Meadville Tribune

Local News

March 21, 2014

Annual hili cook-off taste fest benefits Leadership Meadville 4

MEADVILLE — An annual evening of competing for bragging rights for the favorite foods that are served in a bowl might seem like just a night of good food and good company.

However, Thursday night’s fifth annual chili, chowder and soup cook-off at the Elks Club was far more than that.

It also was an opportunity to support the Leadership Meadville program which, with the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, sponsored the event.

Michael Vatter of PNC Bank, who is participating in Leadership Meadville 4 (the fourth year of the program), said the program is a “great way to network, to meet business owners and decision makers.” Vatter was also involved in a similar program in Lawrence County.

The program meets the second Friday of each month from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vatter said the facilitator uses various leadership and management styles and debates to teach the classes.

Each month there is a different focus. The various topics are education and history, agriculture, health care, manufacturing, social services and charitable foundations, the media, government and public safety, transportation and economic development.

“It’s been very, very beneficial in connecting to the area,” Vatter said.

Kathleen Bishop, former executive officer of the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, brought the program to Meadville. Karen Staudt, communications coordinator of the chamber of commerce, said Bishop suggested the program which was designed like one Bishop had conducted in Florida.

Staudt said Bishop presented the idea to the local chamber board, which said it was a great idea.

“That’s how it was born here,” Staudt said. She described Leadership Meadville as a way to help develop future leaders for the area. Participants are business and professional people who range in age from 25 to senior citizens.

“It’s a great opportunity for (people of all ages) to work together, get a variety of viewpoints and learn from each other,” she said.

Orientation for the program begins in August with classes following on the second Friday of each month until graduation in May.

Staudt said participants take a test before the start of each program to determine their own leadership style. Through the program, they see how people can benefit from other styles of leadership to be more successful.

Staudt, who gradated from the program, said enrollment varies each year — from 12 to 21 in the four years. The cost to chamber members this year was $500 each.

Packets are being prepared now for the next class, but the cost for that class has not been determined yet.

Staudt, who considers all the program graduates as “success stories,” said the alumni are very instrumental in getting the word out about the program and its benefits.

Participating in Leadership Meadville was “very eye opening as to everything Meadville has to offer,” according to Jennifer Mitchell, who works at Hill, Bath and King in the Meadville area, and is not originally from the area.

“It’s a great way to meet leaders and classmates,” Mitchell said, describing the program as a “jump start to building relationships.”

She said it also was a great way to “move out of your comfort zone” and it “helps you in all you do.”

Mitchell, who took the class the first year it was offered, has been on the Leadership Meadville Committee ever since.

“It’s a great program. I learned a lot and grew a lot,” she said. She has served on the committee because “I wanted to see other people have the opportunity.”

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