About Us


The idea to have a leadership program for Sevier County originated in the 1990’s along with a core group of people who thought it would be important to have such a program for the county. They wanted a program in which leaders from all parts of the county could get together to network and discuss and act on issues of common concern. The concept would provide a forum to showcase Sevier County, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tourism, Community Services and Emergency Services.

Robbie Fox, Judge Gary Wade, Johnny Waters, and R. B. Summitt II started Leadership Sevier. Most of the group had been through the Leadership Knoxville program and knew how important it was to Knox County and felt that it would certainly be a program that could benefit Sevier County. They solicited help from Jeanne Dulaney, LKC and the program CEO Debbie Aiken who was associated with Leadership Blount also helped.

Those gentlemen then tried to assemble a Board of Directors that would be inclusive of all of the cities and the county. In addition to the group of four, the first Leadership Sevier Board consisted of Bob Childress, Bill Maples, Jamesena Miller, Karen Wade, and Geoff Wolpert. From that Board it was decided that the theme of the organization would be to “Introduce. Inform. Inspire. Involve.” A motto was born.

In 1997, they persuaded Bob Gonia to become the program Dean. The first class of Leadership Sevier was selected and the program days began in the spring of 1997. In 2002 a program was implemented for the development of emerging leaders that was Leadership Tomorrow. Those emerging leaders gave birth to a new program at the high school level and that was Smoky Mountain Youth Leadership. To date over 700 leaders have been involved in one of the Leadership Sevier Inc. programs.

The primary purposes of Leadership Sevier are (1) to identify and select current and emerging leaders within the community; (2) to strengthen their knowledge and understanding of the community, its relevant issues, and each other through a series of monthly sessions; and (3) to challenge and motivate these participants to become even more committed, through leadership involvement, to the future of Sevier County.



Leadership Sevier provides a forum for people from all walks of life to meet and get to know one another. A common comment from graduates is that they keep their LEADERSHIP SEVIER Class Notebook handy and refer to it often to contact a fellow class member. In a day and age in which the news makes one wary of meeting new people LEADERSHIP SEVIER provides a forum in which strangers can make friends safely. Common interests can lead to business associations. Customers are found. Fellow workers for a community charitable organization get together. People from all walks of life and all parts of the county find they can work together for the common good of Sevier County.


When approached about participating in the LEADERSHIP SEVIER Program, life-long natives of Sevier County opine they know everything about the county they need to know. Wrong! To date no one has graduated who could ever say they learned nothing new about Sevier County. Naturally, a relative newcomer to the area approaches participation with great anticipation and typically becomes the proverbial sponge soaking up everything they experience in SEVIER COUNTY. Collective “Ah Hahs” are frequently triggered by people and organizations making the program days a veritable marketplace for the unexpected yet desired opportunities.


As Leaders reflect on the newly found needs and potential emerging in a sleepy little, Mountain County the possibilities flow forth and they see that “I CAN DO THIS because my heart has become newly inspired.” Inspiration is tough to shed. Leaders are now ready for the next step- to become involved.


A true leader will follow her/his heart to make a contribution to the community. Take one SEVIER COUNTY leader, INTRODUCE him/her to other leaders, INFORM her/him about the needs existent in the community, allow the LEADERSHIP SEVIER process to INSPIRE him/her, and she/he will become a willing participant in all things good for the wonderful people of SEVIER COUNTY. People in need will be helped. Businesses will thrive. Charitable organizations will expand their reach. And various sectors of SEVIER COUNTY will benefit from the cooperative relations engendered by leaders who have abandoned the “It can’t be done here” mentality. We ALL win!


Diversity is a necessity for community trusteeship and serving all people, businesses, organizations, governments, and visitors. In the interest of developing community leaders who reflect and serve the whole county, all of the programs of Leadership Sevier Inc. make a concerted effort to select each class with an eye for inclusiveness.


Upon graduation, program participants become “members” and are encouraged to help nominate future classes, participate in program development, provide financial support, etc. Each class itself may determine other ways to participate in the operation and success of the organization. The Leadership Sevier staff will assist any class that desires to have a special class reunion or event.

Leadership Sevier will present special opportunities during the year for leadership development and networking of graduates of the program.


Can you see yourself or a friend going through this transformational process? Are you willing to see if you are a good fit for the year long process?


Leadership Sevier Inc. is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and is registered with the state of Tennessee as a Charitable Organization. The Board of Directors consists of six founding members, six representatives of the last three Leadership Sevier classes, three at large members, honorary members, and ex officio members. They meet monthly to conduct the business of the organization.

Ken Bell

Don Best – Finance Chair

Mignonne Coykendall

Elaine Ely

Robert W. Fox, Sr.

Thomas Paul King

Elise Massey – Vice Chair

Jamesena Miller

Lori Moore

Pete Owens – Secretary

Linda Ogle – Honorary Member

R.B. Summitt, II

Lisa Taylor

Jana Thomasson

Gary Wade

John B. Waters, Jr. – Chair Emeritus

Margit Worsham – Honorary Member

Alex Johnson – Chair

Austin Williams – LTAB Chair

Elllen Wilhoit – Executive Director


Membership Committee:
Mignonne Coykendall – Co-Chair
Janice Bettis – Co-Chair
Jana Thomasson
Linda Ogle
Ashli Arden
Jeannie Allen
Kelley Fowler
Robbie Fox
Alex Johnson
Jessica Will
Selection Committee:
R.B. Summitt – Co-Chair
Robbie Fox – Co-Chair
Jamesena Miller
Elaine Ely
Don Best
Thomas King
Lori Moore
Austin Williams
Communications/Marketing Committee:
Ken Bell
Josh Carr
Joi Whaley
Zack Knudsen – Co-Chair
Kelley Fowler
Nancy Hewitt
Elise Massey
Pete Owens – Co-Chair
Brian Stoika
Jana Thomasson
Alex Johnson
Program Committee:
Elise Massey – Co-Chair
Janice Bettis
Elaine Ely – Co-Chair
Alex Johnson
Lisa Taylor
Lori Moore
John Waters
Finance Committee:
Don Best – Co-Chair
Ken Bell
Janice Bettis
R. B. Summitt
Lisa Taylor
Jessica Will
Austin Williams
Marlo Yarnall – C0-Chair
Linda Ogle (Honorary Member)
Margit Worsham (Honorary Member)
Bob Gonia Scholarship Committee:
Gary Wade–Co- Chair
John Waters
Jamesena Miller – Co-Chair
Jana Thomason
Nominating Committee
Robbie Fox – Chair
Jamesena Miller
Jana Thomasson