Staff photo by Jade McDowell
Contributed photo by the office of Rep. Greg Smith
Hermiston business leaders were a visible presence in the state capitol last week as Leadership Hermiston’s Class 20 met with the governor and other state political leaders.
Fifteen of the class’s 18 members — who range from business owners to nonprofit directors — spent April 10-11 in Salem and were recognized as special guests of Rep. Greg Smith and Sen. Bill Hansell during floor sessions for the House of Representatives and Senate.
Leadership Hermiston is a 10-month program put on by the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce, designed to give participants an opportunity to network and become familiar with Hermiston’s resources. (This reporter is a member of the 2016-2018 class). They spend the first Tuesday of each month delving into a different topic, and April’s was state government.
Vanessa Zamudio, a workforce consultant for the Oregon Human Development Corporation, said she signed up for Leadership Hermiston on the advice of a friend who had recently completed the course.
“She said it would be a good opportunity for me to get out in the community and learn about difference aspects in the community,” Zamudio said.
She said she has learned about new resources and made connections with new people, all of which she can pass on to clients and partners in her job. Tours the group has taken so far this year have included farms, food processing plants, the fire station, police station, courthouse, armory, hospital, schools, community college, media outlets, the Agape House, Warming Station, Department of Human Services and Two Rivers Correctional Institution.
“I think this has been my favorite day so far,” Zamudio said of the capitol visit. “I never knew you could just come and watch as a member of the public.”
Cyndie Hobart, customer care manager for Eastern Oregon Telecom, said she likes Leadership Hermiston’s “broad spectrum of exposure” to different aspects of the community, such as agriculture and education. She said she also likes getting to know the community members going through the program with her.
“I like the mix of individuals, that they’re all coming from different perspectives,” she said. “Even if you have to move away, you’ll have those contacts in Hermiston. The contacts you make carry with you.”
Last week’s capitol trip started April 10 with team-building activities followed by a reception at the Salem home of Rep. Greg Smith, where Leadership Hermiston members mingled with state legislators, department heads and lobbyists.
The next day the group learned from Smith’s legislative assistant, Phillip Scheuers —a Hermiston resident — about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into legislators’ decisions on bills, spoke with Smith about his role as a state legislator, met with Oregon Supreme Court Justice Jack L. Landau, learned about the role of department heads from Business Oregon director Chris Harder, spoke to a panel of lobbyists representing Eastern Oregon issues, watched portions of the House and Senate floor sessions, spoke with House Minority Leader Mike McLane and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, spoke with Sen. Bill Hansell, met Gov. Kate Brown and toured the capitol building.
Fran Rice, facilitator of Leadership Hermiston and an alumni of Class 13, said the Salem trip is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for class members.
“It’s an amazing thing to say, ‘I know who Mike McLane is. I’ve met the governor,’” she said.
Rice said Leadership Hermiston is always evolving in an effort to give participants more tools for improving their community.
“I think the purpose of Leadership Hermiston is to strengthen our city through relationships, knowledge of the city and to build skills for working together,” she said.
Each Leadership Hermiston class must also complete a community project before their graduation in June. Past projects have ranged from planting 7,000 trees in the Oxbow site to putting together totes of supplies for children taken from their homes by DHS. Rice said support for the projects always open class members’ eyes to “the big heart of the community.”
This year’s class is working to raise $5,000 for a set of matching metal benches, garbage can and kiosk at Butte Park near the foot of the Hermiston Butte. Donations for the project can be made to the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.