Leadership Burbank to Select 2021-22 Class

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Don St. Clair and Konstantine Anthony were among those who met with potential Leadership Burbank participants last week.

Leadership Burbank board members will begin the selection process for its 2021-22 class next week.

While the mission of Leadership Burbank is to identify, educate and motivate current and emerging leaders with the hope that they will go on to develop ideas and solutions to make Burbank a strong, sustainable and vibrant community, the program has proven to do more than that. Since its inception 25 years ago, Leadership Burbank has changed the lives of uncountable residents who may not even be aware that the program exists. It has also given participants far more than a broader knowledge of Burbank and the teaching of leadership skills.

This past week, the board gave its final invite for submittals and hosted a mixer for individuals interested in going through the nine-month program.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Michael and Jamie Keyser Thomas found love by participating in Leadership Burbank.

At the event hosted by Jamie Keyser Thomas, the executive director of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, and Don St. Clair, who has been a driving force behind the program since its inception, attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and express their desire to participate. They listened to testimony of program alumni and board members who shared stories of how Leadership Burbank has both changed their lives and those of others.   

With participation from a wide cross-section of the community that included representatives from local government, the Burbank Unified School District, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, the hospitality, marketing and entertainment industries, and the faith-based and nonprofit communities, the inspiring stories ranged from humorous to emotional.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Michael Escamilla hopes to be a part of the next Leadership Burbank class.

For some, going through the program inspired them to go back to school and pursue an advanced degree. For others, such as Burbank City Councilman Konstantine Anthony, it served as a springboard to successfully run for elected office, and for one couple, the aforementioned Keyser Thomas and her husband Michael Thomas, it was how they met in 2007 — a meeting that led to their 2011 marriage.

Perhaps of all the benefits the Leadership Burbank program offers, it is the opportunity it provides those involved to select and carry out a project that will have positive, significant and lasting impact on the city. Listen to anyone who has gone through the program and one of the things they will talk about is the project that was embraced by their class and the pride they exude in its accomplishment. That was certainly the case at last week’s mixer. 

Over the past quarter century, Leadership Burbank classes have refurbished the iconic “B” on Burbank’s hillside; coordinated a revitalization and landscape undertaking at the former facilities of the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and East San Fernando Valley; created a comfortable outdoor setting by updating landscaping and activity areas at the Joslyn Adult Center; and provided 31 violins for Burbank elementary school’s instrumental music instruction.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Leadership Burbank board members Susan Sebastian, Trena Pitchford, Stacey Klein and Mary Cutone were on hand to answer questions at last week’s mixer.

For attendee Michael Escamilla, the Leadership Burbank project that has meant the most to him was facility renovations at BCR: A Place to Grow, a nonprofit that serves members of the community who deal with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

Escamilla, who has served as a staff member of BCR for the past eight years, hopes to be selected for the upcoming program. He became emotional when he told last week’s assemblage of why he hopes to be a member of the class of 2021-22. 

“We had classrooms and a playground area that really needed work. In fact, some of the issues we had with our playground were actually hazardous,” Escamilla said. “We had hit a bump in the road when it came to doing those renovations. It just wasn’t in our budget. Then Leadership Burbank came in and helped us. It was great, and they will never know how much it has meant to us and those we serve on a daily basis, especially after the pandemic.”

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Alumni Terry Walker of the class of 2005 and Kevin Wahe of the 2020 class both shared their positive experiences in the program.

Escamilla’s voice slightly cracked as he continued, “When you see how much the new facilities mean to what we do at BCR, believe me, none us take any of it for granted. It has been an inspiration to me. I am the type of person who likes to give back to our community. When I see what Leadership Burbank did for us, I want to be a part of it and learn ways that I can give back to others.”

As for the project Escamilla hopes to do if accepted to this year’s class, which, according to St. Clair, will be more socially relevant to current day and future life in Burbank, the state, the nation and the world.

“Until I am a part of the class, I don’t really know how it actually all comes together,” he said. “But I’m really looking forward to finding out.”   

The 2021-22 class of Leadership Burbank will be announced next month with classes, which will be facilitated by former city manager Mary Alvord and former community development director Sue Georgino, beginning in September.

David Laurell may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.