Hill Country Leadership Institute

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Hill Country Leadership Institute

Local leaders. Regional challenges. Real solutions. Lasting relationships.

The Hill Country is a region unlike any other in Texas—full of natural features, treasured places, charming communities, and a rich heritage. Today, the region faces numerous threats driven by rapid growth, land fragmentation, and unchecked development. The Hill Country needs locally driven and balanced solutions to protect the ecological and economic health of this place we call home. Yet very few opportunities exist for leaders to connect, share, and generate new ideas.

For this reason, the Hill Country Alliance has developed a new leadership program especially for decision makers and elected leaders throughout the Texas Hill Country. The Hill Country Leadership Institute is designed for city council members, county judges and commissioners, groundwater conservation district board members and general managers, and anyone serving in a public leadership role. Past and present elected leaders, subject matter experts, and other professionals were involved in development of the Leadership Institute.

Programming Preview

The 2023 Hill Country Leadership Institute programming will run for ten months—from January through October 2023. We will gather in person every third Thursday of the month at unique locations across the region. The first gathering is set for Thursday, January 19, 2023, from 9am to 1pm at Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Blanco County.

  • Maximum enrollment is 20 to deliver a personalized enriching experience.
  • Two full-day retreats are included for on-the-land learning in spring and fall.
  • Brief topics to be offered as virtual lunch-and-learn sessions.
  • Scheduled “office hours” are planned for deeper learning and one-on-one discussions.
  • Breakout groups will be created to dive deeper on topics of interest.
  • Ongoing engagement for three years beyond the conclusion of the program is encouraged and supported.
  • Sliding scale enrollment from $500 to $1,000 depending on size of population served.
In-person Programming

2023 Events

January 19 | 9am to 1pm 
Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, Blanco – Blanco County
Welcome Leaders! This session will ground and connect us, as we settle in and get acquainted in the beautiful surroundings of Bamberger Ranch. Garry Merritt, former Real County Judge and CEO of the Great Springs Project will inspire our launch. We begin with a high-level look at The State of the Hill Country, and together we will determine highest priorities for the ten months ahead.

The Legislature
February 16 | 8am to 12pm
Texas State Capitol, Austin – Travis County
Local issues are greatly impacted by state policy. Chairman Tracy King and key legislators from the Hill Country region will join us at the Capitol as the 88th Legislative Session begins. We’ll arrange for valuable time with your representatives, you will learn from a seasoned lobbyist, and you will experience effective strategies to make your voice heard.

Planning for Growth
March 23 | 9am to 1pm
Schreiner University, Kerrville – Kerr County
Do you have a vision for the future of your jurisdiction and region? We’ll explore inspiring opportunities for visionary planning, and we’ll dive into constraints such as limited county authority. Together we will learn creative ways that counties, cities, and groundwater districts can plan, coordinate, and chart a course with a focus on community values, economic vitality, and attention to land and water for our future.

Water Planning
April 20 | 9am to 1pm
The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, San Marcos – Hays County
Taking care of our region’s water supply is a complex challenge. Many believe our rivers and aquifers are already over-allocated making conservation is essential. Learn about regional water planning processes that support the Texas State Water Plan, and how you can participate and lead water planning efforts for your community. 

Groundwater Management – A full day retreat with an option to stay overnight.
May 18 | Convene at 1pm 
Kickapoo Springs Ranch on the Nueces – Edwards County
There is no place like the headwaters of a Hill Country River to learn about groundwater, springs, and pristine streams. You’ll be joined by regional groundwater experts as we cover all aspects of groundwater management: working with groundwater districts, understanding Chapter 36, “GMA 9,” and “Desired Future Conditions.” Campfire conversations, star gazing, and beautiful overnight accommodations will be provided at this spectacular private ranch along the Nueces River.

Development Oversight
June 15 | 9am to 1pm
Cibolo Center for Conservation, Boerne – Kendall County
The pace of growth in our region is undeniable. Industrial projects, and unplanned sprawl can be a financial burden on the community and unsustainable for water resources. We’ll explore local development oversight options including low-impact strategies, innovative development agreements and model subdivision ordinances. 

Innovative Water Strategies
July 20 | 9am to 1pm
Blue Hole Primary School, Wimberley – Hays County
Water is a finite and fragile resource, every drop matters. We will immerse ourselves in “One Water” strategies including innovative ideas for reuse, rainwater harvesting, lowering consumption, education, decentralized systems, and funding opportunities to implement a new way of doing business.

Rural Issues
August 17 | 9am to 1pm
Community Resource Center, Marble Falls – Burnet County
Our region is a mix of rural and urban communities, each with unique challenges. We’ll dive deep into the highest priority rural issues for this cohort examining broadband infrastructure, public health, housing, and workforce development, aiming for strategies that lead us towards a healthy and prosperous region.

Hill Country Alliance Leadership Summit
September 28 | 9am to 1pm

The Hall at Jester King, Dripping Springs – Travis County
Community leaders, conservationists, Hill Country advocates from across the region join each September for the HCA Leadership Summit. We’ll join in this full-day program, with our own breakout time looking at regional strategies for historic preservation, dark skies initiative and Hill Country tourism opportunities.

Healthy Lands
October 19 | 10am to 2pm
Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Mason – Mason County (TBD)
The Texas Hill Country region covers over 11 million acres in 17 counties of mostly privately held land. Population growth and land fragmentation are significantly threatening these lands. Lean how private land conservation through voluntary conservation easements, and stewardship best practices help balance growth with a land protection ethic that will sustain our region for generations.

Closing Celebration
November 2 or 9

Private Hill Country Ranch (TBD)
A final gathering and celebration with spouses or partners included. Enjoy final rounds of sharing and help shape ideas for staying connected at this special wrap-up session. We’ll wine and dine and watch the Hill Country sunset. It’s only the beginning for the new ideas and relationships that have been created.

Virtual Programming

Lunch and Learn Virtual Sessions | 12 – 1 PM

Virtual sessions will occur on the second Thursday of the month from January through October.

February 9: Texas Legislature 101
March 9: Local Government Code Chapter 232 primer
April 13: Water Planning Processes 101
May 11: GMAs, DFCs, and springs that feed rivers
June 8: City planning, zoning and ordinances.
July 13: Rainwater harvesting and decentralized water infrastructure
August 10: Texas Rural Funders
September 14: Demystifying state agencies: TCEQ, TPWD, TWDB
October 13: Lessons learned: Participant sharing.

Learn More and Apply

Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition (TREAD) logo shows the state of Texas

Learn more about the Hill Country Leadership Institute

Our purpose is to engage, empower, connect, and inspire local leaders dedicated to the long-term vitality of our unique, 17-county region. Click to learn more about the Hill Country Leadership Institute in this informative one-pager PDF.

Contact Us:

The Hill Country Leadership Institute is a program of the Hill Country Alliance. Hill Country Alliance is a 501c3 non-profit established in 2004, bringing together a diverse coalition of partners to preserve the open spaces, starry night skies, clean and abundant waters, and unique character of the Texas Hill Country.

For more information, contact Cliff Kaplan, cliff@hillcountryalliance.org.