New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. will head to Harvard University next month to attend a prestigious leadership program.
Gullo, who stepped down this month as president of the Maryland Municipal League, is among the 160 elected officials, government leaders and others who have been accepted into the program, which begins outdoors on an island in Boston Harbor.
"We take them to the Outward Bound facility on Thompson Island and have them spend the day in leadership exercises," said Robyn Champion, director of the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
"It's an all-day thing: no pagers, no business," Gullo said of his island adventure. "Not so much physical prowess [but] moderate exertion - walking, pulling, climbing, high and low courses, running, climbing walls and other activities. The closest thing I can compare is the Marine Corps."
Then it's classrooms, discussion groups and speakers for the rest of the three-week program, with the participants residing at Harvard and walking to class.
"I'm real excited about this," said Gullo, 31 , a lawyer and mayor since 1993 of the town of 1,200. "It's an honor for me."
"First of all, to be accepted into an exclusive program makes me proud not only that I'm being recognized for the things I've done but also for the fact that this nationally known program will teach me new things, make me a better leader and ultimately make me a better leader for the people I serve."
The program evolved to help local officials after the decline of the role of the federal government, recognizing their increased challenges, with fewer resources and greater scrutiny.
Applicants must have a sponsor and write several essays to be accepted, Champion said.
Gullo, who was sponsored by Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis, recently found himself writing to "describe your organization, budget, functions, and the services you provide; your duties and responsibilities; your most substantial challenges and achievements."
"It was almost like applying for law school again," he said.
For his greatest challenge, Gullo said he wrote about "managing the rapid growth and how awesome I am at doing that and how challenging it is."
The program, which is designed "to challenge assumptions and broaden perspectives," had 420 applicants for two programs in June and July, Champion said. Participants include not only elected officials, but chief executives of nonprofit agencies, fire and police chiefs.
"I would certainly say, given the number of applications we receive, that the admissions committee looks at applications pretty carefully in order to decide who gets a seat," she said. "One of the reasons why it's very competitive to get a seat is we try to get diversity."
"Some people apply for several years before they get in," Champion said.
At the end of the program, which runs from July 9 to July 28, participants receive a certificate.
"I expect an outstanding experience," Gullo said. "It's certainly something I feel I can put to use for the community here."