Leadership Garrett County Focuses on Heritage and Tourism



McHenry, MD – The inaugural Leadership Garrett County class met on February 15 at the Garrett Information Enterprise Center (GIEC) building on the Garrett College campus. The day’s sessions were dedicated to heritage and tourism topics relative to the county. Mike Tumbarello, Director of Garrett College Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Leadership Garrett County, welcomed all in attendance for breakfast and networking, then introduced the first of the day’s speakers. Jodi McClintock, representing the Small Business Development Center in the GIEC, facilitated an interactive discussion on leadership. She introduced the class to the 3 C’s of life: choices, chances, and changes and emphasized that clear communication on behalf of leaders is “vital to making things happen”. She reviewed the differences between incidental and fundamental changes and processed barriers to both. The class members engaged with McClintock in identifying traits and characteristics of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ leaders, which is helpful in identifying both strengths and ‘learning edges’ of emerging leaders in a process of self-reflection. She also offered nuggets of wisdom that her mentors have shared with her during her career, which have helped her to grow into a mature, knowledgeable, experienced leader in her own right. One of her favorite quotes is: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”. 

Following the presentation, the class was transported by bus to downtown Oakland where Michelle Ross was waiting at the B&O Museum. Representing the Greater Oakland Business Association, Ross gave an informative overview of the many different and distinct designations that Oakland has been awarded over the years including Main Street, Heritage, Historical, among others. She explained the value of such designations and how they have contributed to ongoing efforts to re-vitalize the town and surrounding areas. As many class members are transplants to the area, she was able to provide historical context the progress that Oakland has made to date, including both battles and successes. She was able to provide extensive background on the process of re-branding the town a number of years ago, and how it has proven an effective promotional tool to increase tourism in Oakland. She voiced enthusiasm regarding ongoing efforts and top priorities as the city moves forward to becoming a destination in and of itself. Ross emphasized the need for strong leadership and teamwork in order to tackle any large project and encouraged members to personally get involved with economic development organizations. She invited the class to tour the B&O Museum, followed by the Transportation Museum – a true Garrett County treasure. Only about half of the class had ever visited the museums previously and were impressed with the quality and quantity of historical artifacts that are preserved and open to the public.

After lunch, the class enjoyed a presentation on owning, operating and leading a tourism business in the county by Mike Dreisbach and Jan Russel, representing Savage River Lodge and Little Crossings, LLC. This team revealed the trajectory of their professional and personal lives, including the struggles, setbacks, and barriers to making their dreams a reality. As established leaders, they were committed to their shared mission, vision and philosophy. It was clear to all present that they are committed to their shared values including sustainability, a commitment to preserving natural resources, and using local resources whenever possible. Evident, too, is their commitment to Garrett County by the breadth and width of giving back to the community on many different levels. The take-home message from these two outstanding citizens is to stay true to your mission and vision and to be persistent in the face of opposition.

Ashlee Boyd, fellow Leadership Garrett County inaugural class member, offered a presentation on behalf of Garrett County Trails. As Executive Director of the organization, she proudly discussed the ‘state of the union’ of all trails in the county to date – 30 of them!  She also talked more in depth about the progress on the Eastern Continental Divide Loop Trail, a 150 mile, multi-surface, multi-user trail project that is nearing actualization. She has been on the job for only the last five months and is excited about opportunities to share information about Garrett County Trails with small and large groups and organizations throughout the county. She also encouraged class members to consider leadership opportunities through volunteering at Garrett Trails sponsored events including Taste of Garrett Trails, Garrett County Gran Fondo, and Race up the Face.

Next, Jen Durben, representing the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, shared a presentation on heritage tourism within the county. She explained that Garrett County was one of 13 heritage areas across the state and how it met criteria for that designation in five separate areas. She encouraged class members to consider getting involved in future opportunities to sit on the Board, in addition to serving on different workgroups. She concluded with discussing the mini-grant application process for organizations interested in participating in highlighting the county regarding heritage tourism. Sarah Duck provided the second half of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce presentation, by reviewing data and statistics on tourism in the county and how vital that industry is, economically and financially, to county residents. Tourism is the 10th largest industry in Garrett County and generates $347 million dollars in direct and indirect income for businesses and residents.  She invited anyone interested to participate in the Chamber’s marketing roundtable, held every other month.

The class ended on a high note, as Bill Meagher from Lakeside Creamery presented his personal philosophy on leadership. He graciously provided ice cream and popcorn from Lakeside Creamery and the Popcorn Factory for the entire class. He shared his story about how he came to own a number of businesses in the county. He invited the class to dialogue with him, and with one another, regarding county-specific considerations to owning and operating a business, as well as characteristics and qualities of successful leaders. He generously shared resources that are aimed at motivating others and mentoring employees. Meagher explained his process of employee evaluation – using peer feedback, as well as a guided self-evaluation and how that tool has been largely effective for improving performance and increasing employee satisfaction within the company. He also called emerging leaders to be good examples and role models, to treat everyone with respect, and never stoop to personal attacks when you disagree with someone else’s views or ideas. As a leader, he revealed that he constantly questions himself and is always striving to improve – no matter what! 

The inaugural year of Leadership Garrett County will continue through April’s session, with recruitment for the second class, scheduled to run from October 2017 through April 2018, to begin this July. Alumni will have a part in future class events and activities. For information about Leadership Garrett County, persons may contact Mike Tumbarello at 301-387-3167 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .