The Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce celebrated the graduation of its latest leadership class Tuesday night during a dinner at the Hungry Farmer.
Eleven people graduated from the program which is designed to strengthen leadership skills in the community. With this graduating class, a total of 170 people have gone through the Chamber-sponsored educational program.
“This program affords the participants the opportunity to learn as much as possible about Sampson County,” said Leadership Steering Committee chairman Greg Thornton during the banquet Tuesday evening.
“We have employed a strong steering committee to the successful completion this year,” he added. The program gave the highest quality of leaders a chance to strengthen their community relationships and make new ones.
“This is also the ninth year of the junior program,” he said. Twenty-two high school students participated in the junior program this year.
Thornton said that he appreciated the graduates’ dedication and the valuable time that was put into making the leadership program a continued success.
“Our goals include educating the community and facilitating relationships,” he detailed. Enhancing the community with projects and giving these leaders a better understanding of Sampson County were objectives as well.
Catherine Ezzell, with Ezzell Trucking, Inc., spoke about the great start the program has given her. Exploring agriculture was one of the highlights of the program, she noted.
“We saw a cotton gin, and it was cool to see how they move giant bales,” she detailed.
“Smithfield Packing was also eye-opening,” added Ezzell. The group also visited Sampson Community College and interacted with a Hobbton arts program and its students.
“Schindler Elevator was pretty cool as well,” she said, mentioning that now when she finds a Schindler product she thinks about how it started its life in Sampson County.
Other places that the group visited included the Wound Care Center, the Wellness Center, and the Sampson County Dentention Center.
“We also met District Attorney Ernie Lee,” she disclosed. The group also toured the Register of Deeds office.
State government was covered in a trip to the Raleigh, where they met local Sen. Brent Jackson and were able to go on to the Senate floor.
Local government day included visits to local fire departments, public works, and having lunch with four of the five county commissioners.
Jonathan Allen of the City of Clinton also spoke about his experience.
“This was a great experience for me, very informative,” said Allen. “We learned different leadership styles to implement in our programs.” Allen is the director of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.
Allen said the program was full of worthwhile learning, and the trip to Schindler Elevator stood out to him.
“This program made me proud to be a part of Sampson County and Clinton, and to be a resident,” Allen expressed. He described the group as dynamic and that the program gave him a chance to meet future leaders of the community.
Dr. Wesley Johnson, director of Digital Literacy and Accountability for Sampson County Schools, also gave his perspective about the program.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to meet a lot of neat people,” stated Johnson. He said that the tour of Smithfield was very informative and he learned about how they process hogs, all the way down to lard.
“The state capitol trip was wonderful,” as well, added Johnson.
“We ask that you go out and tell people about this program,” said Thornton after the three spoke. “The best advertisement is word of mouth.”
“We are grateful of the support of the participants and the employers,” said Thornton, saying that it couldn’t have been done if they companies had not let the employees have the time off to participate.
“This will make you better able to serve the community in which you live,” added Thornton. “This is a top quality leadership program.”
The next class will be offered in the fall of this year.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd