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In the spring of 2015, a group of attendees at the DeKalb Chamber Partnership’s annual Leadercast event recognized a striking realization. Despite the event's strong attendance, there were many of the community’s traditional leaders not in attendance, not to mention a missed opportunity to engage with emerging leaders. The realization was also made that our county had many key leadership positions (Community Foundation ED, CVB ED, Museum ED, Economic Development ED, City Mayors, County Officials, just to name a few), that were nearing retirement eligibility. Their years of service had laid a foundation for our community in some of the most important areas but had done little to cultivate and attract a pipeline of future leaders. While we had strong non-profit organizations, it was not uncommon for local philanthropists to be sitting on multiple boards, spreading themselves unreasonably thin. Since that time, various community projects, consultants, and surveys have continued to recognize this as a major issue in DeKalb County. Although we have been able to fill key leadership positions with very capable and engaged people, we have done so by reaching outside of our community time and time again.  As a community dedicated to ‘plugging the brain drain’, we need to set our sights on creating ways of keeping young people engaged in the conversation and active in key roles in our county. Creating a robust leadership development program is the solution.  


Leading, engaging, and activating DeKalb County is the key to cultivating a thriving community. In today's fast-paced, ever-changing world, a community must help connect, train, and grow its pool of leaders in a way that is intentional and sustainable. When people become more knowledgeable, connected, and compassionate, not only do they feel more invested in their community, but they feel more responsible for its future. Leadership DeKalb is positioned to be a catalyst for this effort. The program will challenge community champions at all levels of influence to cope with the complexities of the day, take informed risks, and put what is good for the community at the center of their decision-making- both personally and professionally. These trained individuals will be armed with a deep understanding of themselves and their community. They will have honed the skills to maximize their collective and individual strengths to drive positive change through leadership and civic responsibility. By balancing world-renowned training and facilitation with a local emphasis, Leadership DeKalb will be uniquely positioned to reach a broad sector of emerging leaders and encourage them to step up into key roles and lean into courageous leadership strategies. 


We know our community is desperate for brave leaders who are willing to show up, dig in, and help to create a future for DeKalb County that is inclusive, forward-thinking, and innovative. We believe that to scale leadership and cultivate a culture in our community where brave hearts, respectful conversations, and innovation are the expectation, we need a program that is different. We need a program that is tailored for our community, with a balance of local experts and fresh perspectives. This program will create leaders that are aligned with their core values, foster trust and equity, and move us to a place where courageous leadership is the expectation. 

Steering Committee

Brian Best

Ambassador Enterprises

April Dobson

Trin / DeKalb LEADS Alumni

Shannon Carpenter

DeKalb Chamber Partnership

Kendra Klink

The James Foundation

Sarah Payne

DeKalb LEADS Facilitator

Chris Straw

Team Quality Services

Tonya Weaver

Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community School District

Tanya Young

Community Foundation DeKalb County

2022-23 Cohort

Andrew Bigelow

Ashlee Sells

Brittany Carroll

David Foster

Jane Bitting

Justin Rentschler

Nicholas Stephan

Pete Kempf

Sam Yarian

Sandra Tamez

2021-22 Cohort

Kathleen Alter
Betsy Ley
Mary Diehl
Leslie Friedel
Jessica Griffith
Brianne Haiflich
Rachel Haynes
Zach Heimach
Kevin McIntire
Amy Neal
Jeremiah Otis
Lucas Straw
Crystal Church-Stavitzke
Holly Wright 

2020-21 Cohort

Tyler Cleverly
Jake Clifford*
April Dobson
Rudi Eidam
Larry Getts
Melissa Irk
Brandon Park
Nora Schwartz

*In Memoriam 

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