Participants will help innovate, collaborate and advance community and economic development in Appalachian Kentucky
Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) board member and Somerset native Cody Gibson is one of 50 participants in the inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky, a Leadership Kentucky initiative designed to build the capacity of next-generation leaders in the Appalachian region of the state.
This year’s participants represent 29 different ARC counties representing a variety of public and private sectors. Gibson joins two more Pulaski County residents, Bobby Clue and JaKaye Garth, in the program. Clue serves as executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, and Garth as the manager of the Hampton Inn in Somerset.
BRIGHT Kentucky will engage bright, entrepreneurial minds from all sectors and regions to offer non-partisan, ethical leadership training, expanded networks, and mentors designed especially for residents of the 54 Kentucky counties of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The program is made possible by a $500,000 ARC grant and private funding from the Whitaker Foundation, SOAR, and others.
Leadership Kentucky, in its 35th year, brings together a select group of people who possess a broad variety of leadership abilities, career accomplishments, and volunteer activities to gain insight into complex issues facing the state. Its goal is to prepare participants to take an active role in advancing the state for the common good. The BRIGHT program is an extension of this mission.
“I am thrilled to see Cody recognized for his passion and leadership ability and to be taking part in this innovative program for the southeast region of Kentucky,” said Chris Girdler, SPEDA president and CEO. “Cody loves our community and he is a great asset for SPEDA serving as a director on our board.”
BRIGHT Kentucky is made up of five three-day sessions that help participants fully understand the local economic context and to build robust skill sets in communication, collaboration, consensus building, visioning, and community engagement. The program, which runs July through November, will take participants across eastern Kentucky. Participants traveled to the Natural Bridge region in July. They’ll visit the Big Sandy and Cumberland regions in September, the Daniel Boone region in October, and the Gateway region in November.
“The BRIGHT program is a great opportunity for emerging leaders of our region to gather and learn more about our Commonwealth and discuss ways in which we can all work together to make it a better place,” Girdler said. “Cody participating in this program will bring great ideas and extra energy to the SPEDA organization and our community overall.”
Gibson is a 2007 graduate of Southwestern High School. After attending Georgetown College for three years on a football scholarship, Gibson joined the Kentucky Army National Guard. He finished his college career as an ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky, where he majored in public service and leadership in the College of Agriculture. After serving as public affairs officer in Charlie Company of the 63rd Theatre Aviation Brigade and as a territory manager for Coca-Cola, Gibson transitioned into medical sales, working for Orthoifix in Chicago, Paragon 28 in Columbus, Ohio, and now as a corporate sales representative for Wright Medical in central and eastern Kentucky.
Gibson is also heavily involved in his community. He has served on the Downtown Development and Young Professionals of Lake Cumberland boards of directors, was named a Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, served as a mentor in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and is currently the chairman of the advisory board for the SKYHOPE Women’s Recovery Center.
Gibson married his wife, Trista, in 2019. They live in downtown Somerset and are expecting their first child.