LINCOLN COUNTY — what do you know about it? Lifelong residents know Lincoln County as a tight-knit community that rallies to support its own in times of crisis. We know its country backroads, gently rolling hills and hollows, showing out in each of nature’s seasons. We know its traditions, families, and annual celebrations. But undergirding everything we love here is a foundation of leadership that propels us into the future while preserving our past. Local leaders make up the hidden foundation, and many pass through Leadership Lincoln on their way to greatness.
Founded in 1987 by the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, Leadership Lincoln brings together a diverse group of individuals committed and motivated to expand their knowledge of the community.
John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
The program embodies this growth mindset with its mission to develop motivated, committed, and knowledgeable leaders willing to step up and make their community a better place to live.
The annual class gets an extensive look at local history through its tours of the courthouse, area churches, Camp Blount, and the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Museum. The class tours area agricultural enterprises on Ag Day and gains a broader perspective through the annual trip to the state Capitol for Hamburger Day on the Hill.
Like most organizations, the pandemic affected Leadership Lincoln but only served to strengthen it.
Immediate Past President Trish Bouldin said, “As a graduate of 2020, affectionally known as ‘the COVID Class,’ I have firsthand experience with the pandemic’s impact on Leadership Lincoln. Our class was cut short. Fun fact — we were in the state Capitol for our State Government Day on the very day that Governor Lee called for the shutdown. We had a delayed graduation that year, and as a board — which I joined in 2020 — we decided to take a year off in 2020-2021 for both our adult and youth programs. We spent the year reforming and coming up with safe alternatives to begin the classes again in the summer and fall of 2021.”
The difference, Bouldin said, is visible compared to classes before and after the pandemic. And despite the interruption, Leadership Lincoln thrives today. It continues to impact the Lincoln County community, as shown by donations of nearly $4,000 by the class of 2022-2023 to Hands of Mercy, Junior’s House, Crossroads Pregnancy Clinic, Clothe Our Kids, Lincoln Health Foundation, and Always Endure.
“The class projects every year have a tremendous impact on the community, and we’ve had several over the years that have led to ongoing programs that change lives. People who graduate from Leadership Lincoln are a part of something vital, and it draws us all together,” said Bouldin.
Leadership Lincoln has been part of Lincoln County’s nonprofit organizations since the early ‘90s. It is instrumental in many community programs, planting seeds for those such as Junior’s House, Kids Playground, and Father’s Overlook at Stone Bridge Park to grow. Many alums now hold key positions in various industries. The county mayor and city mayor are both graduates. It is a glowing testament to the program’s ability to produce leaders who shape the community.
Beyond political figures, the program’s volunteer requirements have cultivated a robust support system for organizations like Child Supported Special Advocates and the Tennessee Promise Mentor Program. Leadership Lincoln alums often continue to give back to these essential services once they experience the reciprocal benefits of investing in the lives of others.
Recruitment and alums involvement have been focal points, leading to significant strides in youth recruitment. The program proudly boasts having the most extensive youth board in the community, investing in tomorrow’s leaders today.
Treva Buntley, the president of the board of directors, said, “I was born and raised in Lincoln County and thought I knew all about it. Leadership Lincoln exposed me to so many opportunities and challenges in our community where others and I can have a positive impact. I joined the board of directors and now serve as the board president, allowing me to meet some wonderful people and support many great initiatives.”
Surprisingly, most unfamiliar with Leadership Lincoln walk into it without understanding what it entails. Their experience within the program’s unique blend of leadership development and fun dispel their misconceptions.
“People are overwhelmingly surprised at the fun we have while delving into all leadership aspects of the industries we cover,” Bouldin shares.
Leadership Lincoln is a transformative experience that shapes leaders, builds connections, and leaves an indelible mark on the community.
A 2019 graduate, Susan Gatlin, said, “Leadership Lincoln has had a huge impact on my life. Not only did I graduate and make amazing connections, but I’ve made a point to send representatives from my team every year since. With our seventh team member in this year’s class, it’s been a wonderful opportunity for us as a team to impact our community in such a positive way.”
It’s the shared experience of other members as well.
“Leadership Lincoln was such a wonderful experience. Not only do I have a better understanding of how our county operates, but I feel more connected to our community in a whole new way,” Diana Johnson, class of 2022, said.
Tonya Knott shared, “As a member of the 2022-23 class and a new resident of Lincoln County, I found Leadership Lincoln to be a one-stop source of information that would have normally taken years to obtain. You have the opportunity to meet new people, be a resource to others, and broaden your networking circle. A special thanks to Jim Malone for recruiting me.”
Leadership Lincoln continues to shape leaders and strengthen the community. You can help by spreading the word about the program and its ongoing commitment to preserve everything we love about Lincoln County. GN