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 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 and the inaugural class launched in January 2023.

Programming Preview

The 2024 Hill Country Leadership Institute programming will run for ten months—from January through October 2024. We will gather in person every third Thursday of the month at unique locations across the region. 

  • Maximum enrollment is 20 to deliver a personalized enriching experience.
  • One two-day retreat is included for on-the-land learning in the spring.
  • 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.

Tentative agenda topics are below but may shift based on input from 2024 participants. Additionally, 2023 venues are listed and are subject to change.

In-person Programming 2024

2024 Events

January 25 | 9am to 1pm 
Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, Blanco – Blanco County (TENTATIVE)
Welcome Leaders! This session will ground and connect us, as we settle in and get acquainted in the beautiful surroundings of Bamberger Ranch. We’ll be welcomed by inspiring speakers and begin with a high-level look at The State of the Hill Country. Together we will determine highest priorities for the ten months ahead.

Planning for Growth
February 15 | 9am to 1pm
First National Ice Haus, Bandera – Bandera 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
March 21 | 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. 

Engaging the Legislature and State Agencies
April 18 | 9am to 1:30pm | Additional tour of Hamilton Pool 2-4pm
The Campsite at Shield Ranch – Travis County
Local issues are greatly impacted by state policy and state agencies. Today we will connect with our legislative delegations and with executive leadership at TxDOT. We will discuss strategies for effective engagement with the Legislature, how our legislators can help us get the most out of state agencies, and what we hope to see in the next legislative session. Our time at Shield Ranch will conclude with a tour of the Campsite, the first permitted water system in Texas to be fed by rainwater catchment – which represents a remarkable story of persistence and collaboration with TCEQ. After that, all are invited to join us on a tour of Hamilton Pool, led by Travis County Parks.

Groundwater Management – A full day retreat with an option to stay overnight.
May 16 | 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.

Innovative Water Strategies
June 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.

Development Oversight
July 18 | 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. 

Affordability and Healthy Local Economies
August 15 | 9am to 1pm
Community Resource Center, Marble Falls – Burnet County (TENTATIVE)
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 26 | 9am to 1pm

Location to be announced 
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 17 | 9am to 1pm
The Laity Lodge – H. E. Butt Foundation, Leakey – Real County (TENTATIVE)
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 14

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 2024

Lunch and Learn Virtual Sessions | 12 – 1 PM

Virtual sessions will occur on the second Thursday of the month from January through October. Topics are subject to change based on feedback from participants.

February 8: Case Studies in Local & Regional Planning
March 14: Water Planning Processes  
April 11: Texas Legislature 101 
May 9: How Groundwater is Managed and TWDB Funding Opportunities
June 13: Innovative Water Solutions – One Water 
July 11: City Planning, Zoning and Ordinances
August 8: Transportation 
September 12: Private Philanthropy and Your Community 
October 10: Lessons Learned – Participant sharing 

Learn More

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

Looking back: Updates from year one of the Hill Country Leadership Institute

In 2023, the Hill Country Alliance launched a new Institute, aiming to connect local leaders to practical solutions for common challenges, strengthen the network of leaders aligned in their vision for our region, and identify opportunities for stronger regional collaboration. Read on to learn about outcomes and results of this new program.

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.