Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Shawn Kirkwood

Good afternoon. Friends, colleagues, Kansas University PMC staff members and instructors, and most importantly, my fellow distinguished ELA 2015 graduates. It’s truly an honor to speak on behalf of the Overland Park, Emerging Leader’s constituency.

My experience with ELA this year has been awesome. From the first day of class on March 4th, I could sense that this learning experience would be different than any I had been involved in.  How did I know you might ask?  Well, for those of us in Overland Park, you might remember, the impromptu blizzard that greeted us that none of our local news stations predicted.  In my opinion, that was a sure-fire indicator that this learning experience would be an interesting ride. And an interesting, engaging, empowering experience it has been.

I don’t think I would be out of place in stating that if the Overland Park ELA participants represent the prosperity or demise of the public sector, the future of our respective governmental agencies couldn’t be brighter.

Before I move on, I would like for us to all to take the time to acknowledge and give a big round of applause to our fearless, empowering, thought-provoking, Linked-In invitation accepting, red headed, left-handed, encouragement guru, the Emerging Leaders Academy Director, Noel Rasor.  Noel has kept our classes interesting by pushing us to not only think or re-think about our current roles in government, but via the various sessions and interactive activities, like “Generations in the Workplace” and Laura Howard’s session “The Future of the Public Sector” we have been equipped with tools that allowed us to take a glimpse into our upcoming roles as government leaders, and innovators.

Personally, I enjoyed the sessions that made us explore ourselves as individuals and then took us below the surface in defining who, why and what we are in our roles as public servants. Two of our TED talks were quite impactful. First, Karen Tilstra’s, Yes, And, taught me that every ideal, good or bad idea deserves at least 1 minute of our time.  And Benjamin Zanders, “Shining Eyes” not only taught me how to listen to classical music but it cemented in me that most every ideal or request we receive as public officials is of the upmost importance to the person making the suggestion.

Ms. Terri Callahan’s session, “The Power of Attitude” had a tremendous impact on me, as she empowered us to check our personal attitudes at the door, remembering that as public servants, we should always display servanthood in what we do.  I want to thank our speed mentors, who took the time out of their busy lives to share with us.  Marilu, Gordon, Crystal, Leslie, Dave, Scott, and Patty were awesome.  I got the chance to sit with 3 of them and in that brief time I took away a nugget of wisdom from each of them.  Patty, I now have the words, “Be Nice” posted on my computer at work.   Crystal made reference to a brilliant quote “Straight roads don’t always create the best drivers”, what I got from that is,  no matter how we got here, we are here,  and we can and must make a positive impact.  Mr. Gordon Criswell, I learned a lot in our 10 -20 minutes together, but the one thing I took away was something he probably wasn’t trying to teach.  When in a small group of people, if you talk in a very low, deliberate, controlled pitch, you sound very wise and your audience to lean in and listen.

I would be remise if I didn’t mention how much, I believe, we as a group learned from each other. As I mentioned before, our Overland Park group was great and contained many awesome individuals.  From, the great attitudes/positive energy displayed by folks such as Angelene, Vince, Mike and Heather, to the restroom break sidebar insightful discussions I had with Calvin.  I learned tons of things about the public sector that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. Joe made me realize the importance of GIS work , while Jessica, as meticulous, nice, neat and perfectly aligned as she kept her classroom materials, it’s only fitting that folks like her and Jaime are in the planning business.  My City of Kansas City departmental co-worker Chad forced me to see the value the millennial generation adds to the public sector.  If I’m ever involved in a plane crash in the Pacific Northwest and all I have is some matches, bubble gum and a can of Crisco grease, I want William by my side.   Diane, our future politician was always encouraging, and often times made me want to switch tables as she found and shared, (with her table only) the most delicious after lunch deserts known to man.  Good luck in all your future endeavors.  Beatriz Way the David to my Goliath, size wise, was a person who I found I had the most in common with. We both share a love for documentaries, more than a few Strength Finder characteristics, and a passion for wanting to help our nation’s children and elderly population. Last but not least, Ms. Jess Finely.  Early on in ELA, she shared with me that she will be married soon and plans to honeymoon in Jamaica, at a similar resort as I did when I was married. Jess, a few words of wisdom, similar to the  Las Vegas catch phrase, what happens in Jamaica…………..takes about 6 weeks to get out your system…… plan accordingly.

In closing, ELA has been a rewarding experience and I am thankful for the professional and personal relationships I have gained. Noel, if there is ever anything I can do to assist you in making sure future ELA participants are given the same opportunities,  please don’t hesitate to call.

Thank you.