While still a very young organization, Leadership Vestavia Hills has enjoyed tremendous growth and success. In just five short years this dynamic, personal leadership program has contributed greatly to help Vestavia Hills and its citizens to reach their potential as a community.
Leadership Vestavia Hills began as the brainchild of Dennis Anderson. While he served as a leader in the Vestavia Hills Rotary Club and his wife Karen served as a leader in the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce, they each became frustrated with their personal lack of knowledge of the scope of community organization and resources. The Andersons were certain of the leadership talent that existed within the city limits, but the question remained as to how these citizens might be gathered together for the purpose of understanding how to maximize the knowledge, skills, and capabilities that resided among the people of Vestavia Hills.
Dennis soon found that he was not alone in his concerns. After expressing his thoughts to numerous residents and groups, he learned that others shared his concerns. Knowing that within the citizens of the community there existed, literally, limitless resources, these leaders felt that there must be some vehicle that could answer the questions of “who to call?”, “where do we find the resources?”, “how best can these be networked?”, and “how to best train and inform citizens for leadership in their community?”
From these discussions came the formal idea of such an organization that would seek to bring together potential city leaders and assist them in becoming more aware of the dynamics of the social and economic issues that impacted their community. The idea of this type of group led Dr. Anderson to explore the tools used by other successful communities to identify and educate their “best and brightest.”
After much study of leadership development programs like Leadership Birmingham, Leadership Atlanta, Leadership Dallas, and others, Dennis approached the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce with the idea of forming Leadership Vestavia Hills. The Chamber responded with overwhelming affirmation and a willingness to sponsor the organization for its initial year. Additional assistance was provided by BellSouth and individuals George Elliott and Candy Mobley. The vision and hard work came to fruition in 1996 when the inaugural class of Leadership Vestavia Hills began with eighteen participants.
After its first year in existence, the demand for and enthusiasm surrounding this program was very apparent. So, in 1997, the group’s promising future necessitated its incorporation, a set of By-Laws, and a Board of Directors (comprised of the graduates from the inaugural class). Additionally, in 1998, Leadership Vestavia Hills gained status as a non-profit, community education corporation. With all of these items now in place, as well as a completed second class and the beginning of the third, Leadership Vestavia Hills was on its way!
From its inception, area leaders have participated in and offered support to the organization. State Senator Jabo Waggoner and State Representative John Hawkins have been strong proponents of the group and have spoken regularly to its classes – even hosting the inaugural class in Montgomery. The Office of the Mayor of the City of Vestavia Hills, recognizing the tremendous value and promise of this program, lended its endorsement to Leadership Vestavia Hills in 1997. And, in partnership with “The Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce,” Leadership Vestavia Hills hosted a luncheon dialogue with then Governor Fob James.
Each Leadership Vestavia Hills class works throughout its year on projects aimed at improving the lives of the City and its citizens. All of these projects have been incredibly valuable and have included: development of the Community Roundtable, documentation of the need for Vestavia Hills to have a formal Strategic Plan, research on how other area cities have managed zoning issues and recruiting/retaining successful businesses, development of initial plans for a community fine arts performance center, and implementation of a community survey regarding shopping preferences in Vestavia Hills – to name but a few. In fact, this Website is a project developed by one of the classes!
Leadership Vestavia Hills’ continues the tradition of the brightest and the best. In such a brief existence, the group boasts graduates who serve and have served as State Representatives, City Government officials & employees, City Council members, School Superintendents, members of the School Board, a County Constable, Principals of Elementary and Middle Schools, area Ministers, Bankers, Judges, Attorneys, Businessmen, and homemakers. This list serves as a testament to the organization’s commitment to recruiting and developing leaders from diverse backgrounds, intentionally building relationships where none had previously existed, and to inform and empower these individuals to work together for the common good and future of the City of Vestavia Hills.