Category: News

LDA kicks off each year on a ‘high’ note

Joe Jimenez

Joe Jimenez (photo from his 2012 LDA graduation)

Leadership Development Academy of Rock County participants experience low and high ropes course activities very early in the program. The daylong session challenges them in various ways, introduces them to the program’s goals, and helps them get to know one another in a team-building environment.

Below, Joe Jimenez, LDA Class of 2012 graduate and current Leadership Development Academy Board Member (who also shot and edited this video), shares his ropes course memories and finds parallels in what he witnessed this year:

“Looking back on my LDA year, one memory that stands out most to me is the high ropes course that kicked off our LDA experience. In 2011 this was a two-day, overnight experience and the first time I got to see my fellow LDA participants.

“Our first day was spent learning where we stood on the Myers Briggs test and how to best deal with those who scored differently. This test has been replaced with Real Colors, but serves the same purpose, which is to create a diverse team moving forward for the year.

“We spent our second day in the woods working on team-building exercises and ending with a trip through the high ropes. I still remember the real fear some of my fellow participants had and the support they received from everyone in the group.

“This year as I sat behind my camera and watched this new group of LDA participants heading up the high ropes course, I couldn’t help but notice that there is something about this challenge that continues to bring out the best in people.”

View the LDA Ropes Course Experience video

This post was written by Renee Engen of First Lutheran Church and a member of “Team 12 Hands,” made up of LDA 2017-18 participants. The other team members are Nancy Mandell, Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Jon Tysse, Blackhawk Technical College; Patty Hernandez, School District of Janesville; Sherman Dyer, ANGI Energy Systems; and Melissa McMillan, Prent.

The Venue & Johnson Bank


The last LDA meeting prior to graduation began with a trip to the Venue for pictures and a tour of where graduation would be held. After the quick pictures and tour we headed over to Johnson Bank in Janesville to have a discussion on civic opportunities and how to get involved.

Members of the community meet with the LDA class presenting a panel discussion of civic opportunities encouraging participation. Speakers included Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag, Beloit City Council President Kevin Leavy, YWCA Board member Gerri Downing, United Way Board member Mike O’Brien, Rock County Board member Stephanie Aegerter, and Beloit City Clerk Lori Stottler, who served as moderator.

Thank you to all those who participated for your time and words of encouragement!

Renee’s Take on Robert’s Rules of Order: Linear thinking for the organizationally challenged

Our session about Robert’s Rules of Order couldn’t have come at a better time. Last month my employer suggested I learn about Robert’s to make better use of time on a board for which I am staff liaison. I wanted to table the matter but my boss wasn’t having that. However, I was allowed to postpone the matter until our LDA session.

I’d like to think that I have a creative mind but it’s possible that I’m just lazy in my attempts to organize. Here’s a picture of my decision making strategy:

April 2018 Session Recap (5)

And a basic infographic of Robert’s Rules:

April 2018 Session Recap (14)

Honestly, it’s unmerciful to drag an entire committee through my decision making process so I was grateful to be introduced to a far less chaotic and reasonable structure. My board thanks you Sue Connelly. I move to adjourn. Do I hear a second? – renee

Work Day Projects

HealthNet “File Moving”

April 2018 Session Recap (8)

HealthNet is an amazing treasure for Rock County Wisconsin. Providing healthcare in the form of doctors’ visits, dental care, chiropractic care, prescriptions, and other offerings to people without healthcare or access to healthcare in and around Rock Co.

While showing the LDA movers their office space they informed the group they dispensed over $1.8 million in prescription medication last year. With all the wonderful work comes paperwork, lots of paperwork. HealthNet also takes other types of donations from durable medical devices to single use items. When these important items fight with stored paperwork the space must go to the items for patients.

Several members of the 2018 class of the Rock Co Leadership Development Academy were asked to help HealthNet move some files. It was great to be able to make a positive impact for HealthNet! (Wow, full file cabinets are heavy!)


Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin

April 2018 Session Recap (15)

Continuing the mini projects, several LDA members came together to help out our Humane Society. We were given an overview presentation of what the shelter does, how it continues financially, how people can help in their mission. We toured the facility, and then jumped into help the staff catch up on chores, so they could concentrate on getting some much-needed work done. We washed and dried laundry, washed food and water containers, and even the toys that the dogs and cats play with. It was an eye-opening experience, and Janesville should be very proud of not only having a Humane Society, but also the work that each of the staff and volunteers are doing.

House of Mercy

April 2018 Session Recap (12)

Six LDA members volunteered at the House of Mercy. The House of Mercy is a homeless center in Janesville that provides short-term emergency shelter to single women and families along with access to housing, job placement, and child care resources. They have 25 beds and are usually filled to capacity with a waiting list. The group helped out by washing windows in several community areas within the shelter.


Gifts Men Shelter

April 2018 Session Recap (13)

The Gifts Men Shelter is the only shelter in Rock County that provides shelter and services to homeless men. The mission of the shelter is show Christ’s love to homeless men in Rock County by advancing renewal and hope through Christian effort. They have added a layer of support in an effort to transition these men back into productive, independent lives. Several LDA members helped out with yard cleanup. They collected over 20 bags of yard waste in the rain.

Boys & Girls Club of Janesville

April 2018 Session Recap (18)

I enjoyed listening to the staff at the Boys and Girls Club interact with students as the LDA team painted. As I listened I was grateful to be there serving here. The staff does such a nice job with the littles that they serve and care for that painting would have been a misuse of their time! The team prepped and patched the front desk area and gave it a fresh coat of paint along with a few other painting projects. And we felt grateful for the good work the staff do in the community.

This post was written by the members of Team 6 Degrees, made up of six 2017-18 LDA participants. Each group members wrote a portion of this post; each author’s name and employer appears in their respective sections.

“What it Takes to Lead”

By: Dana Simmons, School District of Janesville

“A vision is like a dream – it will disappear unless we do something with it. Do something big or do something small. But stop wondering and go on an adventure.” Simon Sinek

As we embark on our journey with LDA, each session helps us reflect on what it truly means to lead. Amy Jo Verbeten lead us in a discussion on “what it takes to lead.” We started with brainstorming different characteristics, such as motivating, innovative, humble, empathetic, visionary, teacher, and engaging.

As discussion progressed, we identified the role of a leader – visionary and culture keeper. A leader also needs to own and learn from their mistakes. The discussion forced us to reflect not only on their leaders in our lives, but who we are as leaders.

Whether you are born a leader, or developed, our life experiences and relationships help mold and guide. Not only were these common themes found within our LDA group discussion, they were woven into the stories from a Leadership Panel.

Leadership Panel

Leadership Panel

Leadership Panel

By: Kelsey Rettke, Greater Beloit Chamber

Following the brainstorming session was a Leadership Styles panel moderated by AmyJo Verbeten with panelists: Larry Squire, Regional President for Johnson Bank; Sherri Stumpf, CEO of Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Pastor David Clark of Central Christian Church in Beloit; and Bekki Kennedy, Senior Leader of Marketing & Publishing at the Studer Group, as well as development overseer for the Block 42 Shops in Downtown Janesville.

Discussion and conversation ranged from an impressive mix of professional and personal anecdotes, engaging stories of failure and how to overcome, to visions for the future, the importance of having a mentor, and book recommendations for those of us just starting out on our leadership journeys.

With a background in publishing and the healthcare industry, Kennedy shared her story of managing a company and trying to lead her team during a buyout by a growth equity firm. She recalled learning the hard way how important it is to stick to core values and owning up to mistakes, especially as a leader in the workplace.

Squire recalled a time in his life when he would not have envisioned himself working for a bank. With a degree in computer science and a family legacy of strawberry farming in Wisconsin, his path to a career in banking was unexpected, to say the least. He encouraged us to remember the time it takes to develop leadership skills, and to “meet people where they’re at,” using his Dad’s commitment to giving kids summer work on their family farm as an example of taking a chance on future leaders.

Stumpf “moved south” to Wisconsin from Minneapolis with a 30-year background in Human Resources, and says her path to becoming a CEO happened “quite by accident.” She emphasized the importance of surrounding oneself with good people, and that becoming a leader is all about how you treat, interact with, and work together with a team.

Pastor Clark said he felt “humbled” sitting in a panel with so many impressive people. Indeed, his story was also impressive. 36 years as a pastor at Central Christian has led him and his team to redevelop and grow the church to have 4 different places of worship: 2 in Beloit, 1 in Machesney Park, and 1 in Janesville, all catering to different demographics, spaces, and cultures, but with a “heart for Jesus,” a strong commitment to the poor and homeless populations in the county, and service to children and underserved communities.

Clark and his wife have also adopted children from Haiti, and organized response teams for natural disasters. He said, “getting the people done is more important than getting the work done,” and stressed the significance of fostering relationships as a pillar for successful business, careers, and life.

The panelists were also on hand to field questions from the audience, ranging from “Who are your mentors and what do they mean to you,” and “How do you move on amidst failure to create a more favorable outcome?” to “Does a leader ever doubt that they’re a leader?” and “How has your personal mission/mantra guided you as a leader and throughout your career?”

It was an engaging, thought-provoking, and informative panel, full of inspiring stories — definitely a favorite experience among our class.

Nothing But Net

By: JoLynn. Burden, Forward Janesville

Nothing But Net

Nothing But Net

“Networking” is such a cliché word in the world of business. Good business is about who you know and the relationships you have built. Expanding on your rolodex of contacts can be done on a regular basis and the Leadership Development Academy groups are learning just that.

Each of us have added 29 contacts to our ‘network’ since September 7th when we began this leadership journey. Our December class learned how Forward Janesville hosts their “Nothing But Net Speed Networking” events and even was treated to a complimentary admission pass from both Forward Janesville and the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce to a 2018 Business After Five.

The 30 members of LDA were joined by 23 community business representatives for a one-hour speed networking session. The hour kicked off with an ice-breaker of “would you rather”. The idea behind the game was a quick 5 minute get-to-know-your-neighbor.

Once the ice-breaker was complete, LDA folks were asked to get in a large circle. The groups consisted of 2 LDA attendees (who were not on the same team) and one community representative. These groups were given about 2 minutes to exchange business cards and give each other their best elevator speech. Once the whistle rang, the community rep moved around the circle in a clockwise manner. The goal was to get around the room to meet everyone within the hour and to leave with 53 new contacts!

Networking is meant to be fun. Get to know those that live in our communities and work beside you or maybe even against you. Building relationships is the best foundation for a successful career and business success.

Site Tour of Craig High School

By: Darlene Ramirez, First Community Credit Union


After our networking session we went on a tour of Craig High School. Our tour guide was Assistant Principal, Shawn Kane. The tour began with a goat. Yes, you heard me right, a goat. The 8th graders were also doing a tour and animal science teachers wanted to promote the vet science programs.

School used to consist of core classes like English, Math and maybe some electives like Shop or Home Economics. Nowadays, students have so many more opportunities.

Instead of a shop class where you learn from a book, these students get to work on an actual vehicle. If you take an Engineering Design class, you get to learn the design process. They work on design briefs, sketching, 3D solid molding and prototyping.

Students interested in business have a chance to work at the Cougar Den, which is the school store. They are responsible for managing everything in the store. This includes the schedule, inventory and finances. So many classes are hands on.

Craig has a state recognized art department. So, as you walk through the halls you can’t help but notice all the beautiful artwork. Craig has so much to offer. Students have so many opportunities which allows them to pursue their career interest more in depth.

Fundraising Panel

By: Brentan Vivian, Baker Tilly

Fundraising Panel

Fundraising Panel

The afternoon wrapped up with a fundraising discussion panel consisting of Jon Urish of Beloit College, Joe Jimenez of Lamar Advertising Company, and Jennifer Johns of Mercy Health. The discussion panel was moderated by Sue Conley.

They discussed their current and past fundraising efforts in which they have been a part of from capital campaigns to large gift donations to specific events. They shared their strategies on how to get both potential donors and volunteers vested in fundraising campaigns to ensure it is successful. The panel also discussed other factors of a successful campaign and why some fail.

Then it was time for the LDA teams to use the information they just learned to develop a mock fundraising campaign. Each group had 15 minutes to create a fundraising campaign and then pitched it to the discussion panel who represented eight different potential donors (i.e. a local company, a widow, single mother, etc.).

The groups explained their projects, its mission and their fundraising needs. Each potential donor had a set amount of money they could donate, which they allocated to each group based on project needs or if they feel vested the project’s mission.

Group four raised the most amount, but there were a few others who were able to fully fund their project. This mock scenario has the teams better prepared for their actual fundraising campaign to ensure the successfulness of their projects.

Real Colors

By: Casey Bellard, Town of Beloit Fire Department

Who said colors are just used for coloring or painting a pretty picture? LDA colors are used to find out more about someone’s personality and individual traits.

Most people walk around with a couple or even a few colors all the time. But everyone has a dominant color that makes up who they really are. As leaders, this helps us communicate on different levels in our field of work.

Understanding colors gives us the ability to CONNECT professionally and even personally when needed. I am primary orange, but I feel as if I have a little of every color in me.

We were asked to write down the first time we were a leader and a skill you want to have on note cards. The first time I was truly asked to lead a group of people was when I was a senior in high school. Myself and 2 others were voted team captains for our high school hockey team. We were in charge of getting the team ready to go physically, in the off season. We put together team workouts and team bonding time.

Thinking back if I would have known everyone’s color at the time I may have been able to incorporate some other things to make us even better. A skill I have always wanted was to be able to play the guitar. I am not musically inclined, but I would love to take lessons someday.

Real Colors Personality Types

  • Gold: Planners, structure, getting things done on time, organized, timing
  • Orange: Spontaneous, risk takers, motivators, thinking outside the box, competitive, public speakers
  • Green: Analytical, systematic, growth minded, take in all info before making any decisions
  • Blue: “People people”, listeners, gets along with others, passionate

Editor’s note: Stacey Bodnar is the Public Relations & Marketing Director for Independent Disability Services and a member of the LDA Class of 2015-16. She has agreed to keep a blog of her experiences throughout the nine-month program. This is the first post in the series; read past posts.

My Journey Through The Leadership Development Academy

Stacey Bodnar

Stacey Bodnar

When my Executive Director, Lisa Hurda, offered me the opportunity to enroll in the Leadership Development Academy (LDA), I was enthralled by the idea that through participation in the course, I might develop the necessary skills to become more involved in the community and assume a leadership role in some capacity.

As a Marketing and Public Relations Director, I was not extremely nervous about meeting new people or presenting in front of a group. I did, however, have some reservations regarding physically working on a small team with individuals of varying personalities and dispositions. It is one thing to network and socialize with people of all make-ups, it is quite another to agree on a community project and work together for nine months and see it through to the presentation stage.

And…what’s this I hear about a high ropes course?!


Welcome the Leadership Development Academy’s new website! We timed our site launch for today (Sept. 10, 2015) as it coincides with the first session for our Class of 2015-16.

This new version (3.0) is the first upgrade to the LDA website since 2011 and is responsive (mobile-friendly) and employs all the modern web technologies you’ve come to expect from any quality site.

As is the case with every website, this is an evolving process. Please check back soon (and often!) as we add additional media, as well as information for current participants, alumni, sponsors and those interested in learning more about LDA.

Thanks to Why The Fuss? Technical Solutions of Janesville for working with us to bring you this new website!

If you enjoyed this, please spread the word!