Santa Fe New Mexican



This sentiment was echoed in interview after interview with program participants, alumni and community leaders. Yet it’s a safe bet that many, if not most, Santa Feans know little or nothing about the program. Begun in 1983 by a group of self-selected Santa Feans, Leadership Santa Fe was suspended briefly as the new century dawned. Then, in 20082009, the citizen-directed program came under the auspices of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce’s nonprofit wing, the Opportunities Fund, underwritten by corporate sponsors. Today the program annually graduates up to 30 enthusiastic locals who are ready to tackle their own futures as well as the city’s. “It is wonderful,” exclaimed alum Katie Capener, whose mother also graduated from the program. “Leadership Santa Fe deepens [your] understanding of the community. I’m from Santa Fe, and . . . I learned so much more about my hometown and how it works.” Capener, who now lives in Albuquerque, went on to work for both the Chamber and Leadership Santa Fe in marketing and social media. Although she has begun a new job in the Duke City, she continues to work with Leadership Santa Fe in communications. Veronica Rigales, community marketing manager for the Santa Fe New Mexican, is a member of the Class of ’22. While participants met via Zoom rather than in person during January and February this year, Rigales said she highly recommends this program to everyone. “It’s concise and doable for busy people,” Rigales noted. “Yet you walk away from every session with great takeaways that you can use in both the professional and personal arenas of your life. I especially like the local aspect of this program . . . learning from local leaders how things operate in our area and what challenges are in front of us here in Northern New Mexico. There is an advantage for our community in that.” This program about which past and present participants rave has two key components: civic education and awareness, and leadership skills development, the latter with an emphasis on relationship building and networking. Over the course of seven weekends — Friday and Saturday — participants attend half-day sessions (at various locations or via Zoom) and one final retreat between September and April. During half of those sessions, class members concentrate on interpersonal skills with program director David Markwardt — who went through Leadership Santa Fe himself and went on to expand and fully develop this aspect of the program. The other half of the classes are devoted to substantive areas of community involvement. Topics covered in the latter effort include technology, youth and education, government, health and public safety, nonprofits and environment and energy. Guest speakers have included local, county, state and national elected leaders, members of the business community and leaders of nonprofit organizations. All this effort and involvement does not come free. The basic tuition is $1,400, although there are discounts for employees of firms that belong to the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and those employed by nonprofit organizations or government. (Those fees are capped at $1,150.) Those who pay $1,500 also become Chamber members. Some employers pay for their staff members to participate. Markwardt, who handles the overall aspects of the program — including speakers, classroom locations and selection of participants — noted that a limited number of partial financial scholarships (up to half the tuition) are available from an alumni scholarship fund. He said that participants need “some skin in the game.” He also suggested that the fees charged by Leadership Santa Fe are “a deal” compared to those charged by similar groups, such as Leadership Albuquerque ($3,000) and Leadership New Mexico ($3,500). Is it worth the time, money, effort? Rigales believes so: “I’ve learned so much about my community — from where our water comes from to the amazing work of some of our nonprofits. It’s also been great to gain the perspectives from current leaders and, of course, learn tools that can help you to be a more effective leader at your work and home.” Abby Bordner, from the Class of 2020, agrees: “I . . . found that the program helped me to understand so many aspects of my beloved city. I enjoyed the overviews of the economy, government, housing, public safety, nonprofits and more. It’s a great way to deepen your commitment to a thriving city and a place to work and live.” Bordner continued, “I [also] enjoyed my [classmates] and will be happy to see each of them when we run into each other around town, as [we] inevitably will in Santa Fe. I appreciated that the group was very diverse, people from all different industries, ages and backgrounds. Each person will take a new interest and awareness into their communities and change Santa Fe for the better.” Kay Lockridge, a longtime news writer, now enjoys writing feature stories for the “New Mexican.”