This has been a year of transition for Leadership Howard County (“LHC”) as we continue to explore new ways to educate our graduates on the critical issues of the day and to engage and connect them with those individuals and institutions in our community that most need their help.
It has also been a year of transition for Howard County as new leaders take the reins of some of the county’s most important institutions, including the Howard County Economic Development Authority, The Horizon Foundation, the Howard Hughes Corporation and Corporate Office Properties Trust.
In keeping with our theme of transition, we launched the year in September with a breakfast featuring Laura Neuman, the new director and CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. Laura shared her compelling personal account of overcoming adversity to achieve great success as an entrepreneur.
Although she lacked a college degree, she distinguished herself at T. Rowe Price where she started as a receptionist and worked her way up the corporate ladder, eventually drawing the attention of the administrators at Loyola University, who encouraged her to pursue a master’s degree in business administration. With her MBA in hand and an unflinching willingness to take risks, Neuman took on the corporate world, rehabilitating a company on the brink of bankruptcy and helping to launch a new startup company.
Her expertise in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship led to her being tapped to lead the Howard County Economic Development Authority, where she plans to vigorously foster entrepreneurship and economic development in Howard County.
In January, we held a lunch featuring Theresa Daytner, the CEO of Daytner Construction Group, one of Fortune magazine’s 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, and the past president of the D.C. Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, the past president of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and an appointee to the MDOT MBE Advisory Council and the Maryland Workforce Development Corporation.
Despite an incredibly hectic schedule at work and in community service, Daytner manages to maintain an impressively sane balance between work and play, professional commitments and family life. She shared her tips on setting priorities, learning to say “no,” and embracing the power of controlling one’s own reaction to situations and other people.
She shared her vision of leadership, including fostering competence and self-sufficiency in those around you, whether they are your children or your colleagues at work. She was funny and smart and a great inspiration.
On March 28, 2012, we hosted our annual Big Event at Turf Valley. The speaker this year was Jenn Limm, the CEO and “chief happiness officer” of Delivering Happiness, a company she and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, co-created to inspire happiness in work, community and everyday life. In 2005, Limm created the first Culture Book for Zappos — now on its seventh edition — and has produced them ever since.
In 2009, Zappos was sold to Amazon.com in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing, and in 2011, Zappos was No. 6 on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. The Culture Book has become a global symbol of how companies can successfully create cultures based on happiness and be profitable at the same time.
Continuing with our theme of transition in the community, on April 27 we will host a general membership breakfast panel at the Doubletree Hotel in Columbia. The speakers will include Roger Waesche, Jr., the incoming head of Corporate Office Properties Trust, Nikki Highsmith Vernick, the incoming head of The Horizon Foundation, and Wendy Webster, general manager of Wegmans. Paul Skalny, a principal at Davis, Agnor, Rapaport and Skalny, will serve as moderator. The panelists will discuss their vision of how their organizations will serve as stewards of the community going forward.
This year, we also launched a new type of program, “This Just In,” which is designed to give dues-paying members the opportunity to discuss “hot topics” with knowledgeable government officials and members of the community in a small setting. Our first program featured Congressman Elijah Cummings, who discussed the role of Congress in providing leadership.
For our second program, Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon discussed public safety in Howard County and his department’s priorities. In March we discussed the shifting of teacher pensions to the county with Howard County’s Budget Director Ray Wacks.
We are also planning a new community service project and picnic for the summer, while continuing old favorites like the Iron Chef Class Cook-Off at the Fretz kitchen.
As General Membership chair, I have enjoyed working with the amazing staff members of LHC, the members of the General Membership Committee who have given freely of their time and views, the members of the LHC board and, of course, Stacie Hunt, who is the heart of this organization and manages to juggle all the balls in the air with her boundless energy and grace. I continue to be impressed by the incredible generosity of the LHC graduates who give so much back to this community and help make Howard County the special place it is.
Catherine A. Bledsoe, Leadership Premier 2005, is General Membership chair. She is an attorney at Gordon Feinblatt LLC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.