First published in the July 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Mid-July is the time when most people are leading their families to the pool, beach, on enjoyable day trips or long-planned vacation destinations. That is not the case with those who oversee, plan and facilitate the Leadership Burbank program.
For them, this time of year sees them in hope of leading local individuals into leadership roles in their personal lives, work and community.
This past Wednesday, the organization’s chairwoman, Karen Volpei-Gussow, was joined by her vice-chair, Trena Pitchford, board members, and Leadership Burbank alumni to host a recruitment mixer for those interested in going through the nine-month program.
Following a cocktail reception on the patio of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, the assemblage gathered in the chamber’s conference room, where they were welcomed by Volpei-Gussow and introduced to Toby Black, who has recently been brought on board as Leadership Burbank’s administrative assistant.
After providing an overview of the program, Volpei-Gussow and Pitchford introduced the potential recruits to the program’s facilitators, former City Manager Mary Alvord and former Community Development Director Sue Georgino, who also served as a commissioner on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.
“Every class is different,” said Alvord, who along with Georgino, has facilitated the program since 2009. “In many ways, we’re in a new world, and we aim to address the current issues of the day.”
Explaining that while each class has a structured curriculum that has been honed over the organization’s 27-year history, Alvord said that each new class brings something new.
“While we have specific things we always cover, we leave a good amount of what we do open to the class,” she said. “We have found that each new class provides us with input and direction, usually based on a current issue or dynamic which helps keep us current.”
Georgino agreed, pointing out that last year’s class focused heavily on crisis management due to the COVID pandemic.
“Our program is twofold, providing leadership basics and helping people identify their personal strengths and values. That is the fundamental part of the program,” Georgino said. “As for the experiential section, that is based on what has been happening and is currently going on in our community and beyond. So, we keep it relevant.”
Among the numerous issues that Alvord expects will be addressed in the upcoming class are homelessness, affordable housing, local development, school and community safety, cultural diversity, and the recent issue of how, if possible, to regulate gun shops in Burbank.
“During last year’s class, it was the problems with Tin Horn Flats [a now defunct bar that adamantly refused to adhere to COVID restrictions] that had been an issue, so we had a lot of discussion as to what the city was doing or could be doing to handle a problem like that,” Alvord said.
The prospects also heard from two alumnae from last year’s class, Marisa Di Domenico and Ann-Marie Osgood.
The duo both stressed the value of the program in getting to see the inner workings of city government faculties and services, the landfill, airport, studios and various businesses.
“You will see and better understand so many things about Burbank, and get to meet so many people you may otherwise never have the opportunity to meet,” Di Domenico said.
Within the next few weeks, Leadership Burbank board members will peruse the applications they have received from locals and make the decision about who will be selected to become members of the 2022-23 class.
According to Volpei-Gussow, this year’s class could be one of the largest because of what has been a robust interest.
While the mission of Leadership Burbank is to identify, educate and motivate current and emerging leaders with the hope that they will go on to develop ideas and solutions to make Burbank a strong, sustainable and vibrant community, the program has proven to do more than that.
Since its inception, Leadership Burbank has changed the lives of uncountable residents who may not even be aware the program exists through their class-project program. It has also given participants far more than a broader knowledge of Burbank and the teaching of leadership skills.
Participants benefit by meeting with a wide cross-section of the community that includes representatives from local government and law enforcement, the Burbank Unified School District and Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center as well as the hospitality, marketing and entertainment industries and the faith-based and nonprofit communities.
Perhaps, of all the benefits the Leadership Burbank program offers, it is the opportunity it provides those involved to select and carry out the annual class project that can have the most positive, significant and lasting impact on the city.
Over the past quarter century, Leadership Burbank classes have refurbished the iconic “B” on Burbank’s hillside; coordinated a revitalization and landscape undertaking at the former facilities of the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and East San Fernando Valley; created a comfortable outdoor setting by updating landscaping and activity areas at the Joslyn Adult Center; provided 31 violins for instrumental music instruction at Burbank’s elementary schools; and upgraded the kitchen facilities at Burbank’s VFW post.
The 2022-23 class of Leadership Burbank will be announced within the next few weeks with classes beginning in September.
For more information about the program, visit leadershipburbank.org.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.