8 fast facts I learned at Leadership Charlotte’s one-day immersion program ENCOUNTER

8 fast facts I learned at Leadership Charlotte’s one-day immersion program ENCOUNTER
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Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend Leadership Charlotte’s one-day immersion program ENCOUNTER. This slimmed down version of their flagship 10-month program is designed as a high-level introduction to the city of Charlotte for newcomers or residents who want to get involved. “It’s like a backstage pass to what it really means to live in Charlotte,” said Executive Director Elizabeth McKee during the kickoff.

Leadership Charlotte

Leadership Charlotte was founded in 1978 by UNC Charlotte professor Schley Lyons. Since then more than 1,800 people have completed the program.

Our day started with a keynote and tour of the Levine Museum with Tom Hanchett followed by presentations and panels from leaders in each of five categories that define a healthy, vibrant city.


Education: CMS Superintendent Ann Clark, UNC Charlotte professor Dr. Roslyn Mickelson, Public School Forum of North Carolina Program Director James Ford

Health & Human Services: Crisis Assistance Ministry CEO Carol Hardison, Community Link CEO Floyd Davis, CMPD Community Engagement Major Bruce Bellamy

Arts & Culture: Arts & Science Council VP of Communications Krista Terrell

Environment: City of Charlotte Energy & Sustainability Manager Rob Phocas, Bank of America Environmental Operations Executive Lisa Shpritz

Economy: City of Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Bob Morgan

Charlotte NC

We also went on a high-stakes public art photo scavenger hunt (fun and cutthroat) and wrapped up the day with a bonus Government Involvement closing session from City of Charlotte Assistant City Manager Hyong Yi (possibly favorite human). His talk consisted of a Charlotte government quiz that I shamefully bombed (8 out of 15 questions right) and a quirky but inspiring reminder that if we focus on the lovability of Charlotte, its livability will follow.

Leadership Charlotte scavenger hunt

The day was an overwhelming flood of information that McKee hopes will inspire us to go forward in action. “I hope this day was like a mosquito bite for you,” she said. “I hope something bit you on the neck and that it bothers you until you do something about it.”

There is a much bigger picture than what I’m about to paint here, but while I let the dust settle on the stampede of information that came flying at my head yesterday, here are eight fast facts I jotted down during the talks.

64 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools have student bodies of 75% poverty or more. 6 of those schools have 100% poverty rates. There are 5,200 homeless children enrolled in CMS. Superintendent Clark urged us to invite our friends who teach in other cities to move here to Charlotte. “What I worry about at night is that we don’t have a James Ford [North Carolina Teacher of the Year] in every classroom,” she said.


Envision Charlotte will become a national model of sustainability. The nonprofit uses quantitative measurements and data to implement environmentally friendly protocols for Uptown buildings in the areas of energy, water, air and waste. They currently monitor 60+ buildings and have reduced energy use by 16%. The White House’s Office of Science and Technology has selected 10 cities to come to a 3-day conference in Charlotte in January to learn how to replicate the model.


11 governments operate in Mecklenburg County. Federal, State, County, City, CMS and the Towns of Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, Mint Hill, Matthews and Pineville. This is one of the questions I missed on Hyong’s quiz. Don’t act like you knew it.


We won’t see a Major League Baseball team any time soon. Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble delicately shot down the question saying it would be a very “heavy lift” for the city. He says it will be 10 to 15 years before we start looking at MLB in CLT.


Charlotte’s 46.7% tree canopy is a big deal for our urban environment, but we want to do even better. To reach City Council’s goal of 50% tree canopy by 2050, we’ll have to plant 20,000 trees per year. Trees Charlotte, a local nonprofit, is helping make it happen.


Mecklenburg County’s biggest expense is funding Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. CMS costs the county $388.4 million. Department of Social Services is second at $172.9 million and the Sheriff is third at $118.2 million. I also got this wrong on Hyong’s quiz. I assumed low teacher pay meant CMS wouldn’t be the biggest expense. Incorrect.

The Charlotte area is home to 958 foreign-owned businesses. They represent 795 different parent companies from 45 different countries with most (192) hailing from Germany.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has the largest public sector workforce in the area. CMS employs 17,338 people, the City of Charlotte employs 7,308 people and Mecklenburg County employs 5,464 people.

Leadership Charlotte ENCOUNTER

ENCOUNTER was like a giant tasting flight of Charlotte’s major industries with quick but powerful shots delivered by experts in each field. The group of 47 participants listened intently, asking engaging questions and making astute observations during Q&A periods. I saw a lot of feverish note-taking, card-exchanging and name-circling. If ENCOUNTER does what it says it does, we should all be seeing each other again – out in the wild and scratching proverbial mosquito bites.

Until then, I suspect we’ll all be nursing an information hangover tomorrow.

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