Cindy Reidy Awarded the Mike & Kathy Ricketts Leadership Award

Chautauqua County [December 27, 2023] – The legend of Mike Ricketts was honored at the Chautauqua Leadership Networks (CLN) Annual Meeting recently, by presenting the first Annual Mike & Kathy Ricketts Leadership Award to one of over a dozen of the public’s nominations.  This award is meant to represent an adult leader (s) who exemplifies the meaning of leadership in our community.

“We are honored to present the first Mike and Kathy Ricketts Leadership Award to Cindy Reidy, of the Dwyer Chautauqua Veterans Peer to Peer Project”,  states Cynde Johnson, CLN Board President.  “I’ve witnessed the passion Cindy has for people and especially the ones she represents in the Dwyer program and she is perfect for this award.” 

Lauren Peters, Cindy’s nominator, explains Cindy this way: Dedicated, compassionate, and life-changing are just a few things to describe Cindy Reidy. Cindy is the project coordinator for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project. Cindy helps U.S. veterans coordinate peer-to-peer activities, assist with collaborating services with agencies around the county, and making sure our veterans get the help they need. I met Cindy about 5 years ago when my neighbor told my United States Marine veteran husband about the program. From the moment we met Cindy, we knew she was doing great things. Cindy is compassionate towards everyone she meets, veteran or not. She goes the extra mile to make sure our veterans get the services they need and deserve and is a great asset to our community. She is a leader in a predominantly male field and possesses the skills it takes to keep a non-profit program going. Cindy organizes monthly activities for our veterans and is often seen working long work hours to get the job done. When Cindy isn’t on the clock, you can find her continuing to make an impact on the individuals around her and always giving a shoulder to lean on. Cindy not only possesses great communication skills, but she also motivates and inspires the people around her. Without Cindy leading the Dwyer group, I don’t know where it would be today. It is a much-needed service and program for our veterans in Chautauqua county and we are lucky to have such an amazing woman leading us on the journey we have endured after the active military life we once lived.

Among his accomplishments, Mike Ricketts was a 1999 graduate of the Chautauqua Leadership Network, and Kathy noted that he was strong with everything he did. He could just walk into a room and light it up with his spirit and poise. 

When Mike Ricketts passed away in the fall of 2022, the family wished to establish a fund to support leadership development throughout Chautauqua County. Representatives of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation reached out to the Chautauqua Leadership Network (CLN) to develop a partnership. The Mike and Kathy Ricketts Leadership Fund will annually recognize adults demonstrating leadership with a monetary award administered by CLN.

Donations to grow the Mike and Kathy Ricketts Leadership Fund can be made by visiting or mailing a check to the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, 418 Spring St., Jamestown, NY 14701.

The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation administers over 700 endowments in support of emerging community needs, charitable organizations, and local students pursuing higher education. For more information visit or contact Lisa Lynde, Donor Services Officer, at 716-661-3390 or [email protected].  

CLN’s goal is to provide a continual supply of people trained in leadership above and beyond the training they have received in their chosen professions. Since 1993, over 650  local leaders have passed through the Chautauqua Leadership Network leadership development program. 

The Chautauqua Leadership Network has created a robust network enriching each member and the resources of our county as a whole. Interested candidates can discover more online at

Picture:: L – R: Jenell Long, Melanie Ricketts, Cindy Reidy, Kathy Ricketts, Cynde Johnson


Limited Time - CLN Apparel Available Now

Chautauqua Leadership Network Clothing Store Now Open!!

Plus so much more!!…

     The online clothing store is open 12/04/2023-12/17/2023.

         You can go online to the following link below to order.

Once the store is closed it takes about 2 weeks to process the items and then items will be shipped.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Mindie @

716-720-6390 or email @ [email protected].

Mike & Kathy Ricketts Leadership Award Nomination

It’s quite often we’re inspired by people around us. They show us what we’re capable of if we focus on greatness, and they push us to work harder and feverishly in hopes of reaching perfection.

What’s not so common is finding those who inspire us through goodness. The ones who lead by their own example. Mike Ricketts was one of those people. The husband to Kathy Ricketts, father to daughters Jenell (Gregg Long) and Melanie (Shawn Canfield), and grandparent to four more, Ricketts was devoted to family, and friends who were like family.

Ricketts developed a passion for helping others as a young employee of his family’s grocery store. It is what propelled the 1971 start of his career as a probation officer, and ultimately his role as director of probation for Chautauqua County for 21 years. Ricketts believed that people deserved a second chance. He inspired others through his encouragement and keen ability to recognize the strengths of others.

Ricketts also recognized the importance of developing leadership in the community. He (1973) and Kathy (1974) joined the Jaycees organization, and developed as volunteers and community leaders, with Ricketts serving as New York State Jaycee President in 1989 and 1990. They look back at that time and the friendships they made with great warmth and fondness.

“We did so much good for the community with the Jaycees” Kathy noted. “Our kids grew up surrounded by the organization, and we truly saw them as family.”

Later, Ricketts put his leadership skills to the test as part of establishing Chautauqua County Habitat for Humanity. It was his pride and joy for many years, as he served as president of its board of directors.

“Mike loved seeing a family walk into their forever home and knowing how that would improve their life,” Kathy said.

When Ricketts passed away in the fall of 2022, the family wished to establish a fund to support leadership development throughout Chautauqua County. Representatives of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation reached out to Chautauqua Leadership Network (CLN) to develop a partnership. The Mike and Kathy Ricketts Leadership Fund will annually recognize adults demonstrating leadership with a monetary award that is administered by CLN.

“We are honored to have this opportunity to recognize a dedicated leader in the names of Mike and Kathy,” said Cynde Johnson, CLN president. “We have legacy of recognizing those who are giving back to our community and encouraging others to grow in their service to others. This is a perfect partnership.”

Meet Kortney Santilli - Class of 2023

Valerie Weber:  So, welcome to CLN!

Kortney Santilli:  Thank you.

VW:  Congratulations on being in this year’s class.

KS:  It’s been really fun. Yeah. Like I always said, I never wanted to leave college. I just wanted to be a forever student, and I am at a college now, for five years working at JCC. Being in CLN, it’s been great to be back in a classroom and learning and taking notes. It’s one of my favorite things in the whole world.

VW:  So you’re liking being at the seven-month point rather than we’re almost done?

KS: Yeah, I’ll be sad when it’s over. Every session’s been really like pivotal. I’ve had some really big takeaways that I’ve implemented immediately after, so it’s wonderful. 

VW:  So what’s the one thing that’s made the most impact?

KS:  Recently, it was Simone Sellstrom’s conflict resolution class. I learned about my conflict style, which was avoidant. There’s a place and a time for that, but I’ve been in a couple circumstances recently where I was like, I don’t want to avoid this actually, I want to confront it head-on and get it taken care of and move through it. And so, the literal next day after that session, having learned that about myself, I just went straight in head-on and addressed it and I’ve been better for it. So, it’s really cool.

VW:  Great, that’s wonderful! It’s always good to learn something that you can apply right away.

KS:  I can’t say it enough, it was a game changer, because it every day now pops into my head: am I avoiding this or is it a conflict that I can quickly resolve?

VW:  How did you end up in this year’s class? Did someone recommend it to you?

KS:  Yeah, my former boss, who has since left, she was the Director of Marketing and Communications —  Jody Perrin. She’s been involved in CLN for a long time and was really pushing for Karli Champ, who went through last year, and then pushed for me to go through this year. She is a huge believer in it, and I now know why! I’m very fortunate that she wanted to push me through and saw the value in that. Since Jody left, I’ve become the interim Director of Marketing and Communications, so CLN has been very helpful for this transition that I had no idea was coming! 

VW:  If you had a song that played when you walked into a room, what would you pick?

KS:  That’s kind of an impossible ask because there’s so many good ones! 

VW:  There are so many good ones. 

KS:  Yeah, like I have a bunch of favorite bands but I’m like are any of these songs me? The first one that comes top of mind, and I don’t know why, is “Meet Virginia” – sure, we’ll go with “Meet Virginia” by Train, for right now! But I’m going to think about that for my future self. What song do I want to play? 

VW: If you could choose anybody in the world, to be your mentor?

KS:  That’s another tough one. 

VW:  That’s a big one, too.

KS:   I feel like I have everyday mentors. I’m constantly learning from every single person that I’m interacting with day-to-day. So I don’t know that I would want it to be one person. I like learning that way from so many different perspectives. That’s one of my second skills. My first is communication, my second is input, and I’m always gathering information. So, I think truly every interaction there’s some sort of level of mentorship or something that I’m gaining from that. 

VW: Outside of CLN and JCC, who are you?

KS:  I am a huge mental health advocate. I try to bring that into my everyday work life and with all of my friends. I feel honestly proud that I touted how amazing counseling and therapy was so much that many of my friends during our friendship have found therapists and go to counseling. So, that’s a huge passion of mine. And, I do lots of research and learning, and I’m always looking for ways to improve my mental health and continue that practice.

So, what goes hand-in-hand with that is I practice a lot of yoga. I go to many fitness classes. I teach barre exercise classes at Lotus Healing Center.  It all marries together, you know? That’s how I stay happy and content in my life. And, I’ve really grown that network of other instructors and like-minded people. When I graduated from college, and I moved back home, I had spent a semester abroad in Italy. The reverse culture shock was really hard, and not being in college anymore. I danced classical ballet for like 15 years. So, it was just a huge transition period where I was missing dance, and I was missing travel, and that’s when I fell in love with yoga and started meeting all of my friends, and we’ve stayed great friends ever since. That group keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I love it. 

VW:  So, Introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?

KS:  It really depends on the situation, so probably ambivert. I always think I’m introverted until I start talking to somebody. Then they’re like, no, you’re really extroverted, so it’s very dependent. I think it’s also dependent on the personality types or styles in the room. Sometimes I will totally clam up and like this isn’t my space, these aren’t my people. But, other times, when, when they are my people, I’m an extravert.

VW: Which class was your favorite so far?

KS:  My favorite one was when we were at Long Point. We had Dee from Loud Performance, Bryce and Rachel from the Bemus Point Golf Course and Tap House, the woman that oversees our parks in Chautauqua County, and Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau. The reason I love that session the most is it inspired my love of the area we live in, again, and so hard. To learn about how many miles and miles and miles of trails we have, you know – equestrian, waterways, hiking paths, biking paths – it was so cool. And to hear Dee say like I’ve traveled all over, I’ve been all over, and this area is second to none in terms of everything that you have at your fingertips in your backyard. So, it really inspired me to get back out there. I love being in nature, I love hiking. I’ve been biking with my husband a little bit more – I’m a little unstable on my bike, so we stay on the road! But it has been fun to just explore and be a tourist in my own community. It really did it just spark that passion of love for everything that we have here. That was a big one for me. I was so excited to go home and tell my husband everything I learned. We went and golfed, right after that – I used to work at the Bemus Point Golf Course and I’ve never golfed there. So it just gave me this whole like list of things I wanted to go do immediately, then we started doing them.

VW:  That’s great. Yeah, so that leads the segway into: what would be the one thing that if people asked about Chautauqua County, you would be proudest of or recommend the most? 

KS:  I would send any and everybody to the Comedy Center, because it’s incredible. We’re so fortunate to have that in our community. It’s incredibly impressive and nobody should sleep on that. I love it there, I’ve been a million times, and I still keep finding things that I didn’t know were there, so that’s just quite an experience. All of all of the options that there are, endless options that cost no money. Just go walk outside. Go kayak. Whatever it is. Go wander. So yeah, I think that our green spaces. We have a big international population of students that come to JCC, and that’s what they love about it here and what, they were completely surprised by when they arrived, is how green it is, how immersed nature you are. You know, a lot of them grew up in cities and have never had the amount of grass and trees that we do, you know?

VW:  Thank you very much!

KS:  You’re so welcome!

President's Note - Fall 2023

WOW! What an incredible opportunity to be here with you all, inspired by your passion and commitments to our community and to yourselves. This year has been a learning experience that I’ll never forget as I have completely jumped out of my comfort zone into a leading role as President of the Board of Directors. Challenging yes, yet very rewarding. Do you feel complete joy about guiding folks to a better them? Resonating with Simon Sinek, an optimist who believes in a bright future and the ability of building it together, Simon says “The joy of leadership comes from seeing others achieve more than they thought they were capable of.”

I feel this completely. SO Proud of our volunteers who have jumped in because they have the passion to learn and be a better self, knowing we are here cheering them on every step of the way. Watching the light shine from their souls as they work through the task and see the results that they have created is so INSPIRING!

I reflect on my own experience as well when Donna Flinchbaugh’s phone call came in advising I had been recommended to be the President of the Board of Directors. My first internal thought was, there’s no way. I have never done this before and I found SO many reasons why it shouldn’t be me. I asked her to send me the details and I would get her an answer later that evening intending to say no. I pondered on it and finally told myself, YOU CAN DO IT! I connected with her later that evening and told her Yes. I have grown with all of you and we, together, have created leaps and bounds of accomplishments for the future of Chautauqua Leadership Network.

As Christine Caine states “Change can be scary. The world is spinning faster than ever with new technologies, new challenges, and new opportunities. But don’t let fear hold you back. Embrace the chaos, thrive in it, and remember: you’re the captain of your ship. Take the wheel firmly in your hands, set your sights on the horizon, and sail bravely into the uncharted waters of continuous personal development. Your team is counting on you to lead the way, to be the lighthouse in the storm. Invest in yourself—your skills, your knowledge, your growth—because the better you become, the higher everyone around you will rise. Let’s make today the first day of the rest of your incredible, ever-evolving leadership journey!”

We have a couple immediate volunteer opportunities available:

– Co-Treasurer for the Board of Directors

– Marketing Chair

If interested in either of these, please let me know or let another CLN’er know and we will get you acclimated and ready to roll. We are here for you.

Applications for the Next Best Class Ever open October 1st with a 27 person list requesting to be contacted! We can host 30 – if you know someone who would be interested, please let them know they can apply on our website First come first serve basis.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon.

– Cynde Johnson

In Pictures - CLN 30 Year Celebration

August 24, 2023. Memorial Park, Dunkirk.
Sponsor of Dunkirk’s Summer on the Lake Concert Series.

Sponsored by: Bard Schaak, Eventz by Scott, and William Burley-Century 21 Brokers.

Pictures: Brian LeBarron – LeBarron Studios, Cynde Johnson – Cynde B Photography, Scott Mekus

In Pictures - 2023 Southern Tier Leadership Summit

August 3, 2023. St. Bonaventure Univeristy.

Hosted by Leadership Cattaraugus, Leadership Allegany, Chautauqua Leadership Network

Sponsored by: St. Bonaventure University, Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, Fitzpatrick & Weller, Cutco, Jodi Fuller – Leadership Cattaraugus, Cynde B Photography, LeBarron Studios.

CLN Celebrates 30 Years of Growing Leaders - Join Us!

Thursday, August 24, 2023.
Memorial Park. Lake Shore Dr. West. Dunkirk, NY.


Chautauqua Leadership Network is EXCITED to Celebrate 30 Years of Growing Leaders in Chautauqua County.

We invite all our alumni, members, family and friends to join us in celebration during Dunkirk’s Summer on the Lake Concert Series. Our Concert is 80’s Night with 1980 Something/E5C4P3 – The Journey Tribute.

Free for all ages — Food, Beverage, Fun

Opening Act 5:25pm
Headliner 6:45pm

Special THANKS to supporting sponsors:
Bard Schaack
Eventz By Scott
William Burley – Century 21 Brokers


Join the social fun on Facebook:

Give Back & Grow. Key Volunteers Needed.

Did you know CLN is a volunteer run organization?

The Board of Directors? Volunteers.

Executive team? Volunteers

Committees? Volunteers and more volunteers.

Everyone volunteers for various reasons but with the common goal of growing future leaders.

Currently, CLN needs professionals like YOU in the following key roles by August 1:

Chair, Branding & Marketing Committee: Creative leadership and organizational skills reign here. As committee chair you will lead and learn from a team of marketing and business development professionals from throughout the county. Fun and rewarding projects will let you be creative as you deliver results and the CLN mission across the county. The chair coordinates activities while volunteers help generate the content. Bonus – CLN has its own modern marketing tech stack and vendor relations to tackle any campaign.

Co-Treasurer, Board of Directors The CLN Board of Directors relies on accurate and professional financial reporting to make decisions. As co-treasurer you’ll work closely with the CLN coordinator, executive team and Financial Sustainability Committee. QuickBooks experience required.

Make an impact! If either of these appeal to you, or you have questions, please reach out to Katie Young at [email protected] for more information.

President's Note - Summer 2023

Time flies when you’re having fun!  So much has happened since the Class of 2023 welcome retreat and so much is also happening behind the scenes.

We just wrapped up our membership drive – a big thank you to those who stay current & connected. The membership portal is live on our website and if you renewed your membership, you can log in and complete your personal profile. It’s quick, easy & impactful!

Thank You to Katie Castro & Brian Rovegno for their volunteerism & for leading a successful GiveBIG CHQ.

So many great events are planned this summer. I encourage you to attend the Leadership Summit at St. Bonaventure University on August 3 in collaboration with Leadership Cattaraugus and Leadership Allegany. I also invite you, your family, and loved ones to join us in Dunkirk for CLN’s 30 Year celebration on August 24. More info on both of these events can be found in the News & Events section at

I look forward to growing with you this year and I encourage you to continue to inspire others to grow with us and lead the future.

YOU are leadership 💚 💚


Cynde Johnson

Chautauqua Leadership Network [CLN]  President 2023-2025