The Council of State Governments welcomed 43 state leaders from across the nation to its headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, to participate in the 2023 CSG Henry Toll Fellowship — the nation’s premier leadership development program for state government officials.
The program’s name honors Henry Wolcott Toll, a former Colorado state senator and the driving force behind the formation of CSG in 1933.
Each year, the Toll Fellowship program gathers the nation’s top officials from all three branches of government to engage in an intense leadership boot camp and forge connections that span political affiliation. This year’s class was challenged through various development sessions while also being encouraged to build relationships with fellow lawmakers. For Georgia Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, this aspect of the program was one of the most important.
When asked about his biggest takeaway from the program, Maryland Sen. Cory McCray echoed Hutchinson’s sentiment.
“The relationship building and being able to understand some of the dynamics that are happening across the states,” McCray said. “I think the exercise from day two played an important role in that. We had to move as a team with a number of instructions. As it got more rigorous, and we accomplished that goal, it went into a second goal that got even more challenging and required even more work as a team. It’s a great program, a great opportunity and I’m glad to be here.”
Lorna Patches, CSG deputy director of membership and leadership development, said that regardless of experience or title, there is benefit in the Toll Fellowship for all state leaders.
“The Henry Toll Fellowship is a foundational program for state leaders forging connections across states, parties and experience levels,” Patches said. “Our class members come together for personal exploration and creative problem solving. By doing so, these individuals form bonds that will last a lifetime and carry them back to their careers in public service and beyond. The Council of State Governments is honored to provide this development opportunity each and every year to those who are working so hard for their constituents.”
The program is designed to draw leaders out of their comfort zone and challenge them in unique ways. However, through that shared vulnerability, Tolls connect with one another on a deeper level, regardless of which side of the aisle they support.
“I appreciate the fact that we can come together as democrats, republicans or independents and we can really talk to each other and get to know each other in an unthreatening environment,” said Washington Rep. Cindy Ryu.
The 2023 Toll Fellowship class joined a network of alumni including five state or territory house speakers, three sitting state Supreme Court justices, 10 sitting members of Congress, five sitting governors and more than 200 Toll alumni currently serving as state or territorial legislators.
Since 1986, there have been more than 1,350 graduates of the Toll Fellowship.
About The Council of State Governments
The Council of State Governments is our nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships. For more information about The Council of State Governments, visit csg.org.