Leaders.

Where are they when you really need them? Stock markets are failing, scandals are spreading, governments appear shaky, political leaders are ousted and seek asylum in other countries. At the very time strong moral leadership is needed to inspire the public, it is hard to find. But we've been here before-and each time, leaders have emerged from the shadows to help us find the way.

Fortunately, for central Illinois, we are blessed with an abundance of leaders. Some are in the public eye-we read about them weekly or see their faces on the evening news or on the cover of InterBusiness Issues. But many more are in positions that rarely get media attention. Yet they contribute monumentally to our community's quality of life, serving on the hundreds of boards and committees that make our city and county and all of their non-profit organizations run effectively. They do all of that quietly, with no fanfare. Yet their contributions to the community are no less noteworthy than those who tend to attract media coverage.

Each year since 1994, InterBusiness Issues, WMBD News Radio, and Caterpillar Inc., RLI Corp. and other area companies have identified 40 individuals under the age of 40 who are considered leaders of our community. Not necessarily leaders who make headlines with their actions or words-but the leaders who devote countless hours of time and energy to making our community a finer place to live. Each year we have the same problem-trying to decide who should be the 40 individuals honored. Because, you see, each year we have triple the 40 candidates, all of them deserving of the moniker "leader".

Each year our decisions appear to be good ones. Take a look at a few of past recipients:

Brad McMillan, a 1996 award winner is District Administrative Assistant for U. S. Representative Ray LaHood. He serves on the boards of directors for the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Heartland Water Resource Council, Peoria Area Convention & Visitor's Bureau, Children's Home, South Side Mission, Human Service Center, Pediatric Resource Center, Northwoods Community Church, and Community Builders Foundation. At the time of his 40 Leaders nomination, Brad was a partner in the law firm of Heiple & McMillan and a candidate himself for the Peoria City Council. He served his community through other organizations at that time.

Carol R. Sears, a 1995 award winner is currently a partner and vice-president in charge of pension administration in the firm of Small Parker and Blossom, Inc. In 1997, she was selected to sit on a task force to assist the Society of Actuaries with their new education program development for U.S. Pensions and served as general chair of the Education and Examination committee for the American Society of Pension Actuaries (ASPA). She is currently president-elect of the ASPA, is a frequent local and national speaker on topics relative to retirement plan administration, and serves on the Institute of Physical and Mental Rehabilitation personnel committee. She was the fifth woman in the U.S. to receive the American Society of Pension Actuaries highest designation, "Fellow," in 1989.

Sharon Holling, currently news service editor for Caterpillar's Marketing Communications Services Division's New Services Group, had taken a leave of absence as secretary to Caterpillar's Medical Director to fulfill her commitment as president of the Junior League of Peoria in 1994, the year she was an award winner. Continuing her active community involvement, Sharon cochaired the Heart of Illinois United Way campaign in 1997, and continues on the boards of Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, Arthritis Foundation, United Way, Women's Lifestyle Educational Fund, Crittenton Care & Counseling Center, the Creve Coeur Club of Peoria, the Children's Home, and The Peoria Woman Advisory Board.

Jeffrey Giebelhausen, also a 1994 award winner, is president of Strategic Networks and director of Business development for the Prudential Cullinan Properties and has also been mayor of East Peoria since 1991. He is vice president of the Illinois Municipal League, chair of the Tri-County Mayor's Association, president of EastSide Center and Easlight Theatre, and is a director with the Peoria Area Economic Development council and East Peoria Chamber of Commerce. At the time of his nomination, Jeff was employed as resource development director for the Heart of Illinois United Way.

That's just a glimpse of not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also the leaders of today. They got where they are, in part, because our community encourages and cultivates the growth of leaders. Let's not lose that nurturing environment.

We'll do it all again soon-choosing 40 more individuals who qualify to be called "leader." Each of them will be under the age of 40, which says volumes about our community. It's a sign that our future is in very good hands. And it also means that there's another whole group of leaders-beyond the age of 40-who will help give us direction for years to come. IBI