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LeadAR Fellowship, Food, and Fun in Hot Springs

by Lisa Davis - July 28, 2021

LeadAR Class 19 class members received a warm and informative welcome when they began their third face-to-face seminar at Hot Springs City Hall on July 22, 2021.Photo collage of LeadAR Class 19 in Hot Springs

Several Hot Springs city officials met with the class including Mayor Pat McCabe, City Manager Bill Burrough, City Director Karen Garcia (LeadAR Class 13), City Director Erin Holliday, Utilities Director Monte Ledbetter, Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Whittington, and Community Development Block Grant Administrator Michelle Sestili.

They shared information about the City of Hot Springs and provided tours of the David Watkins Park, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Solar Farm, Veterans Memorial, Farmers Market, and sculpture garden in the Greenway Trail.

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One participant noted in the class evaluation, “Honestly I loved the CDBG discussion! Michelle Sestili did a fantastic job making CDBG interesting and explaining the program and how they utilize it as a city. I also think the City Manager, Bill Burrough, did a great job on his presentation, and I was very interested to hear about how Hot Springs is planning for the future infrastructure wise.”

Lunch took place at Crystal Ridge Distillery and sponsors included John Hoefl (LeadAR Class 13), Aspire Wealth Builders, and Jo West Taylor (LeadAR Class 8), a retired county treasurer. Later, class members participated in a poverty simulation conducted by staff at the University of Central Arkansas Community Development Institute. The day culminated with a dinner hosted by Garcia and the Arkansas Association of LeadAR Alumni (AALA) and attended by Class 19 and several LeadAR alumni.

Day two kicked off with a Southern Bancorp breakfast and briefing followed by a tour of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and Arts, also known as ASMSA. Extension's Emily Smith and Dr. Julie Robinson, associate professor and LeadAR Director discussed community project planning.

Lunch the second day took place at Oaklawn and was sponsored by Garcia and Oaklawn. Class members then toured the new facilities and horse stables on the property. The class returned to ASMSA for a presentation from Rachel Bearden, Hot Spring County staff chair, and a final seminar debrief.

This seminar could not have happened without the commitment and dedication of LeadAR alums: Karen Garcia, Jo West Taylor, and John Hoefl. They organized an interesting, informative, and fun LeadAR seminar for Class 19. We send a special thanks for their efforts.

For more information about LeadAR, visit the website or contact Robinson at or Lisa Davis at