Nearing the end of a weeklong, 26-city tour across Kansas, representatives of the Kansas Leadership Center stopped by Garden City Friday morning to talk about the city’s assets and organization’s programs.

The tour was in part to introduce locals to what the center has to offer, said Director of Creative Technologies Thane Chastain, but mainly a vehicle for conversation with many diverse communities. Similar conversations helped the center build its curriculum years ago. Ideally this year, they will help it learn how to adapt its programs and increase the opportunity for meaningful partnerships, he said.

“We just wanted to listen and hear what’s going on in every community, knowing that every community is different but that they have similar things. We want to just be able to go out and listen ... Just to go around the state and say what makes leadership hard and what kind of leadership is necessary,” Chastain said.

At the Garden City stop, Chastain first asked the approximately 30 attendees, including representatives from the LiveWell Finney County Health Coalition, City of Garden City, Finney County, Spirit of the Plains CASA and Garden City USD 457, among other groups, what was special about the place they chose to call home.

Attendees said Garden City was made great by its people, who are eager to work together and accept ethnic diversity as a strength. The city is a larger small town with a lot going on. Small businesses can start up and thrive, unemployment is low and the school system, early childhood programs and healthcare initiatives are strong. The community is self-reliant, progressive, generous and a good home to young families.

While the conversations in urban communities generally turns to large-scale development, Chastain said rural ones instead showed pride in their area’s history and show interest in growing their education programs. Western Kansans especially seemed to emphasize what felt like a natural integration of their ethnically diverse populations.

The discussions have direct impacts on KLC’s future plans, he said. The center recently shortened the length of its conferences in response to attendees who could not afford to take off that amount of work and will begin offering some of its classes in Spanish, potentially in Garden City, he said.

A Garden City attendee noted Friday morning that many rural workers work constantly, holding down two to three jobs, and may find it harder to find time for KLC events and those like it. Chastain said information like that is incredibly valuable. It alerted the KLC to barriers it needs to address.

When rounding out the seminar, Chastain asked attendees to share leadership advice. Locals said leaders share their opinion, especially to people in power, and always listen to different perspectives. They said it is important to build relationships across the community, take risks, ask for help, keep learning and recognize small victories amidst slow and steady progress.

Leadership Garden City, a partner of the KLC, is currently accepting registration for a local four-month leadership course this fall, where 20 participants meet every other week from August to November. The full course costs $495, with scholarship options for those representing nonprofits. Registration is open until Aug. 1 at

The KLC itself offers grants, educational materials and training, among other services. For more information, visit


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