New leadership program starts for Rowan County employees

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, February 1, 2023

SALISBURY — In November, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a new pilot program designed to help county employees across all departments “develop professionally and become future leaders.”

The Rowan County Leadership Development Program began on Jan. 27 with employees who signed up to participate meeting at the Rowan County government building for a full day of sessions. Employees who participate receive their regular rate of pay during the sessions.

Participants will meet once a month for nine months to learn different aspects of county government and ways to be an effective leader. The program is a blend of workshops, virtual sessions and self study, according to the program overview. The sessions will be taught by county leaders such as the county’s Senior Internal Auditor Andy Downs, Airport Director Valerie Steele and Assistant County Manager/Human Resources Director Kelly Natoli.

The program was spearheaded by Rowan County Board of Commissioner Mike Caskey, who said the goal was to find benefits for employees and also provide a ladder for those who want to move up. He cited the numerous retirements from different departments in the county last year and said part of the reason for the program was to see if there were employees within the county who wanted to take on leadership roles, so there will be no need to look elsewhere for people to hire.

“We can provide better services to the county citizens if we have better training and better educated employees. It’s kind of a win-win for everybody,” Caskey said. “We need to work on better development for our employees and give them opportunities to take these positions when they come open.”

Rowan County Emergency Medical Services Division Chief Bryan Edwards decided to join the program because he said people should always take advantage when there is a chance to improve their leadership skills.

Edwards has been the division chief in the county since May 2022, but he has been working in EMS for 36 years.

“Honestly I’ve been in leadership positions in other jobs before in different aspects, all EMS, all pre-hospital medicine, all public safety and everything. One thing I’ve learned if you get the chance to learn the inner workings of government, if you get the chance to take a leadership class (you should) take it,” Edwards said. “When you get the opportunity to combine the two, then it would be an opportunity that you would sorely miss.”

Edwards said the first session was very informative, which was an introduction to state, federal and local government and how that intertwines with Rowan County. He said the topic that he is looking forward to most is the Change Management and Influence session.

“I’ve taken leadership classes, I’ve taught leadership classes and there’s so many different opportunities and so many different aspects of it that you really never get enough of,” Edwards said.

These are the topics that will be taught each month during the program:

• County structure

• Leadership

• Ethics

• Communication

• Human resource management

• Problem solving

• Budgeting and public dollars

• Change management and influence

The program also has a selection of books the participants will read, including: “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell, “The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula to Open Up and Own the Room” by Timothy Koegel and a book about Arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton called “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing.

The first session was carried out by County Manager Aaron Church and Assistant to the County Manager Siobhan Allen. Church discussed the structure of how a county operates, how counties are different than cities and the responsibilities that are involved. He said education is vital for county employees who want to move up the ladder.

“Education is always beneficial and a leadership program provides avenues for employees who are interested in advancing and to prepare themselves to take on leadership challenges,” Church said.