COLUMBIA CITY – Local nonprofit organization Leadership Whitley County, a program of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp., recently celebrated the graduation of LWC Class 17.

Since 2001, more than 300 diverse participants have graduated from the LWC program. LWC is a seven-month experiential learning program designed to empower individuals to serve and become better leaders, engage individuals in the workplace and community, and connect them with resources to continue growing as a leader at home, in the workplace and in the community.

“There were 15 different organizations and businesses represented, along with student representation from Churubusco, Columbia City and South Whitley, in this year’s cohort,” said LWC Director Carrie Meyer. “We had several organizations come together to help sponsor the program this year, from individual scholarships to program and event funding. This is a beautiful demonstration of servant leadership and collaboration in our community–people coming together for the good of the community, and the good of the people within it.”

Patrick Buesching, LWC Class 12 alumnus and 80/20 Inc. CEO was the guest speaker for the evening. He shared his insights on servant leadership and why servant leadership is not about “me” but always about “we” and how leaders can be of service to others. He shared that while it’s easy to talk about being servant leaders — it’s much more challenging to truly practice servant leadership and live it. Buesching shared several workplace examples.

“Surround yourself with a diverse team, people that aren’t exactly like you,” he said. “Share your vision as a leader, but then lean on your team and let them go do it.”

He shared insightful real-world examples, and left the class with some key takeaways, a couple including: the importance of building a strong and diverse team, and leaning on one another; and as a leader, knowing when to tackle small challenges before they become big problems.

LWC Class 17 graduates included: Thomas Beck, C&A Tool Engineering Inc.; James Beer, Fort Wayne Metals Inc.; Emma Bulmahn, Churubusco High School student; Beverly Flanagan, Whitley County Economic Development Corp.; Chad Graves, Micropulse Inc.; Tamela Hamilton, Whitley County government; Michelle Hecht, Churubusco Child Care Center; Lindsey Horvath, J&K Communications; Machele Howard, Fox Products Corp.; Beth Igney, City of Columbia City; Maren Lehman, Whitko High School Student; Khelli Leitch, Whitley County Consolidated Schools; Kylee Longenbaugh, Columbia City High School student; Roderick Perry, Fort Wayne Metals Inc.; Rachel Saggars, Passages Inc.; Jordan Schinbeckler, 80/20 Inc.; Natalie Spain, freelance marketer; Jacie Stahl, B.A.B.E. of Whitley County; Jennifer Stephenson, Whitley County government; Sheena Stewart, the Community Foundation of Whitley County; Rodney Strack, 80/20 Inc.; and Stephanie Walpole, STAR Financial Bank & Insurance.

The EDC and LWC would like to extend a special thank you to the signature celebration sponsors, 80/2 Inc. and Fort Wayne Metals, and supporting sponsors STAR Financial Bank & Insurance and J&K Communications; and sponsors for the 2017-2018 program year, Micropulse Inc., the Community Foundation of Whitley County and Ultra Electronics-USSI.

“With only being in Whitley County for the past five years, Leadership Whitley County has been a really neat program for me to meet a very diverse group of leaders from different backgrounds and businesses around Whitley County,” said class member, Stephanie Walpole. “My knowledge of non-profits in this area has grown significantly and has opened my eyes to the volunteer opportunities that are consistently available. The LWC program has shown me how to handle conflict in the workplace as well as how to manage teams. These are both skills I will use in the growth I hope to have in my career. It has been a really enjoyable experience.”

LWC is now accepting applications for Class 18 for the 2018-2019 year. Applications can be found on the EDC website or can be picked up at the Whitley County EDC office at 220 W. Van Buren St., Suite 102, in Columbia City. Email completed applications to

“As we continue to grow our community we will need to increase our number of leaders. Leadership Whitley County has and will continue to provide us with those thoughtful servant leaders that we need,” said EDC President Jon Myers.

The “early bird” application deadline is May 30 and the deadline for all applications is June 30. More details about early bird pricing is included on the application. Contact LWC Director Carrie Meyer with additional questions at or 244-5506.