Leadership Oneida County alumni share their successesSubmitted: 05/25/2015
Leadership Oneida County alumni share their successes
Story By Lauren Stephenson

ONEIDA COUNTY - Last Thursday, 15 members of the Oneida County community graduated from Leadership Oneida County. The nine-month program aims to give participants a better understanding of the county's resources and to improve participation in organizations throughout the county.

"You just don't know what can happen when people get into the same room and start talking," said Demmer Memorial Library Executive Director Erica Brewster. 

That talking led Brewster to a new job and greater involvement in the Oneida County community. She was a member of the first Leadership Oneida County class.

"When I went through the program, that's where I learned about UW-Extension.  That's where I learned UW-Extension was hiring," she said. "That's where I got the motivation to look at the job description and apply. I worked at UW-Extension for four and a half years, and then the position had opened up here in the library in Three Lakes so I could be working back in my hometown, in my home community."

Brewster now organizes a program day to help current Leadership Oneida County students better understand tourism in the county. She's also become involved in various organizations throughout the county.

Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dana DeMet is one of the main organizers of Leadership Oneida County.  He says Brewster's story is similar to many of the program's other graduates.

"Each of those people take those experiences and the knowledge they've gained from the program to, I think, better apply themselves in their professional lives, whether that's through partnering their corporate organizations with non-profit organizations or also helping define a strategy or a mission for non-profit organizations they're involved in," DeMet said.

Rouleen Gartner is one of those Leadership Oneida County members who has advanced her career through her connections to the program. She lives in Oneida County but works in Vilas County at the Northwoods Children's Museum.  Even so, Gartner says Leadership Oneida County has helped her do her job.

"My job draws quite a few people from Rhinelander, and I work quite closely with many organizations there.  One of them is the YMCA," Gartner explained.  "So by doing the networking and working with the leadership program, I was able to learn about a lot of people in associations and the different workings of Oneida County to help me do my job better."

Gartner was in the second class of Leadership Oneida County.  Shortly after she graduated, she was promoted to executive director of the Northwoods Children's Museum in Eagle River.  She partnered with Brewster to organize the Leadership Oneida County tourism day.

"Our Northwoods has an incredible resource of volunteers and people that are passionate about our area and passionate about the families that live here," Gartner added.  "And so by taking these leadership programs, we were able to best connect with them and figure out people's needs and being able to make those collaborations and work together."

"The only way that we can make this community a place that people actually want to stay is by connecting with the people who are here and growing that network and finding the niche where everybody can fit in," Brewster said. "It's here. You just have to work your way through the trees to find it sometimes."

Program leaders hope more people will find their way through the trees to help the county thrive.

Applications for Leadership Oneida County will come out later this summer.  You can find out more about the program at the link below.  Newswatch 12's Lauren Stephenson was a member of the latest Leadership Oneida County graduating class.

Related Weblinks:
Leadership Oneida County information

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