Regional leaders gathering on campus for Oct. 20 LEAD:WNC summit

Leaders from government, business and nonprofits across Western North Carolina will gather with representatives of the health care profession, the tourism industry and environmental agencies to discuss regional quality of life issues at LEAD:WNC, a one-day summit set for Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Western Carolina University.

Homepg1_ leadwnc summitWith the theme “Enhancing the Quality of Life in Western North Carolina,” the event is the second annual conference hosted by WCU following a pledge made by Chancellor David O. Belcher in his March 2012 installation address that the university would convene an annual gathering of regional leaders and thinkers to work collaboratively on solving regional issues.

This year’s summit will feature a special keynote presentation on “The State of Health Care and Its Effect on the Quality of Life.” Speakers will include Jeff Seraphine, president of the Eastern Group of Lifepoint Health; Harry R. Phillips, chief medical officer for Duke Lifepoint; and Steve Heatherly, CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital.

“Last year, one of our most requested follow-up sessions was on health care,” said conference organizer Tony Johnson, executive director of Millennial Initiatives at WCU. “Because access to quality health care is so critical to quality of life in the region, we saw this as a great opportunity to bring in experts who could speak on the subject from the national, regional and local points of view.”

David B. Fountain, Duke Energy’s state president for North Carolina, will deliver the luncheon address.

The summit also will include a session on “Creative Arts and the Quality of Life” with panelists Suzanne Fetcher, president and CEO, McColl Center for Art + Innovation; Beth Fields, executive director, Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center; and Thomas “Yona” Wade Waidsutte, director, Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center. George Brown, dean of WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, will moderate.

Dale Carpenter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, will moderate a session on “Education and the Quality of Life.” Panelists will include John Bryant, senior director for human resources, Henderson County Public Schools; Susan C. Gottfried, executive director, Evergreen Community Charter School; Bonnie N. Johnson, principal, Buncombe County Early and Middle colleges; Mary Morse, Great Smokies Christian Home Educators; Concha Wyatt, Key School director of teacher training, Carolina Day School; and Michelle Lourcey, chief academic officer at North Carolina Virtual Public Schools.

A session on “The Environment and Quality of Life” will feature panelists Peter Bates, director of WCU’s Natural Resource Conservation and Management Program and executive director of Forest Stewards; Brent Martin, Southern Appalachia regional director of the Wilderness Society; Julie Mayfield, co-director of Mountain Time; Sharon Fouts Taylor, executive director of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee; and Bob Wagner, co-director of Mountain True. Jay Gerlach, director of WCU’s master’s degree program in public affairs, will moderate.

Discussing “Health Care and the Quality of Life” will be panelists Melissa McKnight, health education supervisor, Jackson County Department of Public Health; Melanie Batchelor, wellness coordinator/diabetes educator, Harris Regional Hospital; and Frank Castelblanco, director, Division of Regional Services, Mountain Area Health Education Center. Kae Livsey, associate professor in WCU’s School of Nursing, will moderate.

A session on “Innovation, Technology and the Quality of Life” will include Tony Baldwin, superintendent of Buncombe County Schools; Susan Harper, executive director of the Asheville Community Theatre; Ted Pate, co-founder of Dig Local; Steven Schain, president, Spectra3D Technologies; and Jonathan Bailey, vice president of operations, Mission Health Systems. Edward Wright, director of WCU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will moderate.

Discussing “Tourism and the Quality of Life” will be panelists Stephanie Brown, executive director, Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau; Chris Cavanaugh, president, Magellan Strategy Group; Betty Huskins, executive director, Smoky Mountain Host; Tommy Jenkins, executive director, Macon County Economic Development Commission; Ed Phillips, executive director, Burke County Tourism Development Authority; and Ryan Sherby, executive director, Southwestern Commission. Steve Morse, director of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, will moderate.

Summit activities are set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

WCU’s partners in presenting the summit are Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital, which are Duke LifePoint hospitals.

Approximately 275 business leaders, elected and appointed officials, educators and others attended the inaugural LEAD:WNC summit last November, an event centered on the need for a more regional approach to economic and community development in WNC. The 2014 summit has led to additional spin-off conferences focused on tourism, education, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Registration, including lunch, is $69 per person through Friday, Oct. 2; $109 afterward. For information or to register, visit leadwnc.wcu.edu, call 828-227-3014 or email dshopkins@wcu.edu.