Leadership Academy graduates propose tourist attractions

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Graduates of the 2009 Leadership Academy from left are Angie Bigham, Nick Seefeld, Julie Stinar, Kim Sheese, Dr. Kristin Wurzberger, Lisa Bealmear, Zack Glenn, Carmen Benoit, Darla Ball and Joel Newman. Absent, Todd Baldwin.

Aledo Superintendent Alan Boucher was the guest speaker at the Leadership Academy graduation on Friday, March 20. Class of 2009 graduates included Todd Baldwin, Darla Bull, Lisa Bealmear, Angie Bigham, Zack Glenn, Joel Newman, Nick Seefeld, Kim Sheese, Julia Stiner and Dr. Kristin Wurzburger.

This was the seventh year that Mercer County YMCA and University of Illinois Extension have co-sponsored an 10-week class encouraging leadership. "It was nice to see the groups taking on projects that they had a passion for and would truly be beneficial for our county."

The class was divided into three groups with a task to research and think through creating a feasible projects that would work for the community.

Projects included a restaurant in the old Hardee's location, a farmer's market and a festival to promote the Westmer-Aledo consolidation called "Golden Eagle Fest."

After each project was presented to the breakfast crowd, made up of current Leadership Academy participants and former ones, Steve Oaks, Mercer County YMCA director said that each of the proposals were distinct possibilities that could be taken forward. "It was nice to see the groups taking on projects that they had a passion for and would truly be beneficial for our county."

The keynote address was given on Leadership, a subject that Boucher is working on a doctorate for.

Boucher said it was important to have a good working definition for leadership. "It's more than making somebody do something." He talked about broadening the definition to influencing people to do something, then asked. "What if they would have done that something anyway?"

Then he broadened it even more to "Influencing people to do something they wouldn't have done."

That definition becomes problematic because it could include people like Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan.

He said, "A good leader is someone who gets people to do achieve goals that are consistent with their values."

"The values aspect of it is a very key thing."

His preference would be to not call Hitler or Stalin leaders at all.

Mid Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), a nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado, has done research on leadership and revealed 21 characteristics of leaders. "Six are very powerful," said Boucher.

Those characteristics are:

* Actively challenge the status quo.

* Adapt leadership behavior to the situation.

* Operate from strong ideals and beliefs.

* Make sure others are current with theories and practices and are reading, learning, changing.

* Monitor and evaluate what you are doing and its effectiveness.

* Inspire and encourage others to accomplish more than they think they can.

Boucher said that leadership is an endless topic. He quoted Will Rogers' advice, "If you're out in front, make sure to turn around to see that you're being followed."

Golden Eagle Fest

Golden Eagle Fest project participants were Darla Ball, from the Mercer County Health Department, Carmen Benoit, Country Bank, Zack Glenn, First Baptist Church and Todd Baldwin, Farm Credit Services.

The Golden Eagle Fest was proposed as a fun way to celebrate the Aledo and Westmer school consolidation and help build a strong foundation of solidarity and support for the new Mercer County CUSD #404.

The festival would take place on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, with a welcome by Alan Boucher. It would be a venue to introduce the new school song, teams and a way to host a fund-raiser and auction, with novelty items such as school clothing for sale. The evening would end by showing a family movie, such as Remember the Titans.

Some of the fun involved in the festival would be things like hosting a race, having various vendors. The event would involve a lot of volunteers working together for a common goal and could turn into an annual event.

Market Masters

The second group took on the topic of agri-tourism in support of Aledo Main Street's Farmer's Market. Committee members were Angela Bigham, Country Bank, Nick Seefeld, City of Aledo, Julia Stinar, YMCA and Dr. Kristin Wurzburger, Medical Associates.

The group joined with Aledo Main Street (AMS), who had already started working on opening up a Farmer's Market. AMS will be one of the groups vested in the success of the Farmer's Market and has been joined by the Mercer County Health Department, Mercer County Economic Development, Farm Bureau and Mercer County Master Gardeners. Each organization will oversee separate weeks of the market, which will be held on Thursdays from 4- 7 p.m. on Aledo's Main Street between College Avenue and East 2nd Street. The market will run from June 11 through October.

The leadership project went further than just this year by proposing two more phases for the project, including suggestions for a permanent site, with three suggestions for land, and a final phase of erecting a permanent structure down the road.

Hardee's building

The third team came up with the idea of finding investors to open a Mexican Restaurant at the old Hardee's location. Team members included Lisa Bealmear, Country Bank, Kim Sheese, Aledo Schools and Joel Newman, Big Brothers / Big Sisters.

The team's vision was to repurpose an empty building into an affordable, family-, business- and community-friendly gathering place.

The group's vision was that the property is already set up for a restaurant, and an affordable Mexican Restaurant, with a conference room and wi-fi capability would be supported by the community.

Demographics were given out such as:

* The median age in Mercer County is 39.5.

* The median household income in the county is $40,893.

* The projected population of the county in 2010 is 17,430

The committee pointed to a trend towards more ethnic style restaurants. The closest Mexican restaurant is more than 20 miles from this building's location.