Why do you want to be a leader? 

It’s one of the very first questions asked in class, and according to Professor Jerry Cameron, there is only one right answer.

Sharing decades of government administration, public policy and executive leadership training experience between them, as the instructors of the Flagler County Leadership Academy, Dr. Joe Saviak and Professor Jerry Cameron are pairing their earned wisdom with that of some of the world’s most successful thought and corporate business leaders, to forge the next generation of great leaders for Flagler County.

Offered to any employee of Flagler County government, the local municipalities, school district or sheriff’s office, students in the eight month leadership course are seeking to elevate their service to the public through training, to provide a more efficient, effective customer-centric government.

But it all starts with the foundation.

Building a team requires trust, and the anti-gossip pledge was one of the first milestones students in the second Flagler County Leadership Academy completed, as displayed by Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron, who serves as one of the professors for the eight month course.

“You can’t have the values of a leader without having character. You can’t have leadership unless you have those fundamental values,” said Cameron, who teaches the soul of ethical leadership.

Beginning with a pledge to leave egos at the door and fully commit to the rigorous coursework, the weekly schedule has students, many already in leadership positions, fine-tuning their ability to create a culture of teamwork while honing their professional leadership skills according to Dr. Saviak, a leading executive development consultant in Florida.

“They are real world assignments so they have to generate a case study analysis on a real world program or policy in operation and action, they have to research and produce a policy memo that details the major pros and cons of competing arguments over a change in policy or improving a policy, they make professional presentations, that’s an important skill. They read an excellent book on leadership that Professor Cameron assigns, Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, and they each present a chapter from the book,” said Saviak.

“They conclude the academy with the capstone assignment, a team project where they have to identify issues for successful regional problem solving – whether it’s transportation, public safety or the environment.”

Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron serves as a professor alongside executive leadership development consultant Dr. Joe Saviak for the Flagler County Leadership Academy. From left, Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron, Flagler County Youth Center Director Jordan Butler, Flagler County Emergency Management Planner Nealon Joseph and Dr. Joe Saviak.

Currently serving as the director of the Flagler County Youth Center for the school district, Jordan Butler has found a kindred spirit in Cameron, and the two bonded early on over leadership books.

“Having this class and learning from each other has been huge and it’s going to benefit the community,” said Butler.

Teaming up with Flagler County emergency management planner Nealon Joseph, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, the two have developed a solid working relationship as they connected over coursework and projects, including a deployment of COVID vaccinations at the Carver Center in Bunnell.

Butler said it’s a collaborative culture shared among the entire class.

“Obviously we’ve learned a lot from Dr. Saviak and Professor Cameron, but we’ve also learned a lot from each other. That’s really been the cool thing about the class is, everybody in the class is bringing their own experiences from leadership and they’re bringing those to the table,” said Butler.  “We’re all learning from each other and it’s just making us better. At the end of the day we’re all here to help people, to serve people, even though we do it in different capacities.”

Coming up on his third year as a planner for the Emergency Operations Center, Nealon Joseph has found the class to be a reinforcement of the fundamental skills he learned while in the military.  The academy has also offered an opportunity to build on his management skills from the micro to macro level, and a true understanding of what it means to be a leader.

“It’s not just a position,” he said. “To be a leader means to sacrifice – your personal time, your professional time. It’s not only the people that you’re working with but all those that are affected by the organization that you’re a part of.”

Nearing graduation in May 2021, the second class of the Flagler Leadership Academy has gained immediate, real world skills, according to Saviak, while saving taxpayer dollars by hosting the high-quality leadership training here in Flagler County, rather than sending employees outside of the community.

“This is a key challenge facing local government across America today, and that is effectively preparing the next generation of leaders for success on the job on day one,” said Saviak.  “You have a lot of retirements, growth and local government worldwide is focusing increasingly on making sure that leaders will be successful with their new roles and responsibilities.”

Members of the inaugural class have already seen the benefits of completing the Flagler County Leadership Academy, with graduates Ryan Emery and Kenny Goncalves both receiving a promotion to Commander by Sheriff Rick Staly after their graduation last year.
The 3rd FCLA will start this fall and interested applicants should contact Flagler County HR Director and FCLA Dean Pamela Wu at pwu@flaglercounty.org

Featured Photo: Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron is one of the professors for the Flagler County Leadership Academy, developing the next generation of leaders in Flagler County.



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