To build and sustain a community of effective leaders that will address current and future challenges and opportunities.
To educate, equip and engage existing and emerging leaders through a diversity of people, thoughts and experiences that lead Gwinnett to a better future.
by T. Michael Tennant – Chairman, Leadership Gwinnett Board of Trustees
The year was 1984. Gwinnett County was undergoing its own Orwellian experience. Described only six years before by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News as a “sleepy little hamlet,” Gwinnett County was changing rapidly in population, diversity, average age and job growth. A sea of change occurred in political preference from longtime Democratic to Reagan Republican.
Other things were happening too: The Council for Quality Growth was formed, the Gwinnett Foundation, now the Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia was established, the Convention and Visitors Bureau was a mere five person committee of the Chamber of Commerce, Gwinnett Place Mall opened and Gwinnett Public Schools had a mere 41,445 students. Political, business and civic leadership were changing rapidly. Subdivision homeowners associations were emerging in power and influence. New Gwinnettians now outnumbered native Gwinnettians. A new day had dawned.
Led by Gwinnett Chamber CEO, John F. “Jack” Sawyer, a group of existing leaders, all graduates from either Leadership Atlanta, Leadership Georgia or other recognized leadership programs, came together to discuss the need and formation of Leadership Gwinnett. Funded by the Chamber, this group crafted and developed a curriculum, enlisted volunteers, engaged facilitators, developed an application package that had both subjective and objective criteria and embarked upon selection of Class Number One — the first class to claim to be “The Best Class Ever.”
Fall Retreat was held at Calloway Gardens with the class thereafter participating in Seven Program Days: Power, Regional Relationships, Education, The Other Side of Gwinnett, Government, Growth and Criminal Justice with the Spring Retreat at what was the Falcon Inn at Interstate 85 and Lawrenceville Suwanee Road in May 1986.
The original group, who became the “Founding Steering Committee”, was comprised of: Beauty Baldwin, Superintendent of Buford City Schools; Elliott Brack, Publisher of the Gwinnett Daily News; Carolyn Collins; Art Dana, partner with Price Waterhouse; John Johnson, President of Investors Trust Bank; George Thompson, Superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools; Tom Mitchell, Gwinnett Hospital System; Mike Pope, Williams Industries and Larry Edmondson and me, partners with Tennant, Andersen, Davidson & Edmondson P.C.. Elliott Brack was chosen as General Chair. Jann S. Moore was the Chamber staff liaison who kept us organized and on target. She also administered the logistics of the entire program.
The potential success of Leadership Gwinnett was doubted by some, including elected city, county and state officials, plus competing leadership programs that discouraged the formation of Leadership Gwinnett. Committed and resolved, Leadership Gwinnett embarked and has, year after year, with class after class, validated the theory on which it was formed – That new leaders were needed for Gwinnett County to become a first-class community.
Leadership Gwinnett has grown to be one of the most respected leadership programs in the United States, envied by many but duplicated by none. Leadership Gwinnett now has nearly 1,000 alumni. The program achieved a coming together of many divergent components of the county that either did not know one another or never had real opportunity for dialogue and understanding. Leadership Gwinnett brought people together geographically, culturally and intellectually.