THE HARVEST IS IN: Jennifer Meyer Planted Seeds of Brevard County Government Leadership Success
By Frank Abbate, Brevard County Manager // March 12, 2019
Jennifer Meyer WILL officially retired February 22
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In her nearly 28 years with Brevard County Government, Jennifer Meyer planted a lot of seeds.
Initially hired as a horticulturist with Parks and Recreation, Jennifer – who officially retired Feb. 22 – spent years sowing and nurturing seeds of knowledge.
She helped sprout leaders not only in County government but in various constitutional offices, area municipalities, and Brevard Public Schools.
Jennifer played an integral role in the County’s Executive Leadership Institute and Employee Development Program, not only as an instructor and facilitator but as the developer of a myriad of training programs.
“It’s been extremely rewarding to see the changes that happen to some participants from start to finish,” Jennifer said.
“I’ve seen people who are open to the growth become more confident, outgoing, wise, and caring leaders. You can almost see it happening in front of your eyes. There are many, many what I call ‘light bulb’ moments in ELI. It all depends on how open the participant is to new ideas, and to looking at themselves in the mirror.”
This month, Brevard County Government will hit a milestone that marks one of our biggest achievements of the last 30 years.
In March, 30 students representing the County, area municipalities and charter offices will take part in the County’s newest Executive Leadership Institute program, ELI XIV.
It’s our biggest class yet, and nearly one-third of those students represent municipal government or other organizations outside of Brevard County Government.
That’s a reflection not only on the growth and success of our program, but recognition by others of the value our program brings to their organizations. We are helping build leaders in our community.
The Executive Leadership Institute is an 18-month leadership training program. The program was hatched in 2006 while I was the County’s Human Resources Director to augment our employee development program.
It was inspired by Stephen Covey’s three-day signature program, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. For me, that was personally life-changing, and I’ve seen it have that same impact on a lot of employees.
To date, we’ve had 300-plus graduates from ELI.
The program also has been expanded to include other organizations, including the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, the Clerk of Court’s Office, the Property Appraiser’s Office, Brevard Public Schools, Tax Collector’s Office and the cities of Titusville, Cape Canaveral, Satellite Beach, City of Melbourne, City of Palm Bay and Cocoa Beach.
There are more than 300 people now in those respective work environments helping our County and their organizations grow and achieve great things now and in the future.
ELI has helped us develop leadership competencies of those who aspire to be effective leaders and those already in leadership roles throughout the county, the public sector and within our organization.
It also provides great networking opportunities for employees to get to know people in other organizations. It’s a succession planning initiative that requires a strong commitment to participation, attendance, and assignments associated with the monthly meetings.
Participants are expected to pro-actively contribute to changing the culture of our organizations and to improve the work environment.
Part of the success of our program is due to world-class instruction provided by outside instructors like Dr. Mimi Hull, who facilitates DiSC personality profiles and Team Building and Communication Skills; Dori Bisbey, who facilitates Strength Finders, Mentoring and Personal Leadership; and, of course, the County’s own Employee Development Manager Jennifer Meyer.
She played a significant role in developing and facilitating various training programs, including Time Management, Basic and Advanced Writing, Dealing with Difficult People, Facilitation Skills, Presentation Skills, Civil Beginnings and the Happiness Advantage.
She also upgraded our Continuous Improvement program to include Lean Six Sigma.
Jennifer participated in ELI V in 2010-2011 and worked in a supporting role with the program for 13 years through facilitating The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (an ELI pre-requisite), bringing the Leadercast simulcast to Brevard County annually for five years, as well as assisting with ELI management and administration.
So far, there have been 12 graduating classes from the 18-month ELI Program, with another graduating this July.
“I’ve seen many working relationships strengthened through not only the classes but also the mentoring program that is built into the ELI curriculum,” Jennifer said.
“There is tremendous value in discussing the many leadership issues — positive and negative — together, chewing on the different perspectives, and then walking away from that discussion with a new plan of action.”
Jennifer is now planning to reap the rewards of retirement. Her plans include traveling, with trips already scheduled this year for Australia, Arizona, Texas and Italy.
There are also plans to sail on a 43-foot sailboat to the Bahamas “as much as possible,” she said.
Meanwhile, the seeds she helped plant in her role with ELI will continue to sprout leaders in Brevard County for years to come. That’s her legacy.
“You can almost see it happening in front of your eyes,” Jennifer said.
“There are many, many what I call ‘light bulb’ moments in ELI. It all depends on how open the participant is to new ideas, and to looking at themselves in the mirror.”
All of us on Brevard County Government’s leadership team wish Jennifer a well-earned, healthy and joy-filled retirement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In a 5-0 vote, the Brevard County Commission named Frank Abbate as Brevard County Manager in July 2017. Having served in the public sector for over 32 years, Abbate’s professional career is anchored by 26 years as Brevard County’s Human Resources Director.
Prior to being named Brevard County Manager, Abbate was the assistant county manager for public safety and support services.
As County Manager, Abbate is the head of the executive branch of County Government and is responsible to the Board of County Commissioners for the proper administration of all affairs of County Government not otherwise entrusted to an elected County officer.
The Manager attends all regular and special meetings of the Board of County Commissioners and has the right to participate in its discussions.
Abbate has served as an Instructor for both Webster University and UCF in their graduate Public Administration and Human Resources Development programs.
Upon graduating from the Dickinson School of Law, Penn State University, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1982. He served as a Staff Attorney and then as the Personnel Director/Labor Attorney for the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for six years.
After moving to Florida in 1989, Abbate was admitted to the Florida Bar.
As an undergraduate student at S.U.N.Y. @ Stony Brook, Abbate earned his Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Political Science and served as a congressional intern in Washington, D.C.
Abbate lives in Satellite Beach with his wife Rita. The couple are the proud parents of three children and three grandchildren.
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