Forty-five years ago, in a room downtown, a few influential gentlemen were sitting around discussing the state of politics in downtown Hollywood.
“I would have to say that the real credit for the formation of Leadership Hollywood goes to Bill Horvitz but there were four of us,” said Bob Giacin, one of the four, and one of Hollywood’s earliest influencers.
“We were actually the executive committee for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. It was Bill Horvitz, Leonard Robbins, a local attorney, and David Rush, a local businessman, and myself. Horvitz, as you know, was very heavily involved in construction, and he felt that a lot of the people who were running for office in Hollywood, who would control his future, were just not prepared to run a city. Some of them were not even informed on how to read a balance sheet, understand a financial statement, anything of that nature.
“And he was disturbed. He was often unjustly talked about, but he was always behind the scenes, looking for the betterment of Hollywood. His Hollywood Inc. development company had a lot of investment in Hollywood, and he cared about the city’s orderly growth and good government.
“So he said, ‘let’s get better candidates out there, get them informed.’ And he put up the first $1000, to establish the Leadership Hollywood program.”
And so out of that meeting, and that idea of educating people to run for city government, came the program that is today the longest running continuous Leadership program in the state of Florida, with more than 1000 graduates so far.
And out of that program have come leaders of all kinds: judges, mayors, business owners, professionals, non-profit board members and advocates, top executives in city and county government and beyond. Ask anyone who has participated in a Leadership program, here in Hollywood or in the many other cities and states that offer such initiatives, and they’ll most probably agree that it was one of the best investments of time and money they’ve ever made.
“It was a four-year education packed into a year,” said Nicki Grossman, who was in Leadership Hollywood One, and went on to a long and varied career in service to Broward County. “It gave me the opportunity to see what I really wanted to do, and that being a part of local government is how I wanted to spend my life.”
The Leadership Hollywood program today is a nine-month program comprised of eight work days, each focused on a different aspect of running a city, from Health and Human Services to Tourism to Public Safety, plus several several sessions of personal growth and leadership training from highly-vetted professionals. In addition, each class performs four or five community service projects over the course of the nine months. The program culminates with a graduation gala in June, usually held in one of Hollywood’s leading hotels.
The projects are designed to help members build character, improve their critical and creative thinking, practice interpersonal communication and problem solving and use their leadership skills while they serve and better our community. Over the years, they have ranged from planting gardens and painting houses to putting on shows and pub crawls to beach events to recognition campaigns for non-profits to golf tournaments to coalition-building to city cleanups to TED talks and entrepreneurial competitions…and the list goes on. If it supports the city, Leadership Hollywood will consider supporting the project. In its 44 year history, Leadership Hollywood has completed nearly 200 community projects, according to Hollywood Chamber CEO Marie Suarez.
“I credit (Hollywood Commissioner) Dick Blattner for creating the modern format of Leadership Hollywood,” said Broward County Circuit Court Judge Dan Casey, an early graduate who headed up the program from 1995 to 1998, when he left to become president of the Hollywood Chamber. “Dick came up with over half of things that we do now.”