Leadership Polk

Leadership Polk

What is Leadership Polk?

Members of Class XVI at the Amazon Air facility in Lakeland. The class was able to see how orders are processed through the facility at KLAL.

As the only countywide leadership development program in Polk County, Leadership Polk is comprised of individuals who have demonstrated a high level of civic engagement in their local community. Started in 2007, the program brings together accomplished leaders from across the county with the goal of developing a diverse network of resourceful, informed and proactive visionaries committed to building a more vibrant future for our community.

Over the course of ten months, the program immerses participants in an inspiring and enlightening curriculum that examines critical issues that impact our region.  Leadership Polk is timely, topically relevant, dynamic, and exposes participants to a broad range of perspectives through site visits, facilitated conversations and experiential learning.  Most importantly, lasting relationships are forged with engaged, cross-sector leaders from all over Polk County.

The class was provided the unique opportunity to tour Merlin Magic Making in Lake Wales where LEGO creations are designed, fabricated for world-wide distribution.

Did You Know?

  • 323 participants have graduated from the program
  • 13 of the 17 municipalities have been represented
  • 31 business categories have been represented
  • 10% of participants represent a diverse minority population
  • 45% of participants identify as female

Leadership Polk Goals

  • To educate and engage a cross-sector of leaders spanning across various geographic, occupational and economic segments of Polk County.
  • Through immersive tours and discussions familiarize the participants with a wide range of community issues facing the 17 municipalities in hope to impact long-term community development.
  • To build a collaborative network of community leaders who can make a difference countywide.

As a newcomer to Polk County my participation in Leadership Polk unveiled many different facets of public and private leadership collaboration. Polk Vision has an electric culture of not only intentionally connecting community leaders, but being a part of that impactful difference made through partnership. The real imparting gift was the change embarked upon post-graduation, gleaning from the many connections made throughout the program to ultimately build a better Polk for all.

Tavia Conner, Haines City Assistant City Manager & Finance Director – Class XII

How can I apply?

The class selection process begins each spring with a call for nominations. We will be accepting nominations for Class XVIII beginning April 1, 2024 – April 30, 2024. All individuals nominated through this form will be invited to submit an application in May.

Applications are due May 31, 2024 by 5:00 pm.

How is the class selected?

Class members are selected based on their leadership abilities, career accomplishments, volunteer activities, contributions to the community, and commitment to work towards a collaborative and thriving Polk County. These items are covered in the application, and letters of reference are not required or accepted.

Applications are given to a confidential Selection Committee, which closely examines them and performs the difficult task of selecting a representative cross-section of leaders as members of the upcoming class. Leadership Polk does not discriminate because of age, sex, race, religion, or national origin. The composition of the Selection Committee is kept confidential to prevent outside influence.

Preference will be given to those applicants that have completed a local leadership program. If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact Polk Vision prior to applying.

Typically there are more qualified applicants than positions available. Because the program is limited in size, many qualified individuals must be deferred. Those not accepted in a given year may be considered again in subsequent years if they wish to reapply.

Spouses will not be accepted into the same class. Announced political candidates will not be accepted. Multiple applicants from the same business or organization are typically not selected into the same class, but rare exceptions may be made depending on the organizational structure.

What is my commitment?

Leadership Polk requires a serious commitment of time and energy. All dates are published in advance for planning purposes. If you work for a company or organization, their support is essential. If you are self-employed you will need to evaluate the requirements of the program as compared to your available time. Please review the calendar below for potential conflicts prior to applying.

To be eligible for graduation from the Leadership program, participants are required to attend the orientation, opening retreat, and closing retreat (click link above to view specific dates). In addition, participants may not miss more than one class day. Missing any portion of a class day will count as an absence. Class members who miss two class days will be required to make up one of their two missed class days the following year. Should a class member miss three class days, he/she will no longer be part of the program, and no refund of tuition will be given. Attendance requirements are strictly enforced in order to maintain the integrity of the program and respect the commitment made by other class members.

What topics will be covered?

Topics for the program will include Economic Development, Quality of Life, Infrastructure, Government, Education, and the History of Polk County.

We will also visit a variety of locations across Polk County including Auburndale, Bartow, Davenport, Dundee, Frostproof, Haines City, Lake Wales, Lakeland, & Winter Haven.

What does tuition cover?

Tuition covers the opening retreat accommodations and meals, 7 day-long sessions, luncheons and refreshments, and Graduation luncheon for the participant and a guest.

Tuition for Leadership Polk is $2,150. There is limited scholarship money available. If you require financial assistance, please request a tuition assistance form call (863) 604-3684.

Qualifications for Application

If you are applying for Leadership Polk and you live and/or work in the following communities: Bartow, Fort Meade, Lakeland, Lake Wales, Winter Haven or Northeast Polk, it is preferred that you graduate from your local Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Program. Individuals living and/or working in communities where the Chamber of Commerce does not offer a leadership program will be considered on an at-large basis. If you are unsure whether you must meet this requirement, please contact us in advance and we will direct you back to your local leadership program if necessary.

Contact information

Ana Saavedra
Leadership Polk Program Manager

As an active Polk County resident since 1998, I was unsure of what “new” information or experiences would come from joining a Leadership Polk class. I can now attest that the “journey” exceeded my wildest expectations after being immersed in a great variety of wonderfully planned day trips. My eyes have now been opened to the special variety of services, communities and most importantly – people – that reside and serve with us in our Polk County home.

Phil Wegman, Furr and Wegman, ClassVIII

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