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Sponsored by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce, Community Leadership Service’s mission is to inspire participants to make a difference through leadership and volunteerism by building sustaining relationships that add value and vibrancy to the greater Williamsburg area via a behind-the-scenes view of area organizations and engagement with key leaders.  Our participants are accomplished individuals who are retired from full-time careers and looking to leverage their talents in the Greater Williamsburg area can apply for CLS Class of 2024. 

We value:

  • Community Engagement
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Education
  • Innovation and Flexibility
  • Mentorship
  • Volunteerism


Community Leadership Service (CLS) has its roots in the Leadership Historic Triangle (LHT) program. The concept of a leadership program to help develop community leaders was proposed by Chamber Executive Vice President Bob Hershberger. In late 1992, the Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce board of directors approved LHT. The first LHT class was recruited, and it graduated in 1994. Chamber consultants Pete and Nan Cruikshank coordinated the biennial LHT for over a decade.

The talk about forming the CLS program began with a suggestion from a member of the 1999 LHT class, Roy Snyder, and continued with LHT 2003 class members Sallie Melvin and Robert Yacobi. LHT program coordinators Pete and Nan developed an overview for the Community Leadership Service program and the Chamber board approved it to operate as a condensed version of LHT in its off year.

Ellie Wade, a member of the first CLS class continued to help Pete following Nan’s passing in 2014. Robert Hershberger assumed the role of program coordinator in 2014, at Pete’s passing.

As preparations were underway in 2014 for the 2015 LHT class, the program changed its name LHT to LEAD. There had been some misconceptions regarding the “Leadership” term, as the curriculum was not designed to teach leadership, but rather to provide opportunities for recognized and emergent leaders to collaborate on issues of importance in the region. While LEAD is not an acronym, it was chosen to give the program a more action name, as the emphasis is on leading.

The CLS program, targeted to area newcomers, retirees and those about to retire, took its roots from the LHT curriculum, covering the same topic areas, modified to meet the needs of the new program. The CLS curriculum was designed to be presented over an 11-week timeframe in the winter, rather than the monthly layout of LHT. The first CLS class, recruited in 2004/2005, graduated in 2006, and initiated the CLS Alumni group.

As a fledgling program, the early CLS classes operated on a shoestring budget. CLS graduates formed an operating committee to build up financial and human resources to run the program effectively.

Between 2006 and 2020, 128 program participants graduated, and many have participated in alumni events and as part of the operating committee. CLS graduates often take on volunteer leadership roles in the community and alumni are serving today in over 30 organizations in the greater Williamsburg area. Unfortunately, there was no 2022 class due to due to conflicts arising from the pandemic.

Unlike LEAD, the CLS program does not involve a class project. However, alum of the first two classes saw the need to connect area retirees with organizations needing their help and expertise. They developed an online service: to match retiree skills with non-profit needs and vice versa. This website is still in operation today.  The Class of 2018 donated $1,000 toward the purchase of a 3D printer for use in the Makerspace program at D.J. Montague Elementary School. The Class of 2020 Donated $1000 to the Williamsburg House of Mercy and $1000 to the Williamsburg Music Club Scholarship Foundation. The CLS Operating Committee made a matching donation of $500 to the Williamsburg House of Mercy.


CLS Board of Directors is an all-volunteer organization consisting of CLS alumni. The eight-to-ten-member board provides oversight and support for the overall operation of CLS. Members serve a twoyear term, beginning in June of each evennumbered year, currently no term limits.


Eloise Branden, ‘18, Board Chair

Jim Burkhardt ‘12, Immediate Past Chair


Melinda Morgan, ’18, Chair

Barbara McFarland, ‘20, Vice Chair


Jim O’ Reardon, ‘16, Chair

Marketing and Recruiting

Ron Johnson, ’16, Chair

Marion Reef, ’20, Vice Chair

Strategic Planning

Jack Wagner, ’16, Chair

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LEAD Greater Williamsburg &
Community Leadership Service (CLS) Greater Williamsburg

Encouraging, Enriching, and Supporting Community Leaders in Greater Williamsburg

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