The 2012–13 Engage Breakfast Series starts its season Oct. 10 with a live town-hall discussion highlighting federal, state and local elections and their potential impact on area residents.
“It is exciting because it's the launch of the series,” said Heather McKissick, CEO of Leadership Austin, which organizes the Engage Series. “The series is very popular with people throughout the community. The first breakfast this time is special because it will be a town hall with KXAN news.”
KXAN anchors Robert Hadlock and Leslie Rhode will moderate the discussion. The first Engage breakfast will consist of two panels, with one focusing on the local ballot and the other looking at the state and national ticket.
“This time, we decided to really take advantage of the enthusiasm of the crowd at the breakfast and also the timeliness of the upcoming elections,” McKissick said. “What we will see is something that looks a little different from the other breakfasts.
Panelists include Mike Clark-Madison, vice president of public policy and research for Hahn, Texas; Sheryl Cole, mayor pro tem for the City of Austin; Betty Dunkerley, former council member and mayor pro tem for the City of Austin; Regina Lawrence, director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life; Terry Mitchell, president of Momark Development; Tom Pauken, commissioner representing employers with the Texas Workforce Commission; Ross Ramsey, executive director of The Texas Tribune; and Jason Stanford, founder and CEO of Stanford Campaigns. There have been 46 Engage sessions since 2006, and last year's breakfast series drew about 1,430 attendees.
McKissick said the breakfast series provides the community a chance to have a civil discussion about meaningful topics that have the potential to impact the community.
“I feel like right now, especially in this sort of political climate, there is a lot of debate and contentious discussion, and it's easy to lose focus in the midst of all that,” she said. “It's Leadership Austin's job to elevate the conversation out of the mudslinging and help people realize they can have genuine disagreement in ways that are collaborative and inclusive. That's what we're trying to do, set a stage for this kind of discourse.”
Lawrence said she feels this first breakfast of the season is an important one because she has heard many people are not closely following the elections.
“I think we need to have more conversation about how the election is going and what's at stake,” said “I think, especially any time you have more than one perspective at the table, it's really a great way to get people thinking and talking.”
The event will begin at 7:30 a.m in Michael and Susan Dell Hall at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside Drive. The panel discussions will begin at 8 a.m.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.leadershipaustin.org/programs/engage.