Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lorenzo Lasater named civic leader of the year

By Jayna Boyle
San Angelo Standard-Times
Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lorenzo Lasater wants to make local education as efficient as he is.

He manages four businesses and leads volunteer groups at the First Presbyterian Church, Lasater also is involved with business and ranching associations, makes time for his family and puts extra effort into improving the way education prepares local youths for the work force.

As the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce chairman in 2006, Lasater developed an education task force to create a round-table discussion among Angelo State University, Howard College, the San Angelo Independent School District and the business community.

Partly because of his work spearheading the education initiative, Lasater recently was named Civic Leader of the Year by the Leadership San Angelo Alumni Association.

He said his parents instilled in him the importance of giving back, and improving education is something that he says can benefit the whole community.

“My goal is to bring every kid up a notch,” Lasater said. “It makes a better work force, more taxpayers and better-trained employees who can provide better for their families.”

Lasater, 39, who has two sons, said working to improve education can be frustrating because making progress is slow and it is difficult to see results. Those qualities are part of what draws him to the challenge.

By bringing all the city’s major education entities together for discussion, Lasater said, he hopes to be able to create a type of career academy. Such a program would allow students as young as high school freshmen to choose a career path and, through dual credit, earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school.

When students graduate, they would have the option of continuing with schooling or entering the work force as a skilled professional.

“We want to inspire kids to stay in high school,” Lasater said. “I think a lot of students drop out of school because it doesn’t speak to them. But you can’t quit high school and get a job that will support a family.”

While the career academy goal is in its beginning stages, Lasater said the dual-credit focus is mainly on the fields of health care and auto technology.

LeAnne Byrd, chief academic officer for Howard College-San Angelo, said that although the technical and vocational school already was working with the local school district, Lasater has made the work easier and has brought all local education organizations to the table.

“He has done an outstanding job of bringing business to education,” Byrd said. “At a time when everyone else is busy, he keeps us engaged and on track.”

For the career academy to succeed, Lasater said, all involved groups need to be actively involved in discussions. He said the business community will be responsible for identifying which areas of the local economy need more employees so that the academy can focus its training in the needed areas.

Byrd said Lasater is good about listening to each group’s concerns and seeing how those issues interplay with the rest of the group.

“As an educator, it’s exciting to see someone in business want to make this work,” Byrd said. “He cares, and that shows whenever he’s around you.”

Leslie Lasater, Lorenzo Lasater’s wife, said her husband’s strengths include his ability to multitask and his dependability. She said he loves to take on new challenges.

“The more work you give him, the better he does,” Leslie Lasater said.
She said he is a natural leader because he is good at communicating with people and getting along with different personalities.

Lorenzo Lasater credits his subtle, non-threatening approach to civic work as the quality that allows him to be a natural leader.

“I’m effective at working with and organizing people,” he said.

Lasater got involved in the local business scene in the 1990s, when his ranch work was suffering because of a drought. He started the print shop Company Printing some 12 years ago as a measure to diversify his business interests.

He still does ranch work and has a business that involves raising deer to stock deer-huntingranches. He also has expanded his endeavors to include the local photography business Image Arts, as well as a packaging business in Mexico.

“It suits my personality to do a lot of different things,” Lasater said. Phil Neighbors, the Chamber of Commerce president, said Lasater is easygoing and fun to work with.

“He keeps meetings short and to the point, but makes sure they’re all-inclusive,” Neighbors said. “He involves everyone in the discussion and always has action and follow-up on his agenda.”

For now, Lasater said much of the work to improve local education is still conceptual. He knows it is going to be a long-term effort that — with any luck — never will be finished.

“You can always make education better,” Lasater said, “if you’re honest with yourself.”

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