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State leaders to visit southwest Georgia this week

This week southwest Georgia plays host to some of Georgia’s up and coming leaders as the Leadership Georgia Class of 2011 visits Camilla and Mitchell County.
Leadership Georgia was created in 1971 by key business leaders including Pat Pattillo, Jim Lientz Sr., Rogers Wade and J.W. Fanning. Its first class started in 1972 and included in that class was one of the more famous Leadership Georgia alumni, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn.
The primary purpose of the program is to identify, train and inspire a network of emerging young leaders. Leadership Georgia is affiliated with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and this year is led by President Ben Tarbutton of Sandersville.
Each year approximately 60 participants are selected from a pool of several hundred applicants from all over Georgia. Leadership Georgia is unique in that the program also includes the spouses and significant others of class members.
This year, Mesha Wind and her husband, Randy Wind, both of The Cairo Messenger, are participating in the Class of 2011.
During the year, class members will visit five Georgia communities to learn more about the important issues affecting the state. By taking class members to all corners of the state, Leadership Georgia hopes to give potential leaders a better understanding of the diversity of this state as well as its opportunities and challenges.
President Tarbutton wanted his year as head of Leadership Georgia to showcase the diversity of the state. The Camilla and Mitchell County program is designed to showcase the state’s largest industry, agriculture, with almost 100,000 acres under cultivation. The class will have the opportunity to see fields of cotton, peanuts, corn, and soybeans.
Members of the 40th anniversary class will also have the opportunity to hear the stories of farmers, young and old.
The Mitchell County program chairs are Heather and Alan NeSmith of Cornelia. Alan NeSmith is the grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Lamar Shirah of Mitchell County, who still live on the farm his grandfather returned to after serving in World War II. Mrs. NeSmith hails from Ben Hill County, so both have ties to southwest Georgia.
The program kicks off Thursday with a dinner and program at the historic Hand Trading Company in Pelham.
On Friday morning, class members will have the unique opportunity to tour the Mark Glass Alligator Farm, the First United Ethanol plant and the Harrell Pecan Company.
Then on Friday afternoon, tours of the Stripling Irrigation Research Park are planned, as well as hands-on farming experiences and skeet shooting.
On Saturday, the group will hear an address by U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, an alumnus of the Leadership Georgia Class of 1973. Leadership Georgia class members will also participate in a panel discussion with members of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Stakeholders board.
“‘Seeding the Future’ is our theme, so our main focus will be on agriculture. But crops cannot grow without water, and our state certainly has its problems in that department,” Program Chair Alan NeSmith says.
NeSmith says that class members, many of whom will likely be making their first trip to southwest Georgia, will come ready to learn, enjoy fellowship with their classmates and also have some fun. He describes Camilla and Mitchell County as “the state’s 50-yard line of agriculture.”
NeSmith adds, “From the local cuisine to the ways one can earn a living, you’re going to get a taste of it – Camilla-style.”
Helping the NeSmiths coordinate the program in southwest Georgia this week are James Lee Adams, Paige Shiver and Tim Shirah, along with many volunteers and Leadership Georgia alumni including Raina and Kevin Cauley, who were members of the Class of 2010. Grady countians Deena and Lee Gainous are also alumni of Leadership Georgia.
The 2011 program is nearing an end. The year began, as is tradition, in January at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris, Ga. The class of 2011 has also visited LaGrange and St. Simons Island. In November, the class will wrap up the year with a program in Augusta.

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