Selection of Leadership Lowndes Class of 2014 Underway

Barbara Kieker

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

The selection process is under way for the Class of 2014 of Leadership Lowndes, an educational program designed to develop leaders and build networks to address the issues and needs of the local community. Established in 1998, the program admits 30 high-potential members each year and has more than 700 graduates.

"We are really the elite leadership program in our community," said JD Yeager, Leadership Lowndes board president and Class of 2002 graduate.

"Class members build relationships that last forever with people they often do business with on a regular basis. Those relationships also build strength in our community."

Leadership Lowndes is a nonprofit organization funded by member and alumnae dues, as well as outside sponsors. According to Yeager, the program typically receives 150 to 170 applications for the 30 slots available each year. Nominations for the Class of 2014 officially closed on Sept. 6, 2013. The rigorous selection process is based on recommendations from Leadership Lowndes alumnae and other community leaders.

"The success of our graduates has been tremendous," Yeager said. "We have a large number of individuals in elected positions as well as CEOs of area businesses."

A Dynamic Program
The Leadership Lowndes program consists of a two-day retreat in January, a two-day trip to the state capitol in Atlanta in February, and full program days in March, April, May, August, September, October and November. Each program day is dedicated to specific issues. For example on health-and-human-services day, class members may hear from hospital, nursing home and other health care representatives, and visit a health care setting in the community. According to Yeager, the program continually evolves.

"Three years ago we changed from having one day devoted to legislative issues to having a two-day trip to Atlanta," Yeager said.

"Class members have the opportunity to meet with committee members at the Capitol who make the laws that affect their lives and businesses. They leave with a list of contacts so when they have an issue in the future, they can reach out to get help."

During the Atlanta trip, the Leadership Lowndes class members attend the Bird Supper hosted by the Valdosta City Council and Lowndes County Board of Commissioners. The governor, lieutenant governor and the area's senators and representatives are invited to the event, providing an opportunity to talk with state leaders in an informal setting.

"It costs extra so we work hard to get sponsors for this and other trips," Yeager said. "But it's worth it. How many people have the opportunity to sit and talk with the governor?"

All About Networking
When Yeager became a member of the Leadership Lowndes Class of 2002, he admits he did not know that much about the organization. His wife was a member of the Class of 2003 and then served on the Leadership Lowndes board for three years. Yeager subsequently joined the board and has been on it ever since.

"The program is really all about networking. It's about building relationships for the up-and-coming leaders of our community," Yeager said.

Beyond the 12-month commitment to the program, class members must also complete a community service project prior to graduation. The projects focus on fundraising and, in the past, have benefitted The American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club of Valdosta, Second Harvest and others.

More information on Leadership Lowndes is available at

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.