Santa Clarita EDC Cultivating The Next Generation of Leaders
The Santa Clarita Valley is a special place for many reasons; one being a long tradition of civic leadership and involvement. More than 30 years ago, a group of community members came together to form the City of Santa Clarita and shape the future of key institutions such as our community college and hospital. Over the last several decades, many folks have been attracted to the SCV by the high quality of life we enjoy here. Countless residents volunteer year after year to lead boards of charities or homeowners’ associations or coach their children’s sports teams.
But as is the trend in nonprofit leadership across the country, the leaders of our charities, nonprofits, commissions, and boards are aging. Many individuals who have served in leadership positions for years, or even decades, are stepping back. The question facing the SCV is: who will step up to replace them? One organization exploring an answer to this question is NextSCV, a group of young professionals focused on developing the next generation of leaders for our valley.
Recently, I was honored to participate in a panel discussion on leadership for NextSCV where the focus was on female leadership. I was joined by powerhouse leaders Cheri Fleming of Valencia Acura and Jill Mellady of Mellady Direct Marketing. Hosted at Valencia Acura, the sold-out event drew a crowd from businesses across the spectrum – from startups to large corporations in a wide variety of sectors. The panel discussion covered a wide range of topics, from favorite books to how we make hiring decisions to the challenges women face in the workplace.
Cheri, who served as president of Soroptimist International, talked about the deliberate decision she and her husband Don made to make her President and CEO of Valencia Acura when they bought the store 21 years ago. She and Don have transformed the dealership from one of the worst performing to one that is repeatedly recognized by Acura as a “Dealership of Distinction” winning the prestigious “Precision Team Award”. Interestingly, Cheri remains only one of two women who own Acura dealerships.
Jill spoke of the challenges of balancing the management of a growing business with raising a family. Having left her secure job after the birth of her daughter (who, now grown, is part of the company) she started the company in her garage. With the success of the business came the need for more space, and the need to juggle an expanding set of responsibilities.
All of us emphasized the importance of community involvement for our careers. We have all served on boards of charities in the SCV, finding it rewarding personally and professionally. Looking out at the room full of attendees, I was gratified to see such a large number of young professionals poised to participate in the betterment of the community. We cannot rest on the laurels of the outgoing leaders but must cultivate the next generation to lead our community toward a bright and promising future. With current community leaders mentoring this younger generation, the future of the Santa Clarita Valley is in good hands.
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