New class for Leadership Orleans kicks off busy year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 January 2023 at 9:36 am

Goal: learn about themselves and many facets of the community

Photos by Tom Rivers: Patrick Weissend, a graduate in the 2018 Leadership Orleans class, facilitated the opening retreat on Thursday. Weissend, vice president and branch manager of the Bank of Castile in Medina, was in the debut class of the program and remains active on the steering committee.

LYNDONVILLE – The new class of Leadership Orleans kicked off an opening retreat on Thursday at the White Birch Golf Course.

The 25 class members from agriculture to manufacturing, education to government, small business owners to nonprofit service providers.

Katie Oakes, horticulture educator for the Cooperative extension and U-Pick manager for Lynoaken Farms, said she looks forward to learning more about the county.

They will meet monthly in the coming year, building leadership skills and gaining knowledge, experiences and meeting people from many different sectors in the community.

There have been 123 graduates from the program so far. Some of them have gone on to serve on local government or non-profit boards. The goal of the program was to build up citizen capital and have more informed leaders to help the community face its challenges.

The program receives a stipend from the county, and there are many sponsors of programs throughout the years. The class members also pay tuition to be in Leadership Orleans.

The schedule for this year includes the two-day opening retreat in January, legislative affairs in February, economic & workforce development in March, community health in April, communities & culture in May, outdoor leadership in June, tourism & recreation in July, volunteerism in August, agribusiness in September, education in October, simulated society in November, closing retreat on Dec. 7 and graduation on Dec. 14.

The sixth class is full with 24 members. Skip Helfrich, director of Leadership Orleans since it started, said the program is strong with lots of interest from the community. There are already 15 people who want to be in next year’s class.

Here are the members of the 2023 Leadership Orleans:

  • Jen Batt, director of community services for Arc GLOW
  • Julie Berry, author and owner of Author’s Note in Medina
  • Gabe Bruning, owner of Mountain Mule Ciderhouse
  • Angela Conway, elemental school principal at Albion Central School
  • Tracy Cliff, deputy clerk for Orleans County
  • Carl Creasey, training manager with Claims Recovery Financial Services in Albion
  • Jesse Cudzilo, executive director at GLOW YMCA in Orleans County
  • Cass Eagle, store manager and classroom instructor for Community Action of Orleans and Genesee
  • Taylor Gilbert, credit representative with Farm Credit East
  • Kristin Gross, benefits specialist for Orleans Community Health
  • John Fitzak, legislator for Orleans County
  • Shelly Harling, Yates town clerk
  • Katie Harvey, director of personnel and self insurance for Orleans County
  • Meg Johnson, executive director of Orleans Community Health Foundation
  • Dana Joy, clinical supervisor for GCASA
  • Gwen Large, volunteer and member of Lyndonville Lions Club
  • Kristy Lindner, senior engineer of quality at Baxter Healthcare
  • Jamie Lyndaker, director of operations for Genesee Community College in Orleans County
  • Nellie Moyer, operations manager at Claims Recovery Financial Services
  • Brian Neal, manager at Orleans Poverty Hill Farms in Albion
  • Katie Oakes, horticulture educator for Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Sarah Osborne, probation supervisor at Orleans County Probation Department
  • Michael Restivo, financial advisor for Brighton Securities
  • Jessica Rockcastle, senior human resources representative at Baxter Healthcare
  • Elizabeth Tuttle, youth services librarian at Hoag Library in Albion

Orleans County Legislator John Fitzak introduces himself to the class. Fitzak recently retired as a corrections officer and is working to develop a marina on the Erie Canal in Albion, where he owns a bottle redemption center.