Leadership Vicksburg awards 17 graduates

Published 6:40 pm Thursday, August 10, 2017

Months of hard work and preparation came to a conclusion Wednesday night as 17 local business leaders graduated from the Leadership Vicksburg course.

The 17 participants mark the first class to take part in the revamped Leadership Vicksburg curriculum. The course uses the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” along with a series of field trips during the monthly classes to develop the next generation of leaders in Vicksburg and Warren County.

“I really enjoyed getting to know the other professionals in Vicksburg and the community of the class all pulling together for a common goal to enrich and make Vicksburg a better place,” Joshua Dixon, who is an attorney with Teller, Hassell & Hopson, said. “There were several things I learned about during the class that I’ve lived here my entire life, and I didn’t know about.”

The curriculum for the class was revamped after the class was cancelled temporarily last year.

“When Lori Burke walked into my office and said they’re not doing it this year, I said that can’t happen,” Gerad Hardy, the general manager of Ameristar Vicksburg, said. “We can’t do that. We have an obligation to each other. We have an obligation to our community to continue to have great leaders developed here in Vicksburg.”

Hardy worked with the existing board over Leadership Vicksburg and others in the community to develop a course that would have a lasting positive impact on Vicksburg.

“It was centered around a concept of three things,” Hardy said of the new curriculum. “To be a great leader, one you have to do self assessment. You have to know what tools you have in the box. Secondly, once you know what tools you have in the box, you also know what you don’t.”

Hardy said the third part of the equation was once you know what tools you have, you have to know what needs to be done to improve your business and community.

“The third leg of that was we need to make sure Leadership Vicksburg is centered around learning more about our community,” he said. “Not just traveling to tourist destinations, but also learning about government.”

As part of the course, participants attended meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in Vicksburg to learn more about the city. They also went to Jackson to see how the state government works.

“If you are going to make change, change is about influence,” Hardy said. “You’ve got to be able to change the minds of the people of the community and your state.”

The course also included field trips to local businesses and schools to see how different leadership techniques are implemented and enable the participants the chance to grow as leaders.

“I really enjoyed going into the school system,” Kimberly Smith, who works for the Lofts at First National, said. “Every time I’ve gone, it’s been an encouraging thing to see all these young children being leaders and challenging us to be better leaders ourselves. If they can do these things, why can’t we?”

The course also included planning and implementing a keystone project. For their project, the class chose to work to bring a dog park to Vicksburg on property connected to the community garden at Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

“I have been a big proponent of needing something like that in Vicksburg. I feel like these days, most families have a dog or two or three,” Dixon said. “A lot of people trying to move in downtown, they’ve got these small apartments and don’t have room to let their dogs run.”

Dixon said a survey to see if people were interested in a dog park was “overwhelming” in favor of one. The class applied for a grant that will cover $25,000 of the estimated $25,000 to $30,000 cost of building the park. They are hoping to hear if they were approved for the grant by the end of the month and complete construction by the end of the year.

To apply for the 2017-18 Leadership Vicksburg class, download an application from vicksburgchamber.org/pages/Programs by Aug. 16