Tahoe Truckee program promotes community leadership | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Truckee program promotes community leadership

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

This week the Tahoe Truckee Leadership Program will start its 16th annual five-month effort to support people looking to “make a difference.”

The leadership program provides education and resources to community members who wish to serve through local government, businesses and nonprofits or simply to learn more about the community’s needs.

“We’re looking for people who want to take the next step in the community to make a difference,” said Karen Willcuts, the program’s director. “Some are new to the area some are just new to their jobs,” she said, adding that they like to create a diverse class.

Willcuts says participants dive right in on day one, hypothetically spending $50 million to address community issues. Once identified, those issues become the focus of speakers invited to address them. These may include housing, transportation, business development, creating a diverse economy, health and welfare.

“We’re giving them the tools they need to take those next steps and help the community,” said Willcuts.

A major component of the program is producing an action plan, which must be completed in one year and not require more than $15,000 — though graduates aren’t required to actually carry the plan out.

“One of the biggest and proudest action plans we had was the Tahoe Food Hub,” said Willcuts, an existing organization that provides education about growing, preparing and accessing local and sustainable food.

The creator of the Food Hub, Susie Sutphin, went through the program in 2012 and already had the idea for the project beforehand, according to Willcuts. While Willcuts acknowledged that teachers in leadership program did not create the project, she said it helped Sutphin get even closer to turning her idea into reality.

Past alumni created other action plans such as the Clear The Walks program in 2016, which advocated for Tahoe City bike trails to be plowed in the winter. After collecting information from the community through a survey, those leading the project — Dana Tanner Powell, Elizabeth Kunz, Jamie Olson and Josh Hall — sent the information to Tahoe City Public Utility District, resulting in 3 miles of bike trails plowed during winter.

“Based on information they got and were able to hand over to the PUD, the city decided that clearing the bike paths in the winter was a good idea,” said Willcuts.

Since 2004 the program has helped over 350 graduates either obtain roles in local government or develop other ways to strengthen the community, earning North Lake Tahoe Resort Association’s NonProfit of the Year Award in 2014. Alumni of the program include David Polivy, recently elected Truckee town council member; Dave Gove, a member of the planning commission; and Kylee Bigelow, executive director of the Tahoe City Downtown Association.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at hjones@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2652.