On Friday, city officials and municipal employees from all over the state came to Ardmore to learn.
The Oklahoma Municipal League’s community leadership development training, held every other month, set up shop in City Hall where guest speakers and experts led the group in learning new skills they’ll take back with them to their respective cities. Assistant City Manager Kevin Boatwright said this is the event’s second time in Ardmore.
“You get to go approximately every other month to a different community throughout Oklahoma,” Boatwright said. “You get to go to a lot of places in Oklahoma and see how they do things.”
The workshops help city and municipal employees stay up to date, learn new skills and network with others in the same field.
He said attendees also learn about different state grants cities can apply for and hear from guest speakers, but the workshops also give people a chance to compare notes with city officials from all over the state.
“They also talk about retail development, and a lot of it is about providing services,” Boatwright said. “Maybe it’s about what services they offer in their community, challenges they’ve faced, what’s worked and what’s not.”
Attendees also break up into groups and work on projects, usually involving hypothetical scenarios city officials might have to face one day. Boatwright said last year he and Development Director Jessica Scott were placed in a group that had to persuade a large company to come to Ardmore.
“That’s always beneficial too, because you’ll work on something that might not be your area of expertise,” Boatwright said. “You’ll research it, then present it to the class. We had to do a comprehensive bid packet, basically.”
After lunch, visitors got a walking tour of the city as well, to break up the all-day workshops, then returned to listen to guest speaker Scott Willingham, vice president of SGR Servant Leadership. “Servant leadership,” is a specific leadership style created in the 1970 by Robert Greenleaf. Willingham taught the group about the importance of creating a secure, welcoming workplace culture, and how that makes employees more effective in the long run.
“When you develop a culture, is it safe?,” Willingham said. “We’re in this together. We breathe the same air, and we work together.”
He said Greenleaf’s work emphasized that leaders need to put others first, first and foremost, rather than focusing on themselves, which sounds intuitive, but is more complicated in practice.
“That’s not who we want to be,” Willingham said. “That’s not who we’re going to be. You wouldn’t be here if you wanted to be that way.”