Leadership Fresno is one of the Chamber’s most prominent programs and is unlike any other course of its kind. The program was founded in 1984 when a group of community leaders observed Leadership Programs in other major cities and recognized the need to develop leaders in Fresno County who would become a pool of people equipped with the skills, motivation and background to lead this area successfully into the complex decades ahead.
Each year, a new, elite group of Fresnans is selected to participate in the Leadership Fresno class. The program begins in August with an immersive two-day retreat, followed by daylong seminars each month. Additionally, it is incumbent upon the class members to determine a project which will have an effect on the community in a significant way – an endeavor that each participant must be integrally involved in.
Graduates of Leadership Fresno have gone on to hold leadership positions in a variety of organizations; they have been elected to political office – like former Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin; and many have found their participation in the program positively affected their professional lives. Each class also has a special attachment to the program, a fact often evidenced by the frequently repeated phrase “My class was the best class ever!”
- Christa Atchley, Class 27
- DeDe Darnell, Class 28
- Jimmy Dunn, Class 30
- Chad Flanagan, Class 32
- David Hoffman, Class 30
- Ryan Janisse, Class 32
- Israel Reyes, Class 31
- Blair Martin, Class 32 (Chair)
- Nick Ward, Class 34
- Mary Williams, Class 24
Ad Hoc Committee Members
- Sara Frauenheim, Class 35
- Rob Schumann, Class 35
- Nathan Ahle, CEO
- Rebecca Johnson, Program Coordinator
Goals of Leadership Fresno
The goals of the program are:
- To identify and prepare potential and current leaders from all areas of the community for leadership roles throughout the greater Fresno area
- To provide a broad overview of the issues, challenges and opportunities facing our city, county and the greater community
- To promote access to and dialogue with community leaders
- To stimulate increased participation and commitment in the community
The Program includes a retreat, nine (9) one day class sessions and a class project.
A two (2) day retreat (overnight) designed for class members to get to know each other. The retreat includes teambuilding exercises and selection of class officers.
Class Day Topics
- Art and Culture
- Criminal Justice Day
- Downtown and Economic Vitality
- Health Care
- Human Services
- Planning and the Environment
- Politics and Media
Each of the above topics is a one day class session, generally held on the third Thursday of the month, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Class Project & Meetings
The topic, scope and nature of the class project is selected by the class. Class meetings are used to select and to work on the class project. Class meetings take place outside of class time.
Leadership Fresno began in 1984 when a group of community leaders observed Leadership Programs in other major cities and recognized the need to develop leaders in Fresno County who would become a pool of people equipped with the skills, motivation and background to lead this area successfully into the complex decades ahead.
The program was co-sponsored by the Fresno County and City Chamber of Commerce and the Fresno Bee.
The first Chair of the Steering Committee was John Raytis of the Fresno Bee. Other Steering Committee members were Dave Zeurcher of Wells Fargo Bank, Robert Christofferson of the City of Fresno, Rebecca Johnstone of Central Savings & Loan Association, Dr. Pete Mehas of Clovis Unified School District, Jan Shield of Macy’s, Helen Smades of Helen Smades Realty and C. Michael Tombleson of R.T. French Company.
The key faciltator of the program in its first few years was Harvey Zimmerman of the Fresno Bee. He was assisted by Yvonne Cashion and Kathleen Nave of the Chamber and Gayle Owens of the Fresno Bee.
An Advisory Board served to provide advice to the Steering Committee and this Board consisted of three dozen prominant business and civic leaders.
Where Does My Tuition Go?
Here is the breakdown of where your tuition goes:
Number based on Percentage (%)
- Class Day Expenses
- Supplies / Other
Sponsoring Leadership Fresno is claiming your part in the future of our community. Through your financial support, Leadership Fresno can continue to help shape our future leaders: developing their leadership skills and helping to channel their passion, drive and energy towards civic responsibility. Whether as future political leaders, public or private business executives or the volunteers who sit on our non-profit Boards and govern much of our social services, Leadership Fresno graduates have the passion and the skills to serve.
If your organization is interested in sponsoring the program, click here to learn more about opportunities or contact Rebecca Johnson at the Fresno Chamber.