More than 25 years ago, Celero founder Kevin Jones left his hometown of West Jefferson, North Carolina, with a dream of becoming a CEO in the financial industry. But unlike those who leave small towns and “never look back,” Jones has kept his hometown and the surrounding High Country of western NC close to his heart, as his career has taken him across America and around the world.
Last week, Jones drove the country roads between Music City and his beloved hometown, to join Ashe County family, friends, and residents in congratulating the 2019 graduates of Leadership Ashe, the leadership development program designed to meet the county’s need for active participation of informed and educated citizens and leaders. The class enjoyed a graduation ceremony keynoted by Jones, who focused on how his hometown leaders could set themselves apart by staying true to their roots, uniquely defining success for themselves, and working with others to make great ideas become reality.
Leadership Ashe is an innovative leadership development program sponsored by the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce in coordination with the Ashe Campus of Wilkes Community College. The goal of the program is to identify potential leaders and provide them with the community information and encouragement needed to spur local action and involvement. Graduates are challenged to apply their talents throughout the community by becoming a part of community organizations, including public boards, non-profit groups, civic clubs, and the Ashe County Chamber.
Leadership Ashe participants and their employers make a major time commitment to 10 sessions, beginning with a day-long retreat in August and closing with a graduation session and ceremony in December. A series of eight half-day sessions provides information about local businesses and includes tours of area businesses, organizations, and facilities. Sessions are designed to stimulate interest and awareness and will include an opportunity to interact and facilitate discussion with the speakers.
Each class of Leadership Ashe is open to as many as 20 participants, and each class represents a diverse array of entrepreneurs, executives, professionals, and public servants.
“This was an emotional night for me, coming home to address those who give so much of themselves to make my home such a wonderful place to live and work,” said Jones. “As I shared with the group, my career has taken me all around the world, and my best characteristics and lessons are from Ashe County, North Carolina. It really is the coolest corner of NC, or anywhere else.”
“Growing up here, the son of a single mom, I learned values like humility and respect, and how to appreciate people’s individuality. It’s no surprise that a county with 27,000 people is successfully emulating leadership development programs we see in much bigger places, including here in Nashville. Mountain life gives us a competitive, hardworking edge, and we know that we when we have faith in ourselves and each other, nothing can stop us.”
Congratulations to the 2019 graduating class of Leadership Ashe, from your friends at Celero Commerce. For more information on this game-changing program, visit https://ashechamber.com/leadership-ashe.php.