Valdosta Chosen as Site for First Public Defenders Leadership Academy

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Area public defense attorneys gathered Sept. 14-15 with colleagues from throughout the state for the inaugural session of the Georgia Public Defender Council (GPDC) Leadership Academy.

Valdosta was chosen for the first of nine regional Leadership Academy sessions scheduled statewide, said GPDC Director Omotayo Alli.

Alli said that the innovative approach will help public defenders statewide enhance their leadership skills by cultivating and nurturing the qualities necessary for effective leadership.

“The Leadership Academy is the first professional management development opportunity of its kind for our state’s public defenders,” Alli said.

“I reached out to the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute to provide the training because of its expertise,” she said as the Academy began Thursday at the Valdosta Holiday Inn and Conference Center. “The goal is to prepare defenders for increased opportunities and responsibilities.”

The GPDC Leadership Academy was created by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG). It combines theoretical knowledge with practical applications. Through workshops and assessments led by a diverse group of CVIOG professionals participants improve their strategic thinking, communication skills, decision-making, conflict resolution, organizational management, and strategic budgeting abilities. Individual assessments will be provided to Leadership Academy members by CVIOG faculty.

Graduates of the Leadership Academy will be prepared to assume leadership positions within GPDC as well as to become influential agents of change in their communities, Alli said.

The GPDC Leadership Academy is the latest in a series of innovations implemented by Director Alli since being appointed to her position in late 2019 by Governor Brian Kemp.

“Starting amid the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges that became blessings as we were compelled to innovate new ways of fulfilling our responsibility to provide legal representation to those unable to afford a private attorney,” Alli said. The remaining sessions will be held in Macon, Columbus, Savannah, Brasstown, Augusta, Calloway Gardens, Atlanta and Athens where graduates of the Academy will receive their Management Development Program certificate.

Another innovation, by Alli is The Ladders Program, created in 2021. The program guides individuals aged 16 to 24 as they transition from the justice system and reintegrate into society by making meaningful contributions at work and at home.

The yearlong program also includes career development, intensive case management, vocational training, and job placement. Ladders workshops equip participants with essential skills for workforce readiness.

“We believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and access to a subdivision, not a cell division,” Alli said. A further innovation by Alli is that The Ladders Program is funded by the nonprofit Georgia Public Defense Foundation. Learn more at www.gapdf.org.

The Georgia Public Defender Council provides lawyers for 85 percent of people charged with crimes in Georgia. The Council, created by Georgia’s General Assembly, operates offices in each of Georgia’s 10 judicial circuits that represent defendants in Juvenile, State, and Superior Courts. Learn more at www.gapubdef.org.

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