by Liz Leighton

Leadership Whatcom is a program developed by the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry to help prepare the next generation of active leaders for Whatcom County. Through this program, participants learn techniques to strengthen their leadership skills, gain awareness of regional issues, and build networks across Whatcom County communities.

This is an 11-month program wherein participants commit to meet once per month at various Whatcom County locations to learn a wide variety of leadership approaches from guest experts while gaining insight into the multifaceted issues facing our community.

We caught up with several graduates of the 2016 Leadership Whatcom and asked them to share their experiences:


Lydia David, Director of Housekeeping for Springhill Suites, Marriott,  says, “I still think about the concepts I learned. The program made my transition from a supervisor to a manager much easier.”  She has been trying out various leadership techniques in the workplace to see what works best with her staff, as different people respond to different leadership styles.  She says “I wish the program lasted longer than the 11 months so I could keep learning and receive additional training.”

Not originally from  Whatcom County, this program has given Lydia a much stronger desire to be involved in the community, and has solidified her commitment to Whatcom County.  She has volunteered at the Senior Activity Center, and says, “ I am currently looking for further volunteer opportunities, and would love to serve on a Board of Directors in order to give back to the community. “


Heather Flaherty, the Ops Director at Raptor Group also found that the program broadened her perspective of Whatcom County and the community. She serves on the Board of Directors at WAHA (Washington Alliance for Health Advancement), and volunteers at the Opportunity Council, the City Club, and the Whatcom Volunteer Center.

Heather says, “The program has assisted me in identifying resources, honed my soft skills, and has helped me to better navigate conversations in the workplace.”


 Ray Deck, III is a founding director at Skookum Kids, a nonprofit organization helping disadvantaged foster kids. He also volunteers on a committee of Foster Parents who communicate with the State regarding foster care issues. Ray says, “I made quite a few friends in the training, and we stay in touch, as we’ve all run in parallel circles since the program.

Ray says “Leadership Whatcom has helped me in two major ways:  depth of skill, and breadth of knowledge.  Depth of skill is the strong training that has forced me to think about many on-the-job topics in a broader scope than I would have without the training; and the breadth of knowledge aspect has allowed me to see beyond the “bubble” of Bellingham, into the agricultural and industrial communities of Whatcom County, and to meet a wider diversity of people.”

In order to participate in this program, community residents must be at least 18 years of age, submit an application and go through a selection process.  Finalists are contacted for interviews, and their references are contacted. There is a fee for the program, which many employers will assist with.

You too, could benefit from the lessons of Leadership Whatcom. The  Leadership Whatcom class of 2018 will begin accepting applications in January 2018. You can find more information and the application at or call us anytime at 360-734-1330.