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2018-04-27 / Community (County Spotlight)

Leadership Somerset County Builds Community and Business Leaders in its own Backyard

Spotlight on Somerset County
BY CHRIS MORELLI
Pennsylvania Business Correspondent

SOMERSET – Ron Aldom isn’t one to brag. In fact, he’s a pretty humble person.

But when Aldom talks about Leadership Somerset County, he sounds like one proud papa. For Aldom, the Executive Director of the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Somerset County is truly a labor of love.

“I’m pretty proud of the alumni who have come through the class,” Aldom said. “We really give a nice overview of the county. I think we do a really nice job with the class and the team building aspect.”

Leadership Somerset County has been around for 15 years. Aldom estimates that more than 250 professionals have taken part in the 10-month class.

The mission statement of Leadership Somerset County reads: “Leadership Somerset County is a civically-minded program designed to promote awareness and generate interest in serving the community as leaders.”

Aldom oversees the program, so it’s near and dear to his heart. He said the program gets participants from many different walks of life.

“We get leaders in any form, any age. We’ve had really diverse groups in all of our leadership classes. I’m really quick to say that it’s not all young professionals. The way we have it set up for scholarships for non-profits and small businesses, it gives us a lot of diversity in the class each year,” he said.

Over the course of 15 years, one would expect that participants would move on to different jobs and different areas across the country.

That hasn’t been the case, according to Aldom.

“Happily, a large majority of them are still in the county 15 years later. That means we chose well. These are people who have settled here and have had an impact,” Aldom said.

When Leadership Somerset County began in 2003, it was a success right out of the gate. The program took off and hasn’t looked back.

According to Aldom, Leadership Somerset County aims to expose participants to many different facets of the community and its businesses and industries.

“We do business development, judicial, energy, education, quality of life, healthcare … basically, we try to give 10 separate sessions that deal with the county in some way,” he said.

In the end, the objectives of Leadership Somerset County are simple:

• To encourage and nurture a new pool of leaders for Somerset County

• To provide participants with the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with community leaders

• To increase participants’ knowledge of leadership elements, including problem solving, consensus building and decision making

• To inform and expose participants to various facets of community life

• To motivate participants to assume leadership roles in community affairs

• To receive training that will help develop and enhance leadership skills

• To understand the problems and opportunities Somerset County faces in deciding its future

To accomplish those goals, there’s no one person running each session. Sure, Aldom might be a facilitator, but there are other people both front and center and behind the scenes who make Leadership Somerset County the success that it is.

Leadership Somerset County relies heavily on community members and leaders who generously volunteer their time.

“We have people in all those areas who will either present or do panel discussions. They’ll give an overview of the good and bad … not only the issues they face, but their accomplishments and successes. In addition to getting a nice overview of the county, there is the leadership building aspect,” Aldom said.

Leadership Somerset County kicks off with an overnight retreat that focuses on team building and is led by professors from the Allegany College of Maryland. That gets the ball rolling for the 10 weeks that follow.

Participants are encouraged to do a project or a series of projects which are chosen throughout the year.

“It’s a program that has been created for all the right reasons. In a nutshell, we give people knowledge of what’s going on in the county. We see these people taking on roles in the county. We know first-hand that it has helped some of them in their professions. We’ve had CEOs and owners say, ‘that class really helped,’” Aldom said.

The cost of the course is $900, but more than 50 Somerset County businesses have helped sponsor the program to offset costs.

Those who have taken part in Leadership Somerset County said the experience has been invaluable.

“Leadership Somerset County helped both my professional development and leadership skills through both community involvement and networking with Somerset County,” said Joshua Kalp of The EADS Group, Inc. “I recommend involvement in this class to anyone within Somerset County who would like to sharpen their leadership skills and knowledge of what America’s County has to offer.”

For more information about Leadership Somerset County, visit www.somersetcountychamber.com. .

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