By ALEKS TAPINSH
Capital News Service
LANSING — Tina Leary goes to school every Friday.
The Hamilton Township trustee is one of the participants in the Michigan political leadership program at Michigan State University.
Along with 23 other community leaders across the state, the Van Buren County resident has been selected to participate in the fellowship valued at $10,000 each.
“It’s an incredible program,” said Leary, who works as a legal assistant in the prosecutor’s office.
First offered in 1992, each month the fellowship focuses on various themes from public policy and leadership curriculum: practical politics, personal leadership development and effective governance. A session is held every weekend in different cities across Michigan.
The age of the program’s participants varies from 19 to 65.
The fellowship also provides exposure to different points of view and practice for a beginner politician.
Participants were mixtures of races and political orientation, said Shannon Horvath, the program administrator.
“People that are interested in getting involved in your community and have desire to run for office can apply,” Horvath said.
Conducting a press conference, making a TV spot and giving impromptu speeches are just a few examples how the program helps its students to build confidence.
“We had to pretend we run for some made-up office,” she said.
Some of the current program participants ran for real. Kate Segal, a Democrat, ran for a place on the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners and won.
The experience at the program was “absolutely invaluable,” Segal said.
The former fellowship recipients went on to work in many public offices on a county, city and township level. Newly elected state Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, is a program alumnus. Others include state Rep. Patricia Godchaux, R-Birmingham, and recently elected Rep. Craig DeRoche, R-Novi.
In the future, Leary, who is half way through her term as a trustee, hopes to run for a county office.
The next year’s participants will be selected by Thanksgiving.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By ALEKS TAPINSH