A callout to tomorrow’s community leaders

White Bear Center for the Arts Board Member Nelly Chick participated in Leadership Tomorrow cohort 2.

Have you ever wondered how community resources and events such as the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society, or how Marketfest and the Lake Links Trail Project came to be?  They are just a few of the jewels that help make our area great, and they all came about through community leaders.  

For many, leadership is innate. Others acquire leadership skills through their professions, education or life’s activities. Emerging leaders acquire the tools to maximize their strengths, while understanding their motivations and growth opportunities. Leaders learn what makes local businesses, governments and nonprofits tick. Then they become prepared to engage in the many arenas that make their communities work.

To this end, the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation (GWBLCF), partnering with the White Bear Lake Rotary, White Bear Country Inn/Rudy’s Redeye Grill and IX2 Consulting, provides leadership guidance through Leadership Tomorrow, a program it created in 2017.

The GWBLCF and Leadership Tomorrow represent all seven communities surrounding White Bear Lake: Birchwood, Dellwood, Mahtomedi, White Bear Lake, White Bear Township and Willernie.

The idea for the Leadership Tomorrow program came about as GWBLCF asked for input about community needs through a listening session with representatives from eight different service organizations.. One respondent said the community needed to get ready for new people to lead, said Kevin Donovan, community track lead for Leadership Tomorrow. “We asked who those new leaders could be, and that was the premise from which Leadership Tomorrow sprang,” he said. 

In 2018, Leadership Tomorrow offered the first cohort session that prepares business and civic leaders through examples, networking and mentoring to impact the community in positive ways.  So far, Leadership Tomorrow has produced three cohorts with 18 graduates each. Of the 54 graduates, 21 came from business, 15 from education, 11 from nonprofits, six from government and one from the faith community.

The 18 graduates were evenly split between men and women. The graduating ages were between 27 and 65 years, and 25% of graduates were people of color, said Eunice Cote, GWBLCF board member and Leadership Tomorrow Steering Committee member. “It was a good representation of people who live and work in the community,” she said.

The fourth cohort is about to start; registrations will be accepted until Sept. 30.

In-person, one-on-one coaching and assessments with the cohort will begin in November. In January, the group will launch its 10-month in-person group programming that will include an overnight retreat at the White Bear Country Inn. The cohort will meet once a month for half-day sessions held at different sites throughout the community.

Each monthly session will split its focus into two parts — leadership and community topics. Leadership sessions will include understanding each person’s leadership style and tips on leading with clarity and building influence. Community topics include history, demographics, diversity, environmental stewardship and economic and business development.

Activities are different in the cohorts. Past sessions have toured City Hall before meetings and continued their session in council chambers, Donovan said. One group toured the police station, where Police Chief Julie Swanson talked to members. Other past presenters included representatives of nonprofit organizations and local businesses. School district leaders and local government leaders have also visited the sessions, Donovan said.

“We do have repeat presenters, but try to keep things fresh by having different presenters for each cohort session,” Donovan said. 

Mahtomedi City Council member Jane Schneeweis, is a mediator and graduate of Leadership Tomorrow.  She said that before participating, there were a lot of things about the community she didn’t know, despite being out and about a lot. “I believe that the best way to be effective in all aspects of our lives is to practice continual learning,” she said. “What I learned from being enrolled in the Leadership Tomorrow course was invaluable.”

For people seeking to contribute to their communities in a leadership capacity, applications for membership in the fourth Leadership Tomorrow cohort will be accepted through Sept. 30 at gwblcf.org/leadershiptomorrow.  The Leadership Tomorrow team will select 18-20 participants,  and applicants will be notified by Oct. 10.  Tuition is $1,000 and will cover all activities, materials, meals and graduation expenses. Partial scholarships are available. For questions, visit the GWBLCF website or call 651-408-5412.

White Bear Lake resident Craig Drake, a financial adviser, is the GWBLCF Steering Committee Chair for Leadership Tomorrow. “I never knew how much it took to keep a community successful,” he said. “This is a common observation from people who graduate from the Leadership Tomorrow course.”

“The White Bear Lake area is special,” said Dan Perry, financial advisor for Edward Jones and Leadership Tomorrow graduate. “It’s the type of community and culture that you don’t often see anymore. Leadership Tomorrow is helping to preserve that for future generations.”


Loretta B. Harding is a contributing writer for Press Publications. She can be reached at   news@presspubs.com   or 651-407-1200.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.