Thirty-five members of the inaugural Leadership Anne Arundel program recently completed their nine-month training in civic issues. The hope now is that these movers and shakers will develop into a network of talent, vision and decision-making that will leave a positive imprint on Anne Arundel County.
"This program is going to be training the next generation of leaders for our county," County Executive Robert R. Neall predicted when the training began last autumn. "It is 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."
Anne Arundel County's recent explosive growth has increased demands for well-rounded civic leadership. A county that is rapidly urbanizing invariably develops plenty of complex problems that need to be dissected and addressed.
More than 300 similar programs exist nationally. A program sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee marked its 10th anniversary last year. More recent efforts span the state from Hagerstown to Prince George's County. Common to all these programs is a heavy emphasis on community service.
The Anne Arundel version, which runs from September to May, consists of day-long seminars held monthly on health care, economic development, education, the arts and the media, government, criminal justice and human services. Graduates are expected to translate what they learn to service in the community.
Members of the first graduating class represent a wide variety of backgrounds. Among them are bankers, chief operating officers of businesses, educators, accountants, lawyers and community activists.
"We're making more effective members of society," explained Arthur Ebersberger, president of Leadership Anne Arundel, which expects to announce its second class shortly.
When the first Anne Arundel training class was formed, more than 50 residents competed to enter the program despite its $2,000 price tag to participate. That was a promising start for a program we hope will be around for many years.
Anne Arundel County's future depends on an enlightened citizenry. Projects like the Leadership training class make that future brighter.