As with each Leadership Kenosha meeting thus far, December’s packed a lot of information and activities into one day. Our theme for the day was “trust rules”, and we had the objectives of increasing our understanding of local government, identifying pathways to local government leadership, and exploring implicit bias and its effect on leadership. After such a full day, I think we can safely say, “check, check, and check”. Whew!

After an entertaining start to our day by Leadership Kenosha 2020-2021 cohort members Tendayi Esquilin and Caesar Garcia (who stumped us on trivia about past U.S. presidents), Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian joined us to speak to us about issues and plans for the city as well as to take questions from the LK 20-21 cohort. He addressed the racial issues in the community and the resulting protests and riots this summer, development on the western end of Kenosha, the central part of the city, downtown, Uptown, and the Chrysler site. He also fielded questions regarding quality of life (which included some lighthearted banter about how he continues to approve bike lanes around the city despite he himself not being particularly fond of them), the Lincoln Park area, food deserts, and his favorite spots around Kenosha (response: he’s been heeding Covid safety precautions, and, outside of his mayoral duties, doesn’t get out and about much these days, though he, too, is looking forward to that ending).

Taking the baton from the mayor was Jerry Gulley, Kenosha County Board of Supervisors, District 16. He highlighted the importance of voting in local elections, of knowing who your local representatives are, and of reaching out to them to let them know when you agree (or disagree!) with them. From Jerry’s presentation, we segued into a local government panel. Joining Jerry were: Town of Brighton Chair, Susan Crane; Kenosha Common Council Member, Anthony Kennedy; Kenosha County Board Chair, John O’Day; and Village of Somers President, George Stoner. They each addressed why they decided to run for office, whether they see local government addressing equity and inclusion, as well as trust and overcoming polarization. Given their very different constituencies, it was interesting to compare their perspectives on wide-ranging issues. Finally, the panel fielded questions from LK members.

After a full morning, the majority of our afternoon was spent with Marvin Bembry’s presentation entitled Implicit Bias and Leadership. Marvin is the President of MKB Leadership Transformation, the Executive Director of the John Maxwell Team, and a member of the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce. We had the pleasure of listening to Marvin speak two months ago at the Chamber’s annual meeting, and he again provided much food for thought. Marvin has been training people in diversity and inclusion since the 1990s and believes there has never been such a wide-open door for these discussions. He challenged us regarding biases and facilitated our own reflection, which made for a stimulating experience. Perhaps the most thought-provoking of all his statements, in my opinion, was when he told us that unconscious bias is hard-wired in all of us via culture, mass media, family, etc.; thus, as leaders, it is incumbent on us to understand who we are and what we stand for. I, for one, look forward to learning from Marvin again in a few months!

– Jillian Frideres

Leadership Kenosha — December 2020