Leadership Chatuge’s first graduating class aims to impact local communities


Members of Leadership Chatuge’s inaugural class pose for a photo with class administrators on Thursday, March 28 at Hinton Center in Hayesville. Back row, from left: Alex Nordmann, Kathy Moore, Jared Putnam, Sarah Suggs, Andy Carter, Ricky Hill (administrator), Frank Mullen, Michael Borkman, Steve Hindsman, Tylor Dockery and Mark Mobley. Front row: Jodi Sullivan, Callie Moore, Kevin Cox, Pam Mullen, Kristin Kalwara, Kelly Crawford, Leah Knuck, Beth Leinbach, Harold Holbrook Jr., Nick Oliver, Corey Keyes, and Jacqueline Gottlieb (administrator).

Leadership Chatuge’s first graduating class aims to impact local communities

By Jared Putnam

“You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Those were the words of Tylor Dockery as he reflected on his learning experience during Leadership Chatuge’s inaugural graduation ceremony. Dockery was one of 21 area graduates from the 12-week leadership program, which held its commencement on Thursday, March 28, at Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville.

Leadership Chatuge is the latest outreach of Hinton Center, funded by a generous grant from The Duke Endowment. The program was founded under the premise that rural communities thrive when they have strong local leadership, and it aims to develop leaders and emerging leaders who already live and work in our communities.

The inaugural Leadership Chatuge class was comprised of individuals from Clay, Cherokee and Towns (Ga.) counties — a group offering diversity in many categories, including professions, gender, race, and even age, as class members ranged from their early 20’s to retirement age. For a young entrepreneur like Alex Nordmann, Leadership Chatuge offered his first opportunity for leadership training since his time in the United States Army.

“The class really broadened my knowledge on who our leaders in the community really were and the struggles that each of them faces in trying to make our community better,” said Nordmann, who is co-owner of Ironman 4×4 Fabrication, a Hayesville-based manufacturer of high-quality Jeep suspension components and accessories. “Leadership Chatuge was an absolutely amazing opportunity for me to develop my leadership style and, hopefully, one day contribute to the betterment of our community and the communities around us. I believe that more young people should become involved in leadership classes like this one.”

Leadership Chatuge is designed to bring a broad awareness to the assets and needs in our community, providing students with a network of local leaders and encouraging opportunities to be a leader in the community. Some of the exercises within the program also focus on highlighting differences in personality styles and values — better equipping leaders to understand and navigate those differences.

The inaugural session of the program featured guest speakers from Clay, Cherokee, Towns, and far beyond, including graduation keynote speaker Ben Winchester, a rural sociologist from the University of Minnesota.

“It was an invaluable experience getting to know the other leaders in the area and the inner workings of the tri-county community,” said Harold Holbrook, who is pastor of Fort Hembree Baptist Church and a shift supervisor at Southwire, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wire and cable, tools, components and assembled solutions. “The relationships established are invaluable and being in a group of like-minded individuals with common goals will have a great impact on our region.”

Hinton Center CEO Dr. Jacqueline Gottlieb said the idea for the class was rooted in her own positive experience with Leadership North Carolina. However, because larger leadership courses typically also include larger financial, travel, and time commitments, Gottlieb wanted to create a locally-based program that was accessible to a wider variety of community members.

Callie Moore, Executive Director of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, could be considered something of a veteran of leadership courses, having participated in four similar programs over the years in North Carolina and Georgia. However, even for Moore, the local focus of the course brought new and worthwhile elements to the table.

“I thought the first Leadership Chatuge course was exceptionally well done,” Moore said. “The lineup of topic and speakers is ultimately what sold me (on taking the course). I highly recommend it to other leaders in our community.”

Leadership Chatuge’s inaugural graduates received a framed certificate of their achievement, as well as a locally-crafted mug featuring the organization’s logo. Gottlieb said the concept behind the mug was to provide graduates with a tangible reminder about the importance of conversations.

“In society today, we tend to turn off listening when someone has a different opinion than us,” Gottlieb said. “The mug is about listening to people who have ideas that are different from our own, maybe over a cup of coffee.”

The next leadership Chatuge class will begin on Sept. 3 and will continue each Tuesday afterward for a total of 12 weeks. Applications will become available on Monday, June 3. Most students from the inaugural class have indicated they would like to help with the planning and production of the second course.

Leadership Chatuge’s initial grant funding covers three program sessions, but Gottlieb is already looking to secure sponsors to continue developing local leaders in the future.

“I believe it’s our responsibility in this community to develop our leaders,” Gottlieb said. “If you’re interested in funding this opportunity, please contact me.”

Gottlieb can be reached by email at jackie@hintoncenter.org, or by phone at 828-389-8336.