History of CLN

by Ann Weidman, Class of 1995

It was the mid-1980s...

Attorney Bard Schaack, Peter Clark, his partner; and Rick Johnson, CPA, were bemoaning Chautauqua County demographics. Those who were between 40 and 60 years of age had disappeared.

Eventually, they took their concerns to the Northern Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce board. “Looking at that group, it hit me – 90 percent of the faces were the same faces I'd seen at every meeting,” Schaack recalled. “I said we can't keep meeting like this. We have to provide a leadership training program that will expand the leadership pool.”

The chamber followed up and created a committee with Gene Bailen and Doug Manley as the initial chairs. The next year, Dan Reininga (Lake Shore Savings Bank CEO) and Al Franco (formerly of NIMO), were appointed chairmen when Gene and Doug moved on to pursue other matters. Reininga said: “From there, Lou DiPalma and I researched various leadership programs and attended a session or two.” As part of that research, they found that there was already a national association of Leadership Programs.
Reininga recalls that a committee was assembled, under the guidance of Bard Schaack, and it met regularly to discuss the “components” of a leadership program that would be suitable for all of Chautauqua County and involve both Chambers of Commerce.

Schaack found a leadership organization near Indianapolis, met with its executive director and then continued on to the national headquarters where he was allowed to review its files and copy anything of interest.

Upon returning and reporting to the chamber, Schaack contacted representatives from different fields of business in the county. This entailed a lot of searching for interested people to become involved. “I got ahold of Carol Lorenc (then-executive director of the Jamestown Chamber) and Kem Dengler, (then-executive director of the Northern Chautauqua Chamber), Sylvia Stenander (Jamestown Community College ) and Reininga, all of whom came together for a meeting.”

As a result, participants would be committed to becoming involved in an organization or civic endeavor of their choice that would significantly contribute to the quality of life in Chautauqua County.

All agreed that “something should be done” regarding leadership in the county. Eventually, included in the group were the Dan Bratton, then Chautauqua Institution president; Gary Barr, BOCES superintendent, Dave Sheppard from then - state Assemblyman Bill Parment's office; Karen West from SUNY-Fredonia, Sylvia Stenander from JCC and a representative from Cornell Cooperative Extension. All agreed to meet at the Institution and CLN was on its way.

The Hard Work Begins

“I can recall that all of us, as founding members, realized we had a unique opportunity to structure a valuable program to focus upon leadership development and skills enhancement,” recalls DiPalma, former chamber executive vice president. “As a result, participants would be committed to becoming involved in an organization or civic endeavor of their choice that would significantly contribute to the quality of life in Chautauqua County .”

Schaack recalls that Dean Patton was the facilitator for the first class – and several more after. “Dean and I went to Grove City College,” he says. “He was a psychologist and had a practice in Jamestown . He was not only the first facilitator, but was part of the group that developed the program. Myers Briggs Personality Test also was part of the program from the beginning.”

The original developers of the personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers during world War II. CPP Inc., the publisher of the MBTI instrument, calls it “the world's most widely used personality assessment.”
Those involved would meet in early mornings to work on ideas about how a program would be fashioned. “I continued to be in touch with leadership programs in Buffalo and Erie to see what elements of their programs we might use,” Schaack said. “Meanwhile, we were developing our own curriculum and Dean had us reviewing various leadership exercises.”

The First Class – 1993

“I was in the first class and remember organizational meetings in Bard Schaack's Mayville office very fondly,” recalls Carol Lorenc. “Bard and Dan Reininga and some others from the then-Northern Chautauqua Chamber had heard about leadership programs and thought they would be good for Chautauqua County , so they invited me and Dave Shepherd from the Jamestown Chamber to see what we could design.”

It was then that Patton's name was suggested “as one who could do the personality testing (and more), so Dean became instrumental in planning the activities for the first class as well,” said Ms. Lorenc.

Ms. Lorence continued, recalling some members of the first class: Andy Goodell, Chautauqua County Executive at the time; Ron Graham, Schaack, Reininga and Lorence. CLN archives list additional members James Barney, Gary Barr, Louis DiPalma, Sandra Gaylord, David Shepherd, Sylvia Stenander, Mary Kay Szwejbka and Karen West.

Each year's group is called a “class;” each class has a “graduation;” all graduates are encouraged to become on-going members, for which they pay dues to help with expenses. Archives also tell us that it was about 1996 or 1997 that the late Tom Malinoski designed the first-ever CLN logo.

Ask Bard Schaack what he thinks about the beginning and he'll sound like he might have had his fingers crossed looking forward to the future of CLN and what might have been the culmination of a 20-year-old “idea,” and he answers: “We're all busy people, and at times, we thought we were in over our heads.”

Perhaps Dan Bratton said it best. “I've got hope for you guys.”