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Kansas City, Missouri City Manager Troy Schulte, center in suit, led part of a Northland Leadership 2.0 class

by Suzanne Licata

More than 600 people have graduated from the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s (NRCC) Leadership Northland program since it launched in 1994. They have gone on to serve on countless non-profit boards and committees, schools boards, county commissions, even state legislatures throughout the state and beyond. In 2019, chamber board chair Darren Hennen thought, “We need to do more.

This fall, the NRCC Leadership 2.0 launched with a class of 16, including Curry Real Estate Services, Brynn McCann, the company’s vice president/executive administration. Along with other class members, McCan had to demonstrate completion of the NRCC Leadership Northland or like program, prior volunteer and leadership involvement as well as an interest in serving communities with appointments on boards, commissions or special committees.

While already serving in a leadership capacity with several Northland not-profit organizations, McCan was looking to learn. “I’m interested in understanding what it takes to keep our city growing,” she said. “I have the desire and capacity to give back and a better understanding of local government may open new avenues for me to do so.”

Hennen, who also is vice president/office leader for Olsson’s Kansas City, Missouri offices, said, “The goal is a more informed electorate, though our highest goal is for our graduates to be fully prepared and willing to serve on a board or commission. The content is more wonkish – the nuts and bolts of city and county government – the kind of education that would better prepare you to be effective in public service.”

The program, hosted for six sessions throughout the fall, takes participants into the business of operating a municipal government with topics including Missouri Sunshine Law, city manager vs. city administrator forms of government, municipal financing and economic development. The curriculum for each session includes:

  • Program Overview
    • Northland Geography and Demographics
    • Opportunities for Appointments
    • Understanding the Political Environment
  • Local Government
    • Missouri Sunshine Law
    • Conflict of Interest
    • Classification of Cities/Counties
  • Local Government
    • City Manager vs. City Administrator
    • County Government
    • Council District Boundary/Impact of Census
  • Taxing Jurisdictions
    • Purpose
    • School Districts, Mental health, Library
    • Revenue/funds generated by agencies, districts, etc.
  • Infrastructure/Municipal Financing
    • G.O. Bonds
    • Lease Purchase (COP’s), Revenue Debt, Special Assessments
  • Program Graduation
    • Economic Development
    • NNI/NRCC/Not-for-profit

“Leadership 2.0 gives insight into how local government actually works,” said Sheila Tracy, NRCC president. “On completion, our program graduates should immediately be more effective in volunteer, appointed or elected service than they would have otherwise. Leadership Northland, and now Leadership 2.0, positively impacts our city and region more powerfully than any other work the chamber does.”

Hennen, who graduated from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Missouri program, also served as a city manager earlier in his career. He said an unanticipated positive outcome of the new program was a greater influx of applicants for the chamber’s Leadership Northland program. “They know it’s a requirement before applying for Leadership 2.0,” he added. “They see that there are people taking the time to show them there is good in public service, that the system still works and that this training informs and equips them to be effective should they choose to serve.”

NRCC also hosts an annual youth leadership program from January to April for 30 high school juniors. While an introduction to local government, the program also focuses on issues facing the emerging generation. This and the chamber’s other leadership training programs sets a consistent expectation of preparation for service to community.

“We know these programs make a difference in developing our future leaders,” added Tracy. “There is nothing more important that we do than this.”


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