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Washington County Chamber Develops Leaders

Program encourages young professionals to shape the region, contribute to the economy and take part in key causes.

By Kevin Litwin on January 7, 2022

Spot of Color Owner Hana Eichin
Hana Eichin

How does a community ensure it will have great leaders at the helm for years to come? Washington County has the answer – you put in the work to develop them now.

Here, the Washington County, VA Chamber of Commerce backs the annual Leadership Washington County initiative, which works to ensure young professionals are prepared to help shape the region, build its economy and take part in worthwhile causes.

“This is the best way possible for emerging leaders or newcomers to engage in Washington County, finding out and understanding how it works. Participants learn how all these different sectors function and intertwine together to make Washington County
the great place it is.”

John Coleman | Leadership Washington County

More Than Just a Class

The program begins with an orientation each September and ends with a graduation in May. Class participants attend eight one-day sessions that occur on the third Tuesday of each month.

Each class features 15 to 20 individuals, and the sessions they attend include listening to presentations by motivated leaders, participating in group discussions and building social and business networks.

Participants, however, do more than just sit in a classroom. Each class makes visits to sites throughout Washington County to learn about sectors such as government, arts/culture, health and wellness, education, agriculture, police and fire, businesses and nonprofits.

Participants also spend their time learning about the social, economic and political institutions and resources in the region, which Coleman says unites classmates of diverse backgrounds and experiences who have demonstrated an interest and talent in leadership.

Plus, toward the end of each class, participants work together to create a legacy project aimed at helping a nonprofit.

“For our group project in 2014, we helped educate people on how to register to vote,” says Allison Mays, a program participant that year who today is the senior advancement officer for major gifts and planned giving at Emory & Henry College and current board president of the chamber. “We held registration events and even hosted some debate forums for candidates who were running for local offices.”

Learning to Lead

A current participant of the 2021-22 class, which is made up of 16 individuals who will graduate in May 2022, is Hana Eichin. Her group will be the 28th graduating class.

“Being a female, I never really thought of myself in a leadership role when I was growing up and would shy away from those skills,” says Eichin, who owns an arts supplies store in Abingdon called Spot of Color. “But when I saw this opportunity pop up on Facebook, I believed this program was for me. I am a leader now owning a business, and even if it’s a business of one, I’m still the leader and need the skills that the program teaches.”

“With me owning my art supplies store, I even led a leadership art workshop on working with our hands and creating art. I recommend the program to everyone who lives in Washington County.”

Hana Eichin | Spot of Color

Eichin says after she began attending the leadership classes, she was amazed at how much she didn’t know about Washington County.

“We did one class on the history of Washington County, and I really enjoyed finding out how the county has become such a central location for commerce in Southwest Virginia,” she says. “I also enjoyed the field trips to learn much of what’s happening in Washington County.”

One of those field trips focused on arts and culture. “With me owning my art supplies store, I even led a leadership art workshop on working with our hands and creating art,” Eichin says. “I recommend the program to everyone who lives in Washington County.”

Participating in the class has shown to have positive and lasting effects on participants. Mays says she still stays in contact with several of her classmates, many of whom are still active and involved in the community. “I still have great memories of my time participating in Leadership Washington County,” she says.

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