By Rebekah Martin
In 2006, Mayor Gary Fuller and Lucinda Cannon teamed up to start the 20 under 40 class as a way to grow and encourage potential leaders in the community.
The class was held annually for about five years and after a recent hiatus, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce has agreed to take over the program beginning this year. The 2016 20 under 40 class will begin toward the end of summer, with class meetings beginning in September and continuing until May 2017.
Former mayor and chamber president Barbara Patton will head up the upcoming class and said that the program has the same goals it did when it was founded by Fuller and Cannon. “It’s to develop potential leaders and people that will be able to feed into boards within the city; non-profit boards, elected positions such as mayor and council, so it’s to educate them on the process of city government, what is going on in the community, and also for them to give feedback as to what they would like to see Opelika become,” Patton said.
The current 20 under 40 class has toured Opelika Power Services to learn about the fiber network, as well as visited with a panel of representatives and principals of Opelika City Schools. “They just really know the inner workings of the city after going through the program … They grow in leadership ability, and it also helps with their public speaking,” Patton said. “They learn a great deal about the city, they also do interviews with department heads and come back and report to the whole group.”
To be considered for the 20 under 40 class, one must live in Opelika and be 40-years-old or younger by Dec. 31. Patton said the ideal candidate would be interested in the well-being of the city.
“This is the most exciting class – they’re just so involved and so engaged,” Patton said.
“I think it’s growing our potential leaders … The more you know about something, the better able you are to understand what’s happening and the better you can lead.”