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Jacqueline Dowell stands behind the sign marking the Washington Hills Neighborhood on Friday afternoon in Chattanooga. Dowell is the president of the Washington Hills Neighborhood Association and an early participant in the Neighborhood Leadership Institute.


Neighborhood Leadership Institute applications are located at the Department of Neighborhood Services and Community Development in City Hall at 101 E. 11th St.

Applications are also online at For more information, call 425-3700.

Jacqueline Dowell had been a part of the Washington Hills Neighborhood Association for more than three decades, but she had trouble getting some city services until she participated in the Neighborhood Leadership Institute.

"We weren't recognized until we went through that class," she said. "Those classes taught us how to get things done."

She is one of 92 graduates who have been through the training since it started in 2007.

"We had people calling about sewer lines calling the wrong departments; it was the same with garbage service," said Dowell.

The class teaches residents the appropriate places to call and to develop relationships with city staff, Dowell said.

In the institute, students learn team building, motivation techniques, neighborhood building blocks, time management, conflict management, how to run effective meetings and basic city services, according to the program's application.

The deadline for the next class is April 13 and orientation is May 24. Participants must commit to attending six of the seven classes, which are scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. every other Monday starting June 4.

The Neighborhood Leadership Institute is designed to equip new and emerging leaders, said City Administrator Beverly Johnson, who started the institute in 2007 after a number of neighborhood leaders died, wanted to retire or had so many lifestyle changes that they couldn't be as active in the community groups.

"Many neighborhood associations are headed by people that have been involved for a number of years and they are phasing out," Johnson said. "We need to find people to replace them."

Jean Swafford, a former East Lake Neighborhood Association president, died in 2007. And Sylvia Bennett, a former East Chattanooga Neighborhood Association president, stopped working with her group after becoming ill in 2007.

Louise Hammonds, who still serves as a block captain for the Oak Grove Neighborhood Association, stepped down in 2008 after being president of the neighborhood association for nine years. She was replaced by City Councilman Andraé McGary who graduated from the Neighborhood Leadership Institute.

Neighborhood associations give residents the chance to organize so their concerns can be heard by city officials, Johnson said.

"When you do not have an organized neighborhood and you want change, it makes it so much harder for that one person to make the change happen," she said. "There is power in numbers."

Dowell said that, after she attended the class, her Washington Hills Neighborhood Association got signs marking boundaries in the community, became better organized and created by-laws. The association went from having eight members to having about 150, she said.

And instead of meeting for social potluck dinners as they did in the past, residents now learn about services available to them, she said.

The Chattanooga Urban League and the Electric Power Board are among the groups that have either made presentations or are scheduled to speak at Washington Hills meetings, Dowell said.