The 2015-16 Leadership Webster graduates show off their diplomas immediately following a luncheon and their graduation. Sue Gruber, far left, began the Leadership Webster program in 1991. Graduates include Joe Adams, Stephanie Barnette, Jake Chapman, James Graham, Raymond Hampton, Micah Hanson, Jason Harris, Mandi Hart (not pictured), Bobby Igo III, Jeffory Lee, Twyla Mims, Jason Veitch, Denise Webb, Becky White, Melissa White and Jim Williams. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald
The 2015-16 Leadership Webster graduates show off their diplomas immediately following a luncheon and their graduation. Sue Gruber, far left, began the Leadership Webster program in 1991. Graduates include Joe Adams, Stephanie Barnette, Jake Chapman, James Graham, Raymond Hampton, Micah Hanson, Jason Harris, Mandi Hart (not pictured), Bobby Igo III, Jeffory Lee, Twyla Mims, Jason Veitch, Denise Webb, Becky White, Melissa White and Jim Williams. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

The qualities of a good leader include having a vision, setting goals and being passionate, and many of this year’s Leadership Webster graduates embody these characteristics, says retired Minden Medical Center CEO George French III.

The 2015-16 class of Leadership Webster officially completed their nine-month program with a luncheon and graduation Wednesday, May 11. Sixteen participants ranging from ministers to bankers, healthcare professionals to law enforcement celebrated with family and co-workers at Orleans on Main. French, the guest speaker for the event, encouraged the graduates to use this experience to become better, bolder leaders in the community.

Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerri Ray de Pingre, left, and Chamber Board Chairman Jeff Lee, right, honor administrative assistant Stephanie Barnette for her hard work and dedication for the chamber. Barnette, also a Leadership Webster graduate, was presented with a small gift as a token of the board's appreciation. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald
Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerri Ray de Pingre, left, and Chamber Board Chairman Jeff Lee, right, honor administrative assistant Stephanie Barnette for her hard work and dedication for the chamber. Barnette, also a Leadership Webster graduate, was presented with a small gift as a token of the board’s appreciation. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

In his keynote speech, French said networking is an important aspect of being a good leader.

“In my years here, I never cease to be amazed at the power of great leaders,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a fantastic healthcare organization, doctor’s office, bank, business without an excellent leader.”

Terry Gardner, a Leadership Webster facilitator, left, and Greg Lee, past Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman, present graduate Joe Adams with his diploma. He is a comptroller for Minden Medical Center. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald
Terry Gardner, a Leadership Webster facilitator, left, and Greg Lee, past Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman, present graduate Joe Adams with his diploma. He is a comptroller for Minden Medical Center. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

He said having a vision and thinking about the future is important. It is also important to have new ideas and be passionate. Set goals and reinforce them, he said. Stay focused and outline and develop strategies for your goals. Understanding key details is important as well.

He says empathy is a big part of an effective leader; knowing “your people” and knowing what they think and feel is key.

Graduates this year included Joe Adams, Stephanie Barnette, Jake Chapman, James Graham, Raymond Hampton, Micah Hanson, Jason Harris, Mandi Hart, Bobby Igo III, Jeffory Lee, Twyla Mims, Jason Veitch, Denise Webb, Becky White, Melissa White and Jim Williams.
Each participant received a diploma.

Jerri Ray de Pingre’, president and CEO of the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce, says Leadership Webster is about fostering leadership, networking and education. It’s also about fostering relationships and appreciation in their community.

“It’s to foster leadership and teach and educate people and businesses about the parish,” she said in a separate interview. “It’s amazing the number of people who have lived all their lives and didn’t know things, whether it’s going to the airport or to the water treatment plant for the first time.”

One day each month for nine months, the Leadership Webster class took part in nine sessions, each dealing with a different aspect of the community. The first month is orientation, where they get an idea of what they will be doing during the program. During the subsequent months, participants learn about education, Simulated Society, economic development, health and social concerns, nonprofits and civic organizations and local and state government.

Jeff Lee, chairman of the Chamber board of directors, gave a snapshot of what the class learned over the nine-month period, saying they learned a great deal from each session and about each other.

“We all said networking was the biggest thing,” he said.

In 2002, the Leadership Webster split into youth and adults, and it alternates each year – one year is adults, the next the youth. The biggest difference between the two groups, de Pingre’ says, is the youth do not make the trip to Baton Rouge, rather they focus on local government. She says the youth sessions are somewhat scaled down to fit into their school hours. Other than that, they follow the same schedule each month as the adults.

“We invite the administrators and faculty from our four Webster Parish Schools – Lakeside, North Webster, Doyline, Glenbrook and Minden – to nominate any juniors or seniors to participate,” she said. “The students version is very similar.”

The adult classes are made up of employees throughout the community, from all types of professions, such as the medical industry, governmental, law enforcement, banking and finance, among many others.

Leadership Webster began in 1991.