A group of community leaders became a littler stronger and more well-versed in all things Sampson through a Chamber-sponsored program that culminated Monday night with a graduation ceremony.
The Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce honored 12 community members during its annual Leadership Graduation at Coharie County Club. Its mission is to provide a continuous,diversified supply of leaders by improving their knowledge of the community.
Janna Bass, outgoing executive director of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, said she was proud of the 13th graduating class of the Adult Leadership Program.
“It it vital to any community and county to have leaders in place to ensure growth and increased quality of life,” Bass stressed during the event.
Throughout the eight-month leadership program, Bass said the participants explored the “behind the scenes” of Sampson County. Some of the special occasions included education day, crime and judicial day, economic development day and agriculture day.
“I look forward to these leaders continuing to engage within the community,” Bass said.
During the event, members of the class made remarks about the program. Martin Jackson of First Citizens Bank & Trust mentioned how his classmates were able to learn about different aspects of the community. One of them included the local criminal justice system and its required resources, such as drug prevention and K-9 units.
“That was amazing to see the efforts that our county and city goes through just to try to keep criminals off the street,” Jackson remarked.
He later thanked the Leadership Steering Committee, business partners, the graduating class and Chamber for their involvement in the program. “I appreciate the camaraderie that we got since we’ve been doing this together,” Jackson said.
Margaret Turlington of the Simple Gifts Fund said it was a great learning experience and gives members insight into Sampson County.
“Anyone truly interested in understanding Sampson County should think about the Chamber Leadership program,” Turlington stressed. “And also how lucky we are to have this program. Many neighboring counties do not have this experienced-based opportunity.”
Like Jackson, she said it was also great to get different perspectives of local commerce.
“Who would have known that our county is the number one exporter in the state,” Turlington said.
She said the county and its government are always going to need leaders as they work to increase prosperity in the area.
“I think we all have insights on why our county needs a diverse group of strong leaders in the Chamber and in all aspects of our county,” she stressed.
Dr. Steve Miller, principal of Clinton High School, said Sampson County was a special community. The Pennsylvania native’s feelings were based on two factors: progressive thought and honoring of diversity. During the program he reflected on watching class member Dr. Mark Duckworth operate a combine Harvester in a large field.
“That was an experience that I have never seen in Pennsylvania,” Miller said. “There are very few places that have fields this size where you can operate a piece of equipment of that scale. That’s amazing. That’s only one part of the diversity of this community.”
Miller said he was blessed to be a member of the community and discussed the importance of using education to improve the community.
“Those students represent a small microcosm of all the pieces of the chamber family,” he said. “I’m looking at how to tie my experiences with this to those diverse, young people into this community, not only literally through the youth chamber, but also within those facets.”
After certificates were distributed, Greg Thornton, chairman of the Steering Committee, said he appreciated the enthusiasm of the participants.
“We’re confident that these graduates are now better able to serve you and the community in which we live,” Thornton said.
The 2014-2015 Leadership Class included Hunter Balltzinger, Sampson Regional Medical Center; Waltz Hairr, Ezzell Trucking Inc.; Shane Jacobs, Sampson County Farm Bureau; Dr. Mark Duckworth, Clinton City Schools; Margaret Turlington, Simple Gifts Fund; Dr. Steve Miller, Clinton City Schools; Jacquelyn D. Butler, Sampson Regional Medical Center; Amanda Bradshaw, Sampson Community College; Allison Tart Hargrove, CommWell Health; and Martin Jackson, First Citizens Bank & Trust. Not pictured is Dr. Eric Bracy, Sampson County Schools; and Harry Staven , City of Clinton.