SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In awe of her outgoing, gregarious new Leadership Sacramento classmates, Sacramento District planner and admitted introvert Kim Carsell wondered what she’d gotten herself into.
“I was exhausted at the end of every day of our first few meetings,” she said, laughing. “I was thinking, how am I going to get through this year? I’m in the wrong place.”
Now, after graduating from the program Dec. 13 and helping complete its largest community service project ever, Carsell said she feels like a different person.
“I really developed an ability to network engage with a large group that I didn’t before,” she said. “I have this sense of investment and pride in the community that I didn’t have prior to this class. I’m truly grateful to have had this opportunity to grow personally and professionally and I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned.”
Leadership Sacramento is a program of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, designed to develop civic leaders. It’s a year-long program, exposing participants one day each month to experts on the issues and challenges facing the Sacramento region. Each class also completes a community service project.
The program is highly selective, and normally filled with metro chamber members organizations. But the district’s leadership encouraged Carsell, who coordinates the district’s LDP Tier III phase, to apply.
“It’s a very established program, it’s been around for many years, so we wanted to see what we could learn from them,” she said.
Lots, it turns out. During the course of the year, her class of 35 fellow community leaders heard from more than 125 leading experts on the region, its history, economy and social issues.
Carsell was especially challenged, she said, by the community service project. Her class was taken with the idea of helping solidify Sacramento’s regional identity as a capital of food and agriculture, and partnered with a local non-profit called Soil Born Farms to improve their educational facilities. Soil Born Farms’ mission is to educate communities about where their food comes from. Within the year, Carsell’s class planned, designed, funded and built an outdoor amphitheater for the group’s Rancho Cordova farm. It was Leadership Sacramento’s largest-ever community service project.
“I’ve never asked anybody for a dollar in my life,” Carsell said. “So I thought this was a really good opportunity to learn from some pretty seasoned fundraisers.” Co-leading the fundraising effort, Carsell helped the group secure $295,000 in cash and in-kind contributions for the project.
Her experience is already paying off for the district’s LDP Tier III classes. Carsell led a retreat modeled on Leadership Sacramento’s for the class earlier in the year, giving them a crucial early bonding experience, and coordinated for them to observe the chamber’s state legislative summit. She’s also exploring ways to further incorporate the program’s seminar-type sessions with outside experts to better connect the district’s future leaders with the communities they serve, and is working to create a community service phase of LDP. She plans to brief district leadership on more recommendations in the coming months.
But her participation is benefitting Leadership Sacramento, too.
Carsell’s job is planning flood risk reduction projects, and she also serves as the district’s alternate flood risk management program coordinator. She hopes her professional perspective on Sacramento’s flood risk and what can be done to reduce it can help inform future participants about the importance of the problem.
“Many people in this class had no idea about flooding, that they lived in an area that had significant flood risk,” she said. “So I’m going to make a big push to see if I can get that incorporated into future classes. It doesn’t have to be scary. There’s a lot that’s being done to help make people safer, and there’s a lot they can do to help themselves be safe. And I really want to help get that message out.”
She also plans to step up her personal community involvement. “You have this understanding of the community that you didn’t have before,” she said. “So I think you’re much more likely, once you know the need, to step up and get involved.”
A long-time volunteer at a local wildlife rescue organization, Carsell said she’d like to take on more of a leadership role now, “maybe serve on committees or the board, step up from following to leading.”
With the new connections she’s made, for the first time since she moved to California from Colorado a decade ago, Carsell said she feels like she belongs here now.
“I’ve lived here 10 years, and I’ve been saying, I’ve never done that, I don’t know about that, I’m new. I still considered myself new,” she said. “I don’t anymore. I really consider myself integrated into the community. I feel like this is home now.”