Alexis Ehrhardt, Class of 2016
President & CEO, Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce
What is new and exciting with you now or since your time with Lead Virginia?
I transitioned into a new position with the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce. I am excited to bring my knowledge of community engagement, talent development and partner relations to the Chamber, and look forward to working with longtime partners and colleagues for the betterment of the Dan River Region. Additionally, I began serving as a member of the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, having been appointed by Governor McAuliffe.
How did Lead Virginia shape you as a leader?
Lead Virginia shaped my greater understanding of the Commonwealth, including the assets and challenges for each region as well as what is effecting each community within those regions. The opportunity to develop relationships with this group of change makers from across Virginia has been a very powerful experience.
Since Lead Virginia, how have you put your social capital to work?
Outside of the personal friendships that continue in and outside of my own region, I can point to my new role as an example. Since my selection, I have connected with several LEAD alumni and board members who have offered their support as I transition into the Chamber. Being a part of the LEAD community gives me access to many alumni in different fields who are ready and willing to offer their knowledge, advice and support for whatever role or position I am taking on.
What were your expectations of Lead Virginia prior to beginning the program? Did the program exceed or meet your expectations?
My expectations were relatively high based on other experiences of several people who had graduated from the program. I knew I would meet an incredible group of leaders in my class, and expected to learn a lot about economic development, health and wellness, and education initiatives and challenges in Virginia. That said, my expectations were exceeded in every way. Having the opportunity to tour places typically inaccessible to the general public, hear from local government officials and other professionals at the top of their fields was an incredible experience. My classmates and I developed relationships in the context of building social capital to make a stronger Virginia. I came away from the program excited about Virginia’s future, and how each of us will be able contribute to it.
What was your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from Lead Virginia that continues to stick with you today?
In many communities, I’ve noticed there is a tendency to reject ideas or models from other areas if the communities are different in terms of size and demographics. One of the most powerful takeaways for me was understanding how ideas and initiatives can be modified to fit the needs of a particular region. I’m not suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach to specific regional challenges, but rather an openness to what’s happening in other Virginia communities, whether they “look” like our own or not.