For countless leaders the world over, the time that passed between March 2020 and May 2021 will be remembered as frustrating, exhausting and complicated. For 40 lucky Wyomingites, however, the past year has been marked by new experiences and wonderful people.
We are referring to the 40 members of the Leadership Wyoming Class of 2021. In a time of great uncertainty, this group unknowingly took a collective leap of faith in hopes the world around us would somehow tip back on its regular axis and allow this amazing program to proceed as it had for the 20 years before. The world didn’t exactly follow our plans, so instead the 40 members of the class, led by the outstanding staff of Leadership Wyoming, worked to embrace the changes around us and to engage in a supportive, challenging and life-changing leadership opportunity.
Committing to a nine-month program with extensive travel and countless hours with strangers is probably antithetical to what most of us would consider a great idea during a worldwide pandemic. But our class wouldn’t trade our time together for anything. We have made amazing, life-long connections with people from every corner of Wyoming and from all walks of life. We have had our energy and hope renewed during and after each session. We have come to have a deeper understanding of the issues facing each of us in Wyoming, and have great hope in what each of us can contribute to our exceptional state.
Our cohort has toured facilities we never dreamt we would be inside of (i.e. a coal mine, the Wyoming Crime Lab, the Wyoming State Archives and a working ranch, just to name a few). We have the opportunity to meet with local leaders who are providing opportunities and inspiration for their communities. Upon returning home after each session, we feel energized and renewed to continue to embrace the lessons life has offered, to contribute to our communities, and as our classmate, Dan Lee, says, “be wonderful to people.”
And perhaps most importantly, our Leadership Wyoming Class has embraced and encouraged each other along the difficult journey of the past year. From personal challenges to complex business decisions, it is an incredible gift to have a support network outside of your own bubble or stakeholder group. The lessons we have learned from each other are only the beginning of what this group will mean over time.
As each of us looks around the room of other Leadership Wyoming participants, we recognize that no one really had time for this commitment; from a mom who applied while her husband was deployed to Southwest Asia to an interim dean at the University of Wyoming tasked with more than his fair share of responsibilities. For anyone waiting for a “better time” or things to return to “normal” you are missing out on an opportunity to grow yourself and your state at the most important time we may face as leaders.
Take a leap of faith in the midst of chaos. It will be worth it. Applications are due April 14.
Leadership Wyoming Class of 2021:
Amy Albrecht, director, Center for a Vital Community at Sheridan College
Melissa Amick, warehouse support manager, Magpul Industries Corp
Cecilia Aragon, executive director, Wyoming Latina Youth Conference, UW
Era Aranow, freelance worker and educator
Patty Bennett, senior assistant public defender, State of Wyoming
Kilty Brown, executive director, Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions
Stacy Buchholz, 4H/youth development educator, University of Wyoming
Cassandra Burnett, victims advocate, Red Paint Alliance
Erin Campbell, state geologist, State of Wyoming
Melissa Cassutt, deputy editor, Jackson Hole News & Guide
Daniel Dale, professor and associate dean, University of Wyoming
Keith Davidson, retired, ranch management, Veteran Commission volunteer
Kyle Farley, executive director, HealthReach Urgent Care
Dave Glenn, deputy director, Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites, Trails and Outdoor Recreation Office
Brian Gray, operations manager, Jorgensen Associates
Amy Grenfell, chief operating officer, Wyoming Business Council
Kebin Haller, colonel, Wyoming Highway Patrol
Jim Johnson, leadership development program manager, Microsoft
Bo Johnson, surgeon, Rocky Mountain Vein Clinic
Karen Kelly, principal, Arete Design Group
Rob Kilian, vice president, First Interstate Bank Cheyenne Branch
Dan Lee, chief creative officer, Only Co.
Kelli Little, deputy director, Wyoming County Commissioners Association
Stacie McDonald, director of public relations, Visionary Broadband & Mammoth Networks
Fred Nasredine, colonel, Wyoming Army National Guard
Brendan O’Connor, assistant director, Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board
Pamela Perea, director of boards and commissions, Governor’s Office
Debbie Pummel, director of hotel performance, Timberline Hospitalities
Sarah Reed, branch manager, First Interstate Bank
Shawn Reese, chief operating officer, Wyoming Humanities Council
Dawn Royal, welfare fraud investigator
Heidi Rubich, teacher, Sweetwater County School District 1
Justin Sax, operations manager, Church & Dwight Co, Inc
Eric Schlidt, director, IMPACT Casper
Jim Shellenberger, financial advisor, Frontier Asset Management
Holly Shenefelt, commander, Wyoming Air National Guard
Derek Smith, landman, Devon Energy Corporation
Walter Tribley, president, Northern Wyoming Community College District
Shelby Wetzel, executive director, Northwest College Foundation
Teal Wycoff, research scientist, Wyoming GIS Center