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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 5, 201712:00 PM EST

Leadership Jacksonville program will teach ins and outs of political campaigns for potential candidates

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by: Kevin Hogencamp  Contributing Writer

Upon graduating from the Leadership Jacksonville program in 1993, Alberta Hipps was determined to take her community service role to the next level.

Hipps tested the political waters in 1995 and prevailed. She served on the City Council for eight years.

“Community service is often done through nonprofit service, but for many it’s done through elected office,” said Jill Langford Dame, CEO of the community leadership organization.

But that can be a daunting proposition, especially for first-timers.

To fill that void, Hipps and communications professional John Daigle are heading a new Leadership Jacksonville training program for residents who desire to participate in the political process.

The weekly, five-session political campaign training seminars begin April 7.

Hipps is a longtime government relations and business development professional; Daigle is a 2000 Leadership Jacksonville graduate with more than 30 years of experience in journalism, campaign management and marketing.

The seminars also will utilize the expertise of government officials and other local campaign professionals.

Daigle and Hipps met when he covered her campaign as a Florida Times-Union reporter.

The longtime friends said the endeavor will be both similar to and different than the Jacksonville Regional Political Leadership Institute, a former JAX Chamber program.

“It’s overwhelming to think of what goes into deciding whether to enter politics and what to do after making that decision,” Hipps said. “John and I are hoping this new program will be a good resource for those people.”

Like the chamber program, the upcoming seminars will address a variety topics ranging from voter targeting to what to consider when running for office.

Unlike the free chamber seminars, which were sponsored by donors and aimed at business-minded candidates, the Leadership Jacksonville program is open to everyone, who must pay $1,500 tuition.

“Leadership Jacksonville is really the anchor of community trusteeship in Jacksonville,” Hipps said. “I thought it was the perfect place for (the political leadership program) to be housed, particularly with its emphasis on ethics.”

The practical application of bipartisan cooperation, along with ethics in campaigns and in public service, will be central themes of the program.

Media relations, crisis communication and building the right campaign team also are in the curriculum.

“Alberta and I kind of see eye-to-eye,” Daigle said. “We both have a strong passion for ethical leadership and the need to increase the quality of candidates that are running, and to encourage good people to run.”

Daigle, who has helped run about 40 political campaigns, said he expects some program participants will be encouraged by what they learn in the course, while “others might go through the course and decide, ‘You know, this isn’t for me.’”

Dame said she hopes the program will have 10-20 participants and continue well beyond the inaugural class.

“It’s hard to predict, but we hope (the program) is not a one-time deal,” she said.

Dame said the program directly carries forth Leadership Jacksonville’s mission to “educate, connect and inspire diverse leaders to build and strengthen their communities.”

The seminars will be 8:30-11:30 a.m. Fridays at the Jessie Ball duPont Center, 40 E. Adams St. The application deadline is Jan. 31.

In addition to its yearlong community leadership program, other Leadership Jacksonville initiatives are New Leadership Summit, Youth Leadership Jacksonville, the Community Leadership Experience and the Jacksonville Legacy Series.

To learn more about the political campaign seminars and Leadership Jacksonville’s other programs, visit leadershipjax.org or call (904) 396-6263.

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