Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shining a Light in the Rearview Mirror

Did you ever notice that endings always make us reflect on beginnings? Leaving a long-term job, you reminisce wistfully on your early days there. As the children grow up and leave home, you think about how just yesterday they were swaddled in your arms, or learning to walk, or heading off to kindergarten. As we near December 31st I’d like to recognize two true leaders who were visionaries who brought remarkable improvements to our local community. They’ve both moved on to a well-deserved retirement (which I can imagine they’ll find even busier than full time work.)

A Builder of Bridges - On June 30th, Judy Ekman retired from the Prevention Council after serving for 17 years as their executive director. I’ve had the honor of working with Judy and have always been impressed not just with her honesty, knowledge, insightfulness and character, but even more with her ability to pull together diverse people to create and build a shared vision. We all see the problems in our community, but somehow get stuck on how to make change happen so energy and enthusiasm dwindle. When that happened in a group she was leading, Judy would say a few simple words that created an “Ahh Ha” moment and the solution became clear and attainable. Judy worked passionately and tirelessly for families for many years; I’m glad she’s taking the time to enjoy her own family. Thanks, Judy, for helping all of us to see your dream, but more importantly for giving us the skills we need to keep the work going. There’s a Welsh proverb, “He that would be a leader must also be a bridge.” Judy you’ve built many bridges in Saratoga County… bridges between people and bridges from problems toward solutions. Thank you.

Mr. Saratoga- Compared to today, Saratoga Springs in the 1970‘s was a one-horse town. Off track betting detracted from track attendance, the downtown business district was teetering, vacant lots were strewn with rubble and as for tourism-- does this sound like a fun place to vacation? And about that time an ambitious and determined Irish lad named Joe Dalton took over the helm at the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce. While he didn’t do it alone, unquestionably he was in the center of the mix as the town became a prime destination for shopping, racing, history, arts and tourism. Under his leadership the Chamber membership increased from 330 to 2,800. While always championing the downtown businesses and promotion of economic growth throughout the county, under Joe’s leadership the nonprofit community also thrived. The Bartender’s Ball, coordinated by the Chamber and representatives from the local hospitality industry, has raised over $350,000 for local nonprofits over the past 13 years (mark your calendars so you don’t miss this year’s Ball on January 12, 2011-- more info to come in a future blog). In 1986 the Chamber founded Leadership Saratoga, dedicated to the development of leaders who will serve their communities today and in the future; graduates serve on the Boards of Directors of 135 non-profit organizations from Corinth to Clifton Park. The Chamber has a volunteer job zone to link community members with volunteer opportunities. Thanks Joe for your vision, your tenacity and your true passion for our community.

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