Every year for forty years, Centraide of Greater Saint Joseph has done its best to create and prepare community leaders, and 2022 is no exception to this rule.

Among this year’s class are Buchanan County Public Administrator Annette Bertelsen, Commerce Bank Assistant Vice President Jacob Dillon, Buchanan County Assistant Attorney Michelle Davidson and Communications Associate Myleigh Lanham of the Mosaic Life Care Foundation.

The names above will be part of a network of like-minded people who have learned the makeup of local charities. This group will also learn about the issues St. Joseph faces and possible solutions to those issues.

Jean Brown is the director of Leadership St. Joseph. She was the Executive Director of the YWCA before retiring in 2018. Prior to this experience, she worked at the Family Guidance Center for 22 years.

“I am so excited and impressed with the potential of this class. There’s a lot of diversity, skills and competencies, both in work and in life, Brown said. “There is a constant theme of passion and compassion in this group, people who really want to make a difference in the community who have a very positive opinion of St. Joseph and want St Joseph to be better.”

Bertelsen sees one of the problems facing St. Joseph as growth.

“There are other communities of a similar size – not too far away – take Liberty and Parkville, which have made great progress, where we haven’t made much progress. Our population certainly hasn’t increased,” Bertelsen said.

Last year’s census showed St. Joseph’s population is down more than 4,000 people from what it was 10 years ago.

Davidson of the district attorney’s office also sees room for improvement within the community. His perspective is shaped by a close view of criminal activity inside the city.

“I’m excited about the upcoming program over the next 12 months, and I’m excited to meet other people who have a common interest in making our community a much better place,” Davidson said.

Dillon said the community is lucky to have the United Way constantly on the lookout for new leaders.

“I really think it’s important for a new generation of leaders to be ready to step in and take on roles, to volunteer for positions that have impact,” Dillon said.

Besides networking, the leadership class will focus on education, learning about local businesses, health, arts, community history and social services.

“One of his main goals is to learn more about St. Joseph and have a deeper understanding of our community. So when we graduate from the program, we can really be that community advocate and spread the pride,” Lanham said.