The Friday Report

Leadership Development Symposium Celebrates 13 Years of Building Better Leaders

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By Vita Vaughn, Director of Marketing and Communications/CMO, TEEX
After a one-year hiatus, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s Leadership Development Symposium returned to San Marcos, Texas, from May 17-19. The annual symposium, which this year celebrated its 13th year, offers an unmatched opportunity for education and leadership development of the Texas emergency response community.

Of the more than 1,000 attendees at this year’s symposium, 96% came from Texas, representing 51% of Texas counties. And San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens said the symposium is vital to the state of Texas.

“It fills a need that isn’t being filled anywhere else," he said. "We have certifications, formal education and fire service education conferences, but we don’t have anything fully devoted to building better leaders.”

This year, several sessions dealt with mental resilience, aligning with May’s Mental Health Awareness Month. This topic is vital to the first responder community, as responders are up to five times more likely to experience depression and PTSD, according to the Ruderman Foundation.

In addition, presenters from diverse backgrounds — academics, corporate leaders, veterans, medical professionals, entrepreneurs and motivational speakers — offered a wide range of perspectives on leadership, benefitting everyone in public service. Attendees heard from speakers such as YouTube influencer Jason Patton; business professor, veteran and entrepreneur Dr. Bridgette Chambers; Texas A&M University director of athletics Ross Bjork; Rob Mendez, coach, inspirational speaker and author; and Ron Derrick, corporate emergency manager for Whataburger Restaurants.

Lessons learned at the symposium often have an impact in the field, according to Brandon Wade Assistant Chief of Operations and Logistics for the Austin Fire Department.

“It’s rare that we go to an incident and our people can’t do the task," he said. "It’s not that they can’t throw the ladder or pull the hose line. It’s rarely the failure of the task. The issue is more often the failure of leadership and decision-making.”


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