Leadership Frederick: Focus on community, leadership, and connections

Each year for the last 35 years several dozen people with connections to local businesses or community organizations are selected to participate in Leadership Frederick County.
May 3, 2024

Each year for the last 35 years several dozen people with connections to local businesses or community organizations are selected to participate in Leadership Frederick County. 

The program is for professionals who live or work in the county and are interested in learning more about it. If selected, participants pay about $3,000 in tuition and take leadership master classes, participate in workshops, and focus on personal growth and professional development. 

Participants come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and expertise, and represent a variety of industries, such as healthcare, government, finance, education, nonprofits and commercial industries. 

Each participant has a different reason to be part of the program, but there are three primary benefits that every individual who embarks on this journey gains: community, leadership and connections.


Steve Heine, president and chief executive officer of Woodsboro Bank, was a member of Leadership Frederick in 2001 2002. He participated in a similar program in Albany, New York, so he had a sense of the program before starting. 

“These community leadership programs are similar in title and scope, but all are a little different,” he said.

Joining the program aligned with his personal mission of being involved in the community, he said. 

“I have always been a community-focused person. And each of us has a responsibility to make Frederick better,” Heine said. 

Heine said Leadership Frederick introduces participants to the various facets of the county in a very efficient way. Typically one day each month, participants spend a day focusing on a particular theme or topic important to the community. Themes include local history, education, health and human services, government, agriculture, quality of life and economic development. 

Each session resonates with class members differently. Agriculture was Heine’s favorite session.

 “I enjoyed learning about the business operating model of the farm we went to,” he said. “The scale, the history, the science of it — I didn’t have that knowledge [before].”

Tamika Thrasher was running her own business and serving as the interim chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Frederick when she applied for Leadership Frederick. (She has since removed the interim from her title and been named the CEO by the board). 

Winter 2024 Frederick Business Quarterly 21 Leadership Frederick “I had been encouraged to go through the program for a while,” she said. “As I’ve been more involved in the community, it made sense and the encouragement from others helped.” 

Government Day was a favorite for Thrasher: “I thought I knew everything, but I got to see a different side.” 

Holly Schor, a member of the Class of 2023, moved to Frederick during the pandemic, which made it difficult to connect with people in her new community. She had heard a lot about Leadership Frederick and saw it as an opportunity to quickly immerse herself in Frederick County.

 “I put equal weight between the business component and personal development opportunity,” she said.

She enjoyed a number of the content days, including History Day: “You know when you come into town that this is a unique place, but I was able to get all the rich history that day.”

As vice president of operations for Goodwill Industries of the Monocacy Valley, she also appreciated Health and Human Services Day, she said. 


Leadership Frederick is a program of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has partnered with Hood College in order to enhance the leadership component.

Photos courtesy of the Frederick Chamber of Commerce istockphoto.com/smartboy10 “The program is a wonderful laboratory for learning about leadership,” Heine said. “Leadership is a complex topic, but through the shared experience, you observe other people’s approach to leadership as well as their own awareness of who they are. That allowed me to reflect on who I am.” 

Thrasher also saw the program as a great leadership opportunity. “I learned about how leaders lead and how leaders evolve,” she said. “There are a lot of different ways to become a leader.”

She said the program can make participants more intuitive leaders. 

“There were a number of ‘Aha moments’ for me,” she said. 

Sometimes you don’t know you need something until you are in it, according to Schor. She appreciated the opportunity Leadership Frederick provides to take a look at herself and to reflect on her skill sets. 


The cohort model of Leadership Frederick means that each class spends several hours per month together, developing close knit relationships with each other. 

“As an adult, trying to make friends is sometimes difficult,” Schor said. “The way the program is designed forces you to get vulnerable quickly. And you learn quickly that the one thing everyone has in common is that we all care about the community we live in.” 

At the beginning of the program, Thrasher said she knew about 20% of her classmates. 

“You really build relationships with many others,” Thrasher said. “I now consider more than half of them genuine friends that I can reach out to anytime.”

More than 20 years later, Heine said he remains connected with some of the individuals in his Leadership Frederick class. 

After the class graduates, members become part of an alumni network and many choose to stay involved in the program by attending alumni events. Heine, who serves on the chamber’s executive board, tries to send one or two emerging leaders from Woodsboro Bank through the program each year. 

Schor also encourages colleagues to participate in the program. In addition, she wants to stay involved in supporting a content day and participate in the Leaders on Loan program, which pairs class members with a local nonprofit to work on a particular problem or need of the organization.

Leadership Frederick has a robust group of alumni who not only give back to the program, but also are leaders who are giving back to the place where they live, work and play.

Schor recommends the program to anyone. “It has a ton of value… where else can you learn about your community, yourself, and others in one place?” 

If you are interested in understanding the Frederick community better, developing or fine-tuning your leadership capabilities, or growing your network, consider joining the next cohort. Applications for the 2024-25 class will be accepted starting in February.

 For more information, visit frederickchamber.org/leadership-frederick

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