The Indiana Township Association held its annual Education Conference this past September in Noblesville, and a contingent of Wayne Township Trustee Office staff members were in attendance. Community Leadership was the theme of this year’s conference, and Dave Rodriguez, keynote speaker, opened the three-day event with his take on what kind of leaders are needed now and going forward: “We are living in an uncommon time. The first quarter of the 21st century, while holding great potential for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, also presents unprecedented challenges to communities and their families. It will take uncommon leaders, unique leaders, exceptional leaders to shape extraordinary communities, families, and teams.”
The new kind of leader, according to Rodriguez, leads people not from above but from within. In other words, the new leader can’t just command, they must inspire, and the way they do that is by learning more about the people they lead, understanding “what is going on behind the eyes of the people we lead.” This kind of leadership applies not only to employees but to the clients and community members we serve.
Courses at this year’s conference included several sessions on dealing with difficult cases in township assistance including how to help people struggling with not only financial difficulties but the rise in homelessness, mental illness, the widening range of addictions (including to our smartphones) and the spread of lethal substances we are seeing in our communities today.
Several of our own local leaders presented educational sessions: Adams Township Trustee Denita Washington spoke on “Township Assistance and the Power of Relationships.” St. Joseph Township Trustee Sarah Gnagy spoke on townships partnering with the Department of Homeland Security “In the Midst of Disasters.” And our own Tarra Martin, Director of Investigations at Wayne Township, presented in a panel discussion on “Dealing with the Tough Cases” in township assistance.
Township Trustee Offices are on the front lines of community life, and their staffs experience and deal with some of the hardest issues in society today. It was striking that so many of the presenters that came from outside organizations, such as speaker Dave Rodriguez, were really surprised and impressed to learn about all that township trustees do and face during their day-to-day interactions with their local communities. This year both Governor Eric Holcomb and Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch made appearances at the ITA conference, a sure sign that our state leaders are taking notice of the leadership that township trustees provide in their communities. Not only did we learn new approaches to leadership, but others were seeing, as well, the importance of leadership going on every day in Indiana’s township governments.
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