The Quality of itís Leadership Will Determine the Future of the Greater Fort Smith Area

"The Quality of its Leadership Will Determine the Future of the Greater Fort Smith Area"

LFS Program



Each year Leadership Fort Smith selects a class of 25 individuals to participate in the Leadership Fort Smith program, which focuses on key community issues and leadership skills. The year begins with a leadership workshop followed by a two-day retreat. The program continues through nine sessions, including an additional skill-building workshop and ends with a final retreat.

The retreat focuses on team building and continued development of leadership skills including communication, coalition-building, problem solving, and conflict resolution.

Monthly daylong sessions offer solid, firsthand information and provide opportunities for dialogue about community issues including a history K-12 education, local government, higher education, law enforcement and the judicial process, economic development, multi-culturalism, health, human services, state government and education. The sessions are conducted by leaders in various fields, and these sessions attempt to address major issues in unique ways and exciting formats, which result in solutions and plans of action.

Click here to see the program schedule of the current Leadership Fort Smith class.


Leadership Fort Smith welcomes and encourages applications from men and women from all walks of life. Participants will ideally represent businesses, professions, organizations, government, education, and geographic areas throughout the region. Each year Leadership Fort Smith selects a class of 25 individuals who represent a cross section of the greater Fort Smith area. These individuals are selected on the basis of demonstrated leadership ability as well as evidence of community interest and commitment.

Successful candidates will exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Demonstrated commitment and motivation to effectively serve in the community and an expressed interest in community service
  • Demonstrated leadership ability in work and/or in community activities
  • Potential for advancement to leadership positions within the community


Tuition for the Leadership Fort Smith program is $1,500, and each applicant must pay at least $250 of the $1,500 tuition as a demonstration of his or her commitment to the program. Tuition is not meant to be a screening factor, and scholarships are available.


Participants in Leadership Fort Smith make a commitment of time, energy, and money. Nominees must have the full written approval of their employer or the organization they represent. In addition, attendance at all sessions is required; members may miss no more than four 1/2 days to graduate from the program.

The intent of Leadership Fort Smith is that graduates of the program make a commitment to continue their involvement in the community. This involvement may consist of serving on boards, working with various agencies, or undertaking a community project that addresses some identified need.


Leadership Fort Smith will expose participants to things about the region that they never knew and would likely never see otherwise. Take time to nominate worthy individuals for the next Leadership Fort Smith Class.  Self-nominations are also encouraged.

To nominate an individual for our program click here:

Leadership is the single most important ingredient needed to develop a thriving and successful region. The future of the greater Fort Smith area is more dependent than ever on our leaders’ quality, commitment, and ability to work together.


The purpose of  LEADERSHIP FORT SMITH is to provide a program that will build a competent leadership pool for the Greater Fort Smith Region, motivate emerging and existing leaders, and develop the participants for community leadership and decision-making by exposing them to the realities, opportunities, and problems in our metropolitan area.


  • Identify and select highly motivated potential/existing leaders each year to participate in the program
  • Systematically educate and challenge the participants as to the needs and opportunities of the community and the dynamics of social and economic change
  • Develop an esprit de corps among the participants to provide a common ground for working together on present and future community projects
  • Create a dialogue and rapport between the participants and existing community leadership
  • Stimulate within the participants an increased level of commitment and participation in the community
  • Develop a renewed sense of enthusiasm and “can-do” attitude in the community


Key leaders and organizations stepped forward to create the Leadership Fort Smith program.

In 1986, the editor of the Southwest Times Record wrote in his column:

Leadership training is badly needed. But we must remember that leadership training does not produce robots. Out of such efforts comes the ability of people to work together on one issue, while opposing one another on something else. Increased community awareness, discussion and interest in issues and candidates almost always provide positive results. And things do happen for the better. Until the people of this area are willing to accept the criticism, risks, failures, and victories that come from leadership, Fort Smith will be less of the city it can and should be. We urge people to get involved, learn the tools of leadership and use them effectively and positively.

Jack Moseley, who had been a participant in “Forum Fort Worth,” recommended that Westark Community College establish a community leadership development program. He also strongly urged the Chamber of Commerce to support such a program. As a result, a committee composed of Larry Clark, Strib Boynton, David Olive, Jack Moseley, Richard Sugg, Joel Stubblefield, and Sandi Sanders, was formed to create the program.

Dr. Sandi Sanders was designated as the executive director, and Westark, now the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, agreed to provide both the initial financial support and in-kind support. The Chamber of Commerce agreed to serve as co-sponsor. A board of directors was selected to oversee the program, and a part-time coordinator was hired. The budget was planned so that tuition would provide at least one-half the income with the remainder provided by contributions. The Whirlpool Corporation agreed to provide funding, and several companies agreed to sponsor individual sessions.

A year was spent in planning the program and, in August 1987, 25 participants began the first year of Leadership Fort Smith. Using the framework established by leadership programs in other cities, curriculum planners designed a year that included a spectrum of community issues. Participants attended a retreat, met for a series of sessions about the community, participated in forums and discussions, and graduated after approximately nine months of instruction and involvement.

Community Issues & Projects

As the program continued over the next ten years, Leadership Fort Smith graduates became involved in community issues and initiatives such as the Riverfront Development Project, the building of the new Fort Smith Public Library and its branch network, and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Trust. Other graduates had run for public office serving on the city board of directors, county quorum court and as state representatives, crediting their decision to serve in public office to their experience in Leadership Fort Smith. Curriculum changes were made from year to year according to input from participants. Several session topics were revised, skill-building sessions were added and additional emphasis was given to the servant leadership by the participants of the program. In 1997, Dr. Athena Russell assumed the role of executive director and continued what had then become a rich, ten-year history of Leadership Fort Smith.

Current Class Schedule

Leadership Fort Smith

Class of 2014 Session Schedule


Sessions on Thursdays unless noted



August 8                                  Orientation

August 13                                 New Class Reception

August 22                                Leadership Workshop

September 20-21 (Fri-Sat)        Opening Retreat

October 3                                 History

October 24                               Local Government

November 14                           P-12 Education

December 5                              Community Diversity


January 16                              Economic Development

February 6                              Law Enforcement & Judicial System

February 25 (Tues)               State Government

March 13                                 Health &Human Services

April 10                                   Higher Education at UAFS

April 24                                   Closing Session

May 1                                       Commencement Banquet

For Information about the LFS Program, contact:

            Barbara Harvel, Director

Phone: 479-788-7740


Or visit:


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