Leadership Portage County: A true privilege

By Mary Louise Ruehr | Record-Courier Day Editor Published:

This past year I had the privilege of being a member of the Leadership Portage County class of 2014. Let me tell you why I consider it a privilege.

I've spent much of my life in Portage County. After all, I was born here, went to school here, graduated from Kent State University, and worked at several area businesses.

When I was a child, my parents were members of the Grange, and they dragged me with them to their meetings, held in churches, schools and town halls in every township. I was sure I knew Portage County inside and out. Ha!

Through LPC, I was able to discover "up close and personal" things about the county I otherwise would not have known, or had access to. We went inside a jail cell, an operating room, giant refrigerators, a museum, and the vast Rubbermaid warehouse. We shot targets at Camp Ravenna and saw the eerie abandoned houses and apartment buildings where arsenal workers once lived. We watched rubber being extruded, gravel being sorted, crops being harvested, and ate lunch at the Center of Hope.

And the people! First, there are the classmates; around 30 of us got together once a month, September through May. The class represented quite a range of jobs: agricultural, manufacturing, retail, government, law enforcement, food service, human services, media, educational, medical -- I'm probably forgetting some. We were able to look at the county from their perspective and discuss ideas, problems and solutions. I'm sure some lifetime friendships were formed here.

And then there were the inspiring leaders we met -- mayors, visionaries, entrepreneurs, heads of service organizations, county commissioners, our state representatives, educators, doctors, military personnel and many more -- not just giving us valuable talks about leadership, but demonstrating by example how some techniques work and why others fail. They showed us the pluses and problems of working in Northeastern Ohio and made me very proud to live here.

Finally, there were the LPC leaders themselves: efficient yet adaptable Executive Director Karen Dinehart (leaderpoco@aol.com, 330-673-5724), often helped by the compassionate Janet Dix and the insightful Glenn Saltzman.

I was probably the oldest student and maybe the most enthusiastic, eager to start each LPC session, willingly schlepping across three beautiful college campuses (not all at once), listening to personal stories from leaders and other really smart, dedicated, caring people during sometimes-exhausting days and hearing how one person can make a huge difference.

And I have to thank my employers, Record Publishing Co. and Record-Courier Publisher David Dix, for sponsoring my participation and letting me have the day off each month to attend the sessions.

If you're an employer, I urge you to sponsor an employee in the next LPC class. (The deadline is July 15.) It will pay for itself many times over, with the knowledge gained and the connections made.

Would I do it again? In a minute!

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