Teri Ashley

Teri Ashley

Yes, the Leadership Charlotte program continues as we all handle the seemingly daily news updates and life changes. Quite honestly, there doesn’t seem to be a time when the camaraderie and growth of community leaders could be needed more than now.

The current group, the Leadership Charlotte Class of 2020 (LC 2020), is about to begin wrapping up their rescheduled sessions. Instead of the usual early June date, their graduation is scheduled for Sept. 18. We will then introduce the new class, LC 2021, at a reception less than a week later on Sept. 24 before they head off to SimSoc, sessions and projects.

How to apply

The application for LC 2021 will be posted on our website, probably today, at charlottecountychamber.org. We will also email it to anyone who is considering the opportunity to join this elite group, and to a few businesses we feel would benefit from having a staff member apply.

To personally request an application, call us at our Port Charlotte office, 941-627-2222, or email me at tashley@charlottecountychamber.org.

Back it up

Oops, please accept my heartfelt apology for getting ahead of myself. For those of you new to Leadership Charlotte and its accompanying jargon, I will explain.

Leadership Charlotte is the signature program of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce. For more than 30 years, the program has annually assembled approximately 25 individuals who wish to increase their leadership skills and gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges in our community. The selected participants in Leadership Charlotte commit to attend monthly day-long sessions, as well as participate in whatever class project they select.

A mistake that some applicants make from the get-go is taking the application itself too lightly. The competition is intense. The application process, which is anonymous, is not the time to assume everyone knows who you are, what you do, and what you have done. And for goodness’ sake, follow the instructions. Yes, we’re talking about professional adults here, but it’s not appropriate to write “see attached resume” instead of completing the application and answering the specific essay-style questions. When that happens, and it does, the offending application will automatically be deposited directly into the big round file on the floor.

This application is also not the place to be modest. As a mentor told me when I first started my business career, if you don’t first promote yourself, who will?

The selection process is intense and completed by a panel selected each year using an established set of guidelines.

Once selected and confirmed, Leadership Charlotte begins with a community reception to introduce the new class. After that, the group fun begins a few weeks later with an evening “ice-breaker” orientation, followed by a full day workshop called “Simulated Society.”

Affectionately referred to by alumni as SimSoc, this enlightening experience is one of the most unique group activities most have ever even imagined. It all starts with selections and appointments of … blah, blah, blah, blah … and consists of so many … yada, yada, yada, yada … and wraps up with the participants … crickets chirping … to complete the SimSoc experience. Can you believe it?

No wonder SimSoc is the renowned experience that all Leadership Charlotte alumni talk about for, literally, the rest of their lives.

If you didn’t catch on, the SimSoc details are strictly confidential. This policy has held up since 1988, so that right there should tell you something.

Following SimSoc, the class completes day-long sessions over the next eight months, and one evening event. The sessions are designed to provide a deep-dive into specific areas of the community, including the environment, education, government, health care, arts and humanities, local economy, media and communication, tourism, and justice.

Course requirements for graduation include mandatory attendance at the Simulated Society session (Oct. 16) and at each monthly session, usually held the second Thursday of the month, unless one is excused for special circumstances. Only two excused absences are allowed in order to graduate and join the ranks of the more than 800 alumni members as they continue to lead many of the business and community service efforts in Charlotte County.

The esteemed alumni includes bankers, clergy, lawyers, paralegals, accountants, small business owners, educators, Realtors, law enforcement officers, artists, sales managers, CEOs, elected officials, and just about any other type of local professional that you can imagine.

I could go on-and-on about the Leadership Charlotte program … which I think I have … but it is near-and-dear to me, the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, and the community. The upcoming Class of 2021 will be one for the record books.

Longhorn Steakhouse reservations

Moving on, don’t wait, chamber members. With the July 4 holiday weekend almost upon us, it’s going to be July 8 before you know it. This will be our first Networking at Noon luncheon in several months and seating is limited. Please call us at 941-627-2222 to reserve your spot now.

The A.C. Freeman House

Do you remember how excited we were to be back in our Punta Gorda offices at the historic A.C. Freeman House? Well not so fast, my friends. We’re out again. The stately old house developed some major new problems that will need significant repair. (Imagine an invisible, gigantic blue tarp and the accompanying issues.)

This time it looks like it’s going to be months instead of weeks, so we will be operating completely from our Port Charlotte location for quite a while. We hoped to be back there soon.

Teri Ashley is the executive director of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, now in its 95th year, with offices in both Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte. She can be reached at 941-627-2222 or at tashley@charlottecountychamber.org.

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