Topeka will send eight leaders from the Momentum 2022 economic development initiative to learn about collaboration, making cities work and leadership through the Harvard Bloomberg City Leadership Initiative, the city announced Wednesday.
Mayor Michelle De La Isla was one of 40 mayors selected to be in the Harvard Bloomberg program for one year of intensive training. It was her participation there that allowed Topeka to be involved in this next step of sending community leaders for additional training, she said.
During her year of working in the program, De La Isla has focused on building skills around community collaboration and Momentum 2022. The eight individuals selected all are part of Momentum 2022 and bring diverse viewpoints to the experience, she said.
The eight leaders are:
• Kayla Bitler, senior vice president, Momentum 2022.
• Julianne Mazacheck, dean of academic affairs, Washburn University, representing the Develop Home Grown Talent pillar.
• Keith Warta, CEO Bartlett and West and tri-chair of Momentum 2022, representing the Creating Vibrant and Attractive Places Pillar.
• Matt Pivarnik, CEO of the Greater Topeka Partnership, representing the Growing a Diverse Economy pillar.
• Mike Padilla, councilman District 5, representing the Promote a Positive Image pillar.
• Marsha Pope, CEO of the Topeka Community Foundation, representing the Collaborate for a Strong Community pillar.
• Shanae Holman, executive director of Topeka JUMP, representing the Collaborate for a Strong Community pillar.
• T.D. Hicks, pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, representing the East Topeka Council.
The group will receive professional development and support, including an intensive four-day training in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative classroom in New York City. The program has no costs for the city but is paid for by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
After her own experience working with Harvard Bloomberg, De La Isla expects the group to return inspired, educated and energized. As a leader, she has looked at her role as building capacity of everyone who is working to better Topeka.
"The team that we're sending is really focused on how do we make sure that Topeka is equitable in that and that we have a place where every single person feels like they have a place," De La Isla said. "The diversity in the group is just so exciting.
"I am hopeful that the individuals who are going to participate in the program are going to come back very cognizant of what their role is in leading in the community, with clear ideas and ways of thinking that can challenge some things that are happening, that they may feel they didn’t know how to address," she said. "I hope that they come back understanding what a wonderful community we have, and that they come back re-energized to continue the work that we’ve already started."
Although all eight people are associated with Momentum 2022, Topeka's holistic economic development plan, De La Isla said she is confident the knowledge they receive will work through those selected beyond what Momentum 2022 is doing.
"What this allows us to do is, back to my values, is empowering the people in our community that are doing good work," she said, "who are then going to have an enhanced skill set and some really powerful training on how to look at things from a critical perspective and have the skill sets that it would take not only to carry forth Momentum 2022, but God knows what other myriad of great initiatives that we're going to be doing in our community."
Pivarnik said he is grateful for the opportunity to participate and learn, and he expects the experience to be "transformational."