Tue, Jan. 21

Verde Valley Leadership – Experiences are endless

MATForce Director Merilee Fowler addresses Verde Valley Leadership Class IX. (Courtesy photo)

MATForce Director Merilee Fowler addresses Verde Valley Leadership Class IX. (Courtesy photo)

Class XI of Verde Valley Leadership (VVL) has been very busy over the past two months attending community events, meeting local leaders shaping the Verde Valley, and getting a glimpse of where they too can make a difference. Class XI is a group of young leaders focused on the future of their communities and how to solve the regional issues we all face.

In October, Class XI took a look into our economic future attending the Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization (VVREO) Annual Speaker Series, The Verde Valley – Success In Action, economic state of the region.

The event was well attended by the Valley’s Economic Development Directors, economic experts, and local businesses and civic groups. The presentation was also an opportunity to network with leaders addressing the regional concerns of class members.

At their first issue day, Class XI explored community topics such as youth, economic development, art, and concerns over drugs in our community. In addressing these concerns Class XI was given the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with the Economic Development Directors for our community, and presentations by MATForce, Kids at Hope, and Verde Valley Artist, Joan Bourque.

In addition to issue days, members of VVL attend field trips throughout Arizona. In November Class XI enjoyed a kayak trip on the Verde River, moderated by Clarkdale Mayor, Doug Von Gausig, also of the Verde River Institute.

This is not your average kayak trip. The Mayor talks about the fragile eco system of the river, explains its history and its value to Arizonans as the only flowing perennial river left in Arizona. Another field trip attended by members of the class was the “Toast to Tourism” held at the Blaz’n M Ranch in Cottonwood.

Presentations by the Arizona Office of Tourism and Global Sustainable Tourism Council expressed the value of the Verde Valley and how it has become “the” place to create experiences. With its rich history, the Verde River, beautiful red rock formations, and successful wine industry, the Verde Valley has become an ideal vacation destination. Visit and find out how partnering with National Geographic has introduced the whole world to the Verde Valley.

VVL offers class members “Toolbox Training” such as presentation skills. Al Filardo, of the Filardo Group, Inc. conducted this year’s training on how to give a professional presentation. The class participated in activities designed to make you more comfortable presenting in front of a group.

As stated by Filardo, the majority of people would rather die than give a presentation. The training culminated with a ten minute presentation prepared by each class member, and critiqued by Filardo and the VVL Board of Directors.

Experiences through the Verde Valley Leadership Program are endless. If you are interested in learning more about our community and getting in on the valuable opportunities like Class XI (and this is just the beginning for them), please contact President-Elect, Tammy Yoakum at

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