Members of the 2007 Oklahoma Community Institute gathered for an introductory dinner party at one of the local treasures, the Belvidere Mansion, Wednesday evening.

The dinner hosted by OCI Board member John Cary and wife Bobbie showcased an entertaining repertoire of ghostly tales by Ruth Fuller, a caretaker at the turn-of-the-century mansion.

The 19 guests, who came from across the state as far away as Guymon and Altus and Vian and Ponca City, were in Claremore to attend the third session of the Oklahoma Citizens Academy which met Thursday at the Rogers State University Stratton Taylor Library.

Tanya Andrews, executive director of the Claremore Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a member of the Class IV of the Citizens Academy also co-hosted the event and joined her class members as they pursued sessions on community assessment and planning.

The Citizens Academy seeks to increase the number of leaders focused on local community and economic development.

The Belvidere, as well as the Stratton Taylor Library on the ever expanding RSU campus, are examples of exemplary community leadership and the positive role such leadership brings to efforts to preserve forgotten treasures and build centers for fostering future progress.

Fuller’s tales of close encounters with members of the Bayless family entertwined with Claremore’s early history kept first-time and long-time visitors enthralled. The stories also brought to mind the significant impact of leaders such as John Bayless, who built the Belvidere. Bayless built not only an impressive home, he was responsible for Claremore’s first “recreation center” and a 100-room hotel with many of the rooms sporting private baths.

Lesson of the evening: Leadership is understanding the vision of those who came before, recognizing the needs of today and understanding that our actions will change the world tomorrow.

Claremore’s past and present are prime examples. The future is ours to make. Will our ghosts remain?