Mike Ruffing addresses the commission about the upcoming 2023-2024 Leadership Upshur session, which gets underway in September. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Calling all aspiring community leaders: Leadership Upshur applications are due Aug. 1

BUCKHANNON – Leadership Upshur plans to accept more applications this year than in its inaugural year, and the organizers hope to have an even larger graduating class.

Mike Ruffing attended the June 29 Upshur County Commission meeting on behalf of Leadership Upshur meeting to discuss the recently completed 2022-2023 Leadership Upshur Graduation Ceremony and the initiative’s upcoming sponsorship tiers.

“I wanted to start with thanking everybody for last year,” Ruffing said. “[Commission president] Kristie [Tenney] is a big part of our board, and having the county commission’s sponsorship has been a dream of mine for years, and it was a big deal between you guys and the city being our overall program sponsors and our graduation sponsor.”

The graduation ceremony took place June 1 at Fish Hawk Acres Farm in Rock Cave.

“Our graduates had a great time, Dale [Hawkins] did a great job, we went out to the farm in Rock Cave and all our graduates felt like they were well taken care of,” Ruffing said. “They got to bring their spouses, and their children really got to enjoy a good meal while they were celebrated for the nine months’ worth of hard work they put in.”

The Leadership Upshur Facebook page describes the initiative as a development opportunity for people who live or work in and around Upshur County and “a program of study designed to help aspiring leaders (personal, business, non-profit organizations, government or other) develop the skills necessary to grow in their positions.” The program teaches participants leadership skills and delves into leadership-related topics like habits, effectiveness, emotional intelligence, civic engagement and more, according to the page.

“Make no mistake, it is a very intensive program; we’re asking [participants] to give up a full day, once a month for nine months,” Ruffing said. “They have to read four or five different leadership books, they have to participate in a book club, and they have to show how they’re using these new leadership skills in their current role either with their organization or in our community, so they definitely deserve to be celebrated.”

He said his visit to the commission was the last stop on their sponsorship tour for next year.

“Every single sponsor from last year has agreed to be a sponsor for us again this year, as well as sending participants again,” Ruffing said. “In your packet I gave you, there is a sponsorship opportunity, and the graduation did come in over budget compared to what we originally planned, but I think it was worth it for those folks.”

The program sponsorship went up $500, and the City of Buckhannon already agreed to that level of sponsorship again.

“I would ask that you guys consider the same sponsorship at the new rate for the same thing and we’d love to have you guys as the title sponsor for the county and the city to split that and participate together in a partnership,” Ruffing said. “The funding will be used the same way, and in the funding document, you’ll see all of the funding we received sponsorship-wise stays within the program, and nothing gets sent outside of the program unless it’s specifically dictated so nobody makes any money from it.”

Ruffing asked the commission to consider sending a representative from the county to participate in the 2023-2024 session.  

“We’ve already got a lot of new applications for this year, and last I checked, we were up to six, and we are taking more applicants this year than last year,” Ruffing said. “We started with 12 last year, and it turned out great, so I think we’re going to take between 18 and 20 this year. I would also encourage the county to consider potentially sending somebody who could benefit from participating in the program.”

The commission agreed to review the material and did not vote on sponsorship at the June 29 meeting.

Applications are due by Aug. 1, and you can learn more on Leadership Upshur’s website or their Facebook page.

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