Serving as the acting city manager of Portage, Adam Herringa participated in the 2008 class of Leadership Kalamazoo.
Reflecting on his time in the program, Adam recalls the impact of being able to engage with different venues throughout the area as each session was hosted at a new venue. In particular, the leadership retreat is an experience that Adam strongly remembers for the opportunity to really get to know people from across the community.
“Typically, I find that it’s pretty rare for people to get outside of their professional arena and truly interact with other folks in the community,” said Adam. “I knew my colleagues in the governmental sector, but to interact with people in the private sector and not-for-profits and get their perspective about some of the challenges and opportunities that they face, at the end of the day, I found that we’re all somewhat similar,” said Adam.
Adam found the benefit of developing community with people in other industries provided him insight into their reasoning and an important touchpoint for future conversations.
“There were definitely some relationships made that were especially beneficial in the short term as each of us, not necessarily at the peak of our career, could use those connections to get our jobs done,” said Adam. “Whether it be developers, not-for-profits, or social service providers, it’s a great chance to speak a common language and have a better idea about where they’re coming from.”
In his day-to-day work, Adam has been able to translate the relationship development skills he honed in the program to better support the community.
“In government, you work with a lot of people with a lot of opinions. Not everyone may be an engineer, but everybody’s a citizen. Everybody’s a resident, and it’s their community, so they have a vested interest in its success, and their voice has got to be heard,” said Adam.
For the past 16 years, Adam has supported the City of Portage in various capacities. Starting as an assistant to the city manager and recently transitioning to his role as acting city manager, Adam has relied on the talent development and positive workplace culture tools that he learned in part during Leadership Kalamazoo.
He said, he especially appreciated the knowledge on how to support the growth of future department heads or future leaders within an organization. “There are key components of Leadership Kalamazoo and various other training programs that I’ve relied on to help develop in my career and also to help others.”
A final part of the program that still sticks with Adam to this day was the encouragement to get involved in the community. For years, he supported the Kalamazoo County Substance Abuse Task Force. And, recently, he has supported the development of the Charles and Lynn Zhang Portage Community Senior Center.