Ohio University

Staying Local Series: Lenny Eliason, BSC ’77, MPA ’02

Staying Local Series: Lenny Eliason, BSC ’77, MPA ’02

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Year Graduated: 1977

School: Media Arts & Studies; Voinovich School

Major: Radio-Television; Public Administration

Current job title and location: Commissioner, Athens County, Ohio

What do you do? I am the president of the Board of Commissioners. I perform day-to-day administration and budgeting for the county. I oversee the Department of Job and Family Services, EMS, 911, EMA, county planner, and the maintenance of county facilities.

What made you come to Ohio University? Were there other places you considered? I came to Ohio University to study communication. I fell in love with the rural setting and the outdoor spaces. I found southern Ohio to be so much prettier than the rest of the state. I also looked at Kent State, Ohio State and Cleveland State Universities.

How did the Scripps College of Communication equip you with the skills you needed to succeed? The Scripps College exposed me to various aspects of communication. It gave me a great foundation to use as I progressed in my career.

What about your experiences here was so memorable? I met my wife here. We got married here between my junior and senior year. I made lifelong friends while I was in school. I wanted to stay here but had a chance to go into business for myself. After we left, we always wanted to come back and raise our family here, which we eventually did.

Tell us about your career path. I managed Domino's Pizza while I finished school. I became an area franchisee in 1979 and built the first three stores in the Cleveland area. I then started working in sales for WLYT-FM. I took a sales job at WVUD-FM in Dayton. I then joined WPTW AM-FM where I did sales and sports broadcasting. I moved on to WPFB AM/FM in sales. I went to WVUD-FM in Dayton as a salesperson, where I became sales manager and then general manager. Finally, I returned to Athens with the purchase of WMPO AM/FM in 1989. I owned the stations for 10 years before selling them when I was elected Athens County commissioner in 1998. I also broadcast Ohio University football, basketball and women’s basketball in the 90’s as well as high school sports.

What were some of the reasons you decided to stay local for your career? How would you advise students in choosing where they should ultimately live and work? We didn’t stay local early in my career, but we wanted to be here. My wife was teaching at Trimble Elementary School, and I was managing Domino's Pizza when a business opportunity took us away. We wanted to come back because no place has the small-town charm and big-town feeling that Athens does. We felt it would be a great place to raise our kids while exposing them to all the different opportunities living in a University town provided.

What other advice do you have for current students? Do what you love. Find a place that nurtures all aspects of your life both physically and mentally.

Get into the community. Experience all of what there is in Athens County. It is much more than the campus. Cherish your time here; it goes fast.