In the fall, members of the first class of trainees in a new leadership program for Anne Arundel County will gather monthly to address issues of government, crime, health care and economics.
Organizers of Leadership Anne Arundel expect the first class of 35 to mushroom into a network of the county's most well-informed citizens, prepared to assume leadership posts throughout the county. The effort is co-sponsored by the Anne Arundel Trade Council and the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.
"This program is going to be training the next generation of leaders for our county," said County Executive Robert R. Neall, on hand yesterday as the group's board of directors unveiled its plans. "It's real easy to get tunnel vision. A program like this can offer the big picture, and good decision makers have to look at the big picture."
Those selected for the class -- 35 maximum -- will study areas such as education, environment and human services during intense, daylong sessions from September to May, starting with a kickoff overnight retreat. Training sessions might include small group discussions or trips to such sites as the county detention center.
Organizers hope graduates will fill leadership positions in churches; civic, government, education or professional groups; or run for public office. Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties run similar programs.
Leadership Anne Arundel has received about 10 nominations so far and will accept more through July 1. Participants, who may nominate themselves, must pay their own tuition -- $2,000, with a $200 application fee. Scholarships will be offered and some companies intend to pay for their employees.
Though business groups initiated and organized the program, it is open to anyone who has demonstrated leadership potential as a community activist or for a civic or nonprofit group. Organizers are seeking those who are committed to the county and its future and represent a cross section of jobs and cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
"Leaders are not being trained to run the community," said Art Ebersberger, board president and executive vice president of The Ebersberger Companies. "We're making more effective members of society. Communication makes most problems go away."
Six corporations have donated $5,000 each to start the program, including Anne Arundel Medical Center, Buck Distribution Co., Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland, Eastern Waste Industries Inc., Blumenthal, Wayson, Offutt, Klos & Delavan and Reliable Contracting Co. Inc.
Paul Wood, a spokesman for C&P;, said the company also supports leadership programs for the state and Baltimore County.
"It just makes good business sense," he said. "Participants generally have a new understanding of the needs of the community, and they bring that knowledge and experience to their day-to-day jobs."