools, early childhood education, parent representative, business representative, public schools, higher education, and home school. Moderator Kim Hanna of Camping For Foodies, led a very intellectual dialog on regardless of where you send your child to school, it takes involvement from the community at-large to make it work, perhaps “Parent Development” being the most important factor. The quality and quantity of education received by our young people have a positive direct correlation with community stewardship, job creation, global marketplace competitiveness, career opportunity and civic engagement while minimizing the negative impacts on social services, substance abuse and suicides. As Kim Hanna points out, “Education is the foundation of our entire society—that’s why we should all be passionate about it.”

Politically speaking I struggle with the idea that one person can make a difference anymore, but I do know personally that each of us can make a difference in the life of a child. I challenge you to share at least one positive step to engage students, families and the community in ensuring the education of our children?

To my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Usechek… THANK YOU for believing in me and connecting with me. I love my life because of you!


Filed under Class, Community, Leadership

If Children Are the Future, What Will the Future Bring?

ValenciaBy Ruth Valencia, Class 28
Salt River Project

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

A week has passed since we all attended the Youth Services Day, a day that was filled with a great deal of information about the state of our youth in Arizona and in our Scottsdale community.  We heard some alarming statistics, acknowledged the challenging and stressful environment that children are faced with today and were introduced to a number of innovative programs that are trying to address the issues.

Eric Alfrey from the Arizona Children’s Association gave a compelling talk about addressing behavioral health in children who face abuse, neglect, abandonment and mental health issues. He spoke about the importance of early intervention with both the child and the family. In fact, this, along with helping children build resilience, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-value, finding a sense of belonging and building social connections, represents the theme we heard throughout the day. Eric mentioned the 2012 Arizona Youth Survey, conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, so I thought I’d take a look at what it showed. I encourage you to do the same if you are interested in this issue. It primarily assesses risk factors in children, grades 8 through 12. There were a few things that were rather surprising, such as 5% of respondents admitted to bringing a gun to school, and 40% of 8th graders said they were victims of bullying. But there was one statement in the report that kept coming back to me and I wanted to share it here. I would love to hear your thoughts and responses to it, especially when one considers the heavy focus on testing, testing and more testing in our schools. It said:

“Beginning in the late elementary grades (grades 4-6) academic failure increases the risk of both drug abuse and delinquency. It appears that the experience of failure itself, for whatever reasons, increases the risk of problem behaviors.”

One of the presentations that really surprised and impressed me was given by Marie Raymond, Early Literacy Coordinator at the Scottsdale Public Library. I mistakenly was hanging on to an old-fashioned image of the library as a quiet place where you only spoke in hushed tones for fear of being chastised by the librarian. Was I ever wrong! Our library system’s outreach program is quite impressive. They are even focused on making sure every baby becomes a reader, with programs that are targeted at infants and their parents to ensure that baby’s neurological pathways are fully developed. Their performance in developing partnerships and leveraging grant money to expand their programs to schools (pre-, charter and public), other libraries, and to the Fort McDowell community is laudable. Community based parent education programs, parent networking groups and family read aloud nights are examples of the library system’s ability to leverage funding. The next time you begin to think that you never see anything from your taxes, visit your local librarian. These are your tax dollars hard at work.


Filed under Class, Leadership

Leadership Runs in Their Blood


For two Scottsdale families, leadership runs in their blood. Residents Doug Sydnor and Sharyn Seitz joined Scottsdale Leadership Class II in 1988 with a common goal; to learn about and give back to the community in which they had chosen to live and work. Little did they know, their daughters, Siena Snydor and Rebecca Seitz, would graduate almost 25 years to the date from SL Class XXVII. The four share their experiences with Scottsdale Leadership below.

Sharyn Seitz
Owner, Sphinx Date Ranch

What was the most rewarding experience?
I had been working in government budgeting for many years before I was appointed by the mayor to the Citizen’s Bond Committee to oversee the spending of the bond money approved by the voters. It was rewarding to be able to apply my knowledge and experience to an important oversight role for the community.

How did your experiences with SL help your career?
I learned to work with volunteers as both a leader and a participant, which has helped me in all aspects of my life, in particular, in my corporate management roles.

Have you kept in touch with your fellow SL members?
Yes, I have. Even after moving away from the area for about 11 years, I was pleased to find that my fellow classmates welcomed me back.

What would you want future applicants to know about the program?
Working with others on projects, committees and commissions without ties to employment is a different dynamic than managing people in an employer/employee environment.

Doug Sydnor
President, Doug Sydnor Architect and Associates, Inc.

What attracted you to SL?
It was through the Valley Leadership program that I met former Mayor Sam Campana and Gary Shapiro, who among others, founded Scottsdale Leadership. I saw this new program as a way to learn more about Scottsdale.

What was the most rewarding experience?
Fellow classmate Jamie Drinkwater Buchanan introduced me to her father, Mayor Herb Drinkwater, who appointed me to the City of Scottsdale Development Review Board. Originally, I turned down the opportunity because my civic involvement plate was full at the time. However, I eventually returned his call and accepted the position. It was impossible to say no to Mayor Drinkwater!

How did you apply your experiences in SL to your own life?
Scottsdale Leadership broadened my network of friends and acquaintances, as I met many people that you would not normally encounter in your daily work routine. Also, I have been consistently involved in the community on over 30 boards and commissions, and have served as the president or chairman for nearly half of them.

What would you want future applicants to know about the program?
Scottsdale Leadership makes you so much more aware of the resources, personalities, opportunities and challenges within Scottsdale. The program motivates you to step up and try to make a difference in the community.

Rebecca Seitz, Co-owner, Sphinx Date Ranch

What attracted you to SL?
Leadership was a natural progression in my career and in my involvement in the community. However, I remember the pride my mother had being accepted into the program, and enjoyed hearing about her class days. I appreciated the fact that she maintained close relationships with many of the Scottsdale Leadership alumni.

Did your mother impact your decision to join SL?
Yes, I was inspired by my mother to join. I also felt it was important as an owner of Sphinx Date Ranch to continue the legacy of involvement in Scottsdale. Former owner Jason Heetland was a graduate of Class XVII and his father, Rick Heetland, has a long legacy of contributing to Scottsdale.

IMG_2278How has SL changed since your Mother was a member?
My mother’s class was about half the size of mine and did not have a class project. Since her involvement, Project Pay it Forward has been implemented. This aspect allowed us to identify community needs and execute a community service project, which will leave on for years to come.

Siena Sydnor
Manager, Account Operations, Genworth Wealth Management

Did your father impact your decision to join SL?
My father shared his experiences with Scottsdale Leadership with me and it seemed like a great opportunity at the time. I work long hours, and Scottsdale Leadership gave me an opportunity to step away from my career get to know the community I grew up in, while meeting many other involved young professionals.


What has been the most rewarding experience?
Getting up early on the weekends to build the Plant the Seed garden for the Boys and Girls Club was the most rewarding experience. It was a project I saw from start to finish and I developed a new network of close friends.

How do you intend of applying your experiences with SL to your own life?
From my experiences, I learned I am passionate about economic development, keeping the arts alive and ensuring Scottsdale stays a place where future generations will want to live, work and play. I plan on seeking opportunities in the community where I may be able to make a positive impact.

What would you want future applicants to know about the program?
You will get far more out of the program than you give. Be prepared to be present, interactive, passionate and open to a diverse group of people and ideas.

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Who are the future leaders of Scottsdale?

KinsellaBy Lois Kinsella, Class 28
Intel Corporation

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.  The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

Who are the future leaders of Scottsdale?  Most people would respond with names of individuals who are in government or public positions, or those who have been publicly recognized for their work.  However, if you ask anyone in Scottsdale Leadership you are likely to get a very different answer, and that answer is the reason I chose to pursue the Core Program.

When I was first approached about getting involved in Scottsdale Leadership, I was convinced that I was too busy, too involved in other things, and too focused on my family and job to take on anything else.  But I replied ‘Let me see if the idea sticks with me in a few weeks’.  I’ve not always trusted my inner voice, but when I have, good things happen.  A few weeks passed and this thought about leadership was still in the back of my mind; I was compelled to learn more.  I attended an informational evening, and after learning more about the program and visiting with alumni, I knew I wanted to be part of this influential group of people who are passionate about making a difference in our city, communities, and ourselves – I was hooked!

On September 6, Scottsdale Leadership Class XXVIII met Mayor Lane and representatives of the City, and now our journey begins.  A journey of 45 people who, although they still maintain their jobs, families and a multitude of other responsibilities, have chosen to spend nine months discovering what leadership really is, and what it takes to lead a city like Scottsdale.

Day 1 was centered on a discovery of our natural styles, getting to know our classmates, and understanding the origins of the organization.  Gary Shapiro, one of Scottsdale Leadership’s founders, challenged each of us to be present and teachable, for that is the first step in becoming a leader – being an active listener.  Our minds are eager to learn.

What will we learn; where will we go; what will we see?  Join us in this blog and see what discoveries you might find within yourself.  Expect something new every two weeks.

Now I would like to hear from you.  What leaders have made an impact on you? What was significant in what they did for you?  Do you have a personal quest to become a leader, and why is this important to you?


Filed under Class, Leadership, Uncategorized

It’s Over – NOW WHAT?

Arizona LeadershipBy Kim Hanna, Class 27
Economic Vitality, City of Scottsdale

The Class 27 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community. Scottsdale Leadership is an Arizona Leadership Program.

At the beginning it seemed like such a long road.  But now—the fabulous 9-month journey with Scottsdale Leadership is over.  Yikes—NOW WHAT?

This rich experience was not intended to only expose me to a bunch of issues in the community.  It’s about engaging in the community to make it a better place into future generations!

On our final class day, Suzanne Paetzer—our Core Program Chair—reminded us of a T.S. Eliot quote, “To make an end is to make a beginning.”  THAT’S WHAT!  It’s time to make a beginning!

Then came Eileen Rogers who said, “Most of us don’t know what we want—but we’re pretty darn sure we don’t have it!”  Isn’t that the truth?!?

The answer: Life By Design, Not By Default!  Eileen led us through an exercise that rocked my world!  She gave us a list of “life topics” and asked us to circle all of the items that are important in our lives today.  I circled 19 items.  Then she asked us to eliminate all but the top 12…Ouch!  I began feeling guilty about the items I crossed off of my list.  Then she said we needed to further reduce to 7.  Was she kidding?!?

It was about this time in the day that I began talking to myself.  I had to tell myself, “This is just an exercise…I’m sure I’ll learn something from it.  Calm down!”  So, I did.

It wasn’t over—we had to rank the list in order of importance and grade our performance.  My heart sank…I really didn’t want to face the music but the band kept playing.  All of the things I claim as important are also the things I seem to be getting around to when I have a free moment.

“TIME FOR A CHANGE,” I said to myself.  By this time my self-talk was in surround sound with full-on subwoofer!

But there’s more!  Courtney Klein Johnson shared the heart-warming story of the Stuttering King Bakery—way to go Matt Cottle!  Courtney gave us a menu from the bakery which included another nudge for me.  A quote from Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true…if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Throughout this 9-month experience speakers told us the key to successful leadership is service through passion.  If you start with your passion, things feel right—you’ll know when you are there.

I’ve decided to take those words to heart.  I have been passionate for a long time about camping, hiking and cooking.  I’ve decided to use my blog www.CampingForFoodies.com as a platform from which to launch my community stewardship adventure.  I have tons of ideas and am thrilled to get started!  I know each and every one of my classmates will be doing the same with their individual passions.

To the Magnificent 27 and our wonderful leader—Suzanne—Thank You for a truly life-changing experience!  See you on the edge!



Filed under Alumni, Class, Community, Leadership