Part of a continuing series on leadership development opportunities in our community.
LEADERSHIP GAINESVILLE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
By: Mason Alley
The Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association (LGAA) began as an extension of the Leadership Gainesville program, offered to help graduates stay connected with former classmates and keep focused on their mission to the community. In recent years, LGAA has launched out of the nest and become autonomous, with its own board and expanding mission but still has deep ties to the Chamber.
“LGAA is a perfect opportunity to connect and learn while giving back to Gainesville,” says Brite Whitaker, the current president. “We want to make sure we continue to strive to make this one of the best places to own a business, start a business, have a great job and a high quality of life.”
The stated purpose of LGAA is to “improve the quality of life of our members and our community.” While many groups might embrace that broad statement, LGAA puts it into practice through a series of community good works, educational experiences and leadership development opportunities throughout the year.
GIVING BACK: If you’re interested in giving back, LGAA offers a host of ways to serve our community. Members, for example, can volunteer with Kids’ Start Fair, a program that helps Head Start kindergartners get the basic supplies they need to kick off school in the right way.
The LGAA 5K is the group’s annual fundraiser — a timed, cross-country race held at Ironwood Golf Course in April. Members can run, build a team of runners or serve behind the scenes to help make the event a success and raise thousands of dollars in donations.
“LGAA is a wonderful outlet for funneling passion into action,” says Lindsay Krieg (LG 36). As former community director for March of Dimes Gainesville and now working for North Florida Regional Healthcare, she has considerable experience in what it takes to generate local impact. “I have seen first-hand how dollars we donate lead to a positive impact on individuals. To me, that makes all the difference in the world.”
Those dollars turn into a year’s worth of community grants. Any LGAA alum in good standing can apply for a small cash grant (usually around $250) directed to a specific initiative of their favorite charity. Over the years, these micro-grants have helped feed the homeless, protect victims of child abuse, educate local students and more.
Power Lunch: Power Lunch is a quarterly series that invites a local subject matter expert and a small group of LGAA members to discuss an area of interest to the community. Recent lunches have covered the impact of local gang violence, the state of early childhood development or how our largest local landowner hopes to develop its vast holdings and what that might mean to all of us.
Gator Bay: A local twist on the “Tiger Bay” political club from Tampa, LGAA’s Gator Bay events offer a chance for members of all political persuasions to grill guest-speakers in a no-holds barred, no-press allowed, purely off-the record debate. Former guests include politicians on the rise, including current Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (long before either ran for those offices), as well as a host of area candidates for city and county commission.
DEVELOPING LEADERS: Members can serve on one or more of LGAA’s four councils which help direct the organization’s activities. The councils are small, encouraging participation and giving members a chance to contribute to the group’s work in a meaningful way.
Interested in leading leaders? Recent graduates and active members on any council are regularly encouraged to take a seat on the LGAA Board of Directors. Monthly meetings offer board members a chance to guide the larger group and even more leadership opportunities in the form of Council Chair positions or service as one of the group’s officers through the Executive Board.
Learning from other leaders is another tool in leadership development, and LGAA has recently struck out with new efforts in this area. In October, LGAA launched a pilot program book study open to all members with a goal of increasing peer-to-peer learning and hosted a leadership lunch with Donald H. Horner, Jr., PhD, a graduate of West Point, MIT and Stanford and Jacksonville’s first “Education Commissioner.” Look for more of these efforts to follow.
Is all this effort worth it for participants who are already busy leading? Pete Zimek is LGAA’s immediate past-president. He runs his own multi-city marketing enterprise and participates in Connect Florida, a state-wide leadership group of young professionals. In short, he’s a busy guy. He reports, “Even as my time has become more limited, I have continued to be active with LGAA so that I can stay surrounded by amazing people who volunteer their time to help make Gainesville a better place and have access to the awesome ideas that our LGAA programs uncover. LGAA is a perfect fit.”
IMPACT: In a town full of business and bio-tech incubators, LGAA has everything it needs to be an incubator of leaders. As with most organizations, board members and active alums tend to serve for a few years and then rotate out, turning over leadership to a new generation. These days, LGAA has a handful of stalwarts who have continued to serve alongside this new talent. The group already has a reputation of positive impact in our area. With a group of veterans in the game, look for bigger things, still.
GET INVOLVED: Membership in LGAA is limited to graduates of the Chamber’s Leadership Gainesville program. After nearly 40 years, more than 1000 local leaders are eligible to participate. If you haven’t been through LG, that’s a required first step. If you’re an LG grad, then it’s just a matter of signing up and joining in.
ON THE WEB: Learn more about Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association, its councils, year-round activities and a brief history of its impact on our community. http://www.lgalum.com/