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U-Lead Class IX begins

Posted on February 24, 2020

Caitlan Butler / News-Times
Steve Fowler, the facilitator for U-Lead Class IX’s simulated society game played in their first session, speaks with the class about the game during the class reception at the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce last Tuesday.

The El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce began its ninth annual Leadership Union County (U-Lead) class last week, bringing participants from a variety of different industries together to learn about the county and being a leader.

The class met on Tuesday for the first time, where they were able to mingle and network with one another before their first activity together, which took place Wednesday.

“I am really excited to be a participant in this year’s U-Lead class,” said Kaitlyn Rigdon, communications and finance coordinator for the Chamber and a member of this year’s class. “We have had such positive feedback about the program, so I hope to learn more about the community and the skills it takes to be a leader.”

U-Lead, a 10-month program, is designed to help identify and develop leaders from local industries and the community atlarge. It also helps those who are new to the community learn more about Union County.

Doug Stringfellow, this year’s class chairman and a participant in last year’s class, told his fellow classmates Tuesday to make the most of the experience.

“I grew up here all my life, but there was so much in Union County that I learned about,” he said. “Between seeing everything, the leadership training — everybody’s going to learn something.”

The class meets once a month, with each session typically revolving around a specific topic. The class will travel to agencies or local companies related to that topic or hear from speakers.

Rigdon said topics this year will range from health care and local nonprofit organizations to local government, law enforcement and education, among others.

“I’m hoping to discover new leadership skills. Continuous improvement is my mantra, so I want to figure out what I can learn from everybody,” said Angelica Wurth, a manager at Murphy USA and another class member.

Wurth said she is particularly interested in addressing some of the problems she sees facing Union County, like homelessness.

“I hope that by actively thinking through these problems that we can do something,” she said. “How do we continue to make El Dorado a sustainable community? How do we continue to pull people up? That’s what I hope to address.”

On Wednesday, the students gathered for their first session, where they played a simulated society game called Sim Soc designed to help them work together.

At the end of the 10-month class, participants will work together to devise a community service project that they will complete as a team. Last year’s class created an indefinite volunteer project, where the class members will encourage themselves and each other to continue their involvement with the community and local nonprofits agencies.

Bill Luther, president and chief executive officer at the Chamber, said he also benefited from the U-Lead class several years ago when he participated as an Entergy employee.

“I took this class about eight months after I moved to town and that is what got me a good foothold in this area,” he said. “Besides that, you’re going to have a network of your classmates that will stick with you forever … It’s a large and good cross-section of Union County.”

U-Lead Class IX members include: Stringfellow, from LANXESS; Steve Bernacki, from City Connections; Brandi Camp, from Manpower; Chris Cantrell, from Trotter Nissan; Ivory Godbolt Jr., from the Medical Center of South Arkansas; H. Juergen Lugowski, from LANXESS, Elizabeth Mattern, from Delek; Michael O’Connell, from the Union County Public Library System; Blakelee Ramset, from Coldwell Banker Dumas and Associates Real Estate; Rigdon; Douglas Stanton, from Douglas Stanton Architect; Tom Wilson, from ProMed Ambulance Service; Lori Windham, from Entergy; Ray Winiecki, from South Arkansas Community College; Matthew Wolfskill, from Cross Life Church; and Wurth.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or

Caitlan Butler / News-Times
U-Lead Class IX consists of (back row, from left) Michael O’Connell, Ivory Godbolt Jr., H. Juergen Lugowski, Matthew Wolfskill, Tom Wilson, Steve Bernacki, (front row) Ray Winiecki, Elizabeth Mattern, Angelica Wurth, Blakelee Ramsey, Douglas Stanton, Kaitlyn Rigdon, Lori Windham, Brandi Camp and Doug Stringfellow.