Giving Back, Changing Lives


David Dorle

David Dorle

by David Dorlé

When we discovered Naples in the early 90s, we never thought we’d get used to its beauty, its friendly business environment and its generous citizenry. Little by little, we did get used to it and, I’m ashamed to admit, we occasionally take it for granted. But leave Naples, even for a day or so, and the splendor calls out to you on your return like an old friend welcoming you home.

To paraphrase an Irish saying, “If you’re lucky enough to live in Naples, you’re lucky enough.” For most of us, no analysis or examination is requested or required, but if you were to dig a little deeper, you’d find that the underpinnings of this great county seat lie squarely in the Leadership Collier™ program.

If this seems too broad a claim, consider that no other organization, public or private, can rival the numbers, diversity, experience and, most profoundly, the volunteer involvement in this community than the 1300 Leadership Collier Foundation™ Alumni.

Of course, this was not the case back in 1986 when Mike McComas and Scott Salley first heard about a similar program in Tampa.

“Here we had all these great people in Naples,” remembers McComas, “the founders of our community really, and they were starting to pass away one by one with no one prepared to stand up and take their place. We realized, we have to grow new leaders and those new leaders must know what has come before and learn at the feet of the masters.”

“We thought we might have difficulty setting up the programs and getting attendees because it was all an unproven,” noted Scott Salley. “We were basically saying, ‘We’re going to take you around town to show you how things work and to expose you to the people who run them and you’re going to pay us for the privilege,’ but the funny thing was, it wasn’t that tough.

“We were able to get all of our days set up, half days then, because we feared we wouldn’t be able to get attendees to agree to full days in that first year, and we seemed to have no trouble finding interested people willing to pay for the program.

“Before we even launched the inaugural class (1988-89), it was no longer us chasing them, it was them asking us, ‘How can I get in the next class?’”

Today, the structure is a seven month (September through March) annual program sponsored by the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.

Each Leadership Collier™ ‘class’ is comprised of 40-42 residents of Collier County who are chosen for their leadership qualities and their commitment to the business, social, charitable and environmental community.

The program consists of 10 full-day sessions or visits, each devoted to a specific function of the County: Government, Law Enforcement, Arts and Media, Commerce, Environment, Agriculture, Human Services, Education, Growth Management and Health Care. The current tuition is $2100 which includes transportation to the sites, breakfast and lunch, and your first year of alumni dues.

In return, class members are exposed up close and personal to the working organizations of our community.

They tour backstages, newsrooms, farm fields, factories, landfills, jails, courtrooms, council chambers, studios, hospitals, but more importantly, they are able to meet and ask questions of the people who actually run these organizations, i.e., the people responsible for the very fabric of this community. And more often than not, they themselves are Leadership Collier graduates.

The result is a new crop of potential leaders every year, just as McComas and Salley had envisioned from the start.

Inherent to the process, classmates become quite close, having gone through a rite-de-passage of sorts. In many cases, those relationships evolve into life long friendships. It is common for classmates to refer business back and forth, ask advise and favors of each other, even form subgroups to achieve any number of objectives in the community.

And while each class may proudly proclaim theirs to be “the Best Class”, all realize that they are a part of a much larger alumni with connections emanating deep and wide from the heart this community to sectors throughout the State.

What’s more, the power of the original organization has spawned similar Leadership programs such as Growing Associates in Naples™  (GAIN™), Youth Leadership Collier™, Campaign for Leadership™ and Leadership Institute™. So next time you’re out and about and it hits you that this really is – as the Chamber touts – the best place to live, work, play and visit, think of Leadership Collier™. If you’re an alumnus, take pride. If you’re not, consider applying for the next class.

Speaking from experience, Leadership Collier™ will not only help you find your place in this great community, but it will change your life in positive ways you never could have imagined, ways that will stay with you for years to come.

For detailed information about all of these programs, please visit:

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