Leadership West Virginia has been seeking and developing emerging leaders in the Mountain State since 1991, when it was formed by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and some of their key board members.
As community-based leadership programs were developing around the state, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce saw the need to bring the groups together to form a state-wide organization to bring up-and-coming leaders together from a variety of backgrounds.
The founding group, led by Sandy Rogers Tracey of IBM, Maggie Poling of the Chamber, and key Chamber Board Members set out to identify issues important to the state and to work to develop leaders that could find solutions. Those ideas continue today with each class.
With fundraising and the help of Chamber members the program began, and today Leadership West Virginia is a separate, affiliated 501(c)3 organization governed by its own board of directors.
Over the course of its existence, the program has graduated hundreds of West Virginians representing a variety of viewpoints, professions, backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. Today, Leadership West Virginia graduates are deeply involved in many of the issues facing the state. And a new cadre is always in the pipeline ready to join the discussion.
The program counts among its graduates bankers and lawyers, journalists and educators, environmental leaders and energy executives, entrepreneurs and elected local, county and state officials.
“Our goal is not to form one point of view,” said Pam Farris, the program’s executive director. “Our goal is to bring together persons with a smorgasbord of viewpoints and give them tools and information so they can effectively apply their own intelligence in whatever way they are led.
“Also, we hope to facilitate discussions among the wide variety of viewpoints by creating a growing sense of community along all sides of an issue. Communication is a key to problem-solving and strong relationships are a key to communication,” she said”.