Being named Superintendent of the Pike County Board of Developmental Disabilities was a bittersweet experience for Jeff Allen.
“I wanted to get my OU MPA, so I could be Superintendent one day, in order to help maintain the high standards set from the Board and Dr. Roger Kemper … for the individuals and families we serve,” he said. “I never thought I would be a Superintendent this soon.”
In August 2020, Pike County Board Superintendent Dr. Roger Kemper died unexpectedly. Allen had completed his MPA in the winter of 2019 and was able to step up after Kemper’s passing, officially becoming Superintendent in November 2020.
“Everything was in place to be ready for the Superintendent’s job when it came up unexpectedly,” Allen said. “Once the Board knew I had my MPA, it was an obvious choice.”
Allen had worked under Kemper as the Board’s Director of Fiscal Operations for nearly 20 years, Kemper was a great source of mentorship and support for Allen. Kemper and Pike County Executive Director Jeff Noble wrote Allen letters of recommendation when he applied to Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs’ Executive MPA program.
“They were a big help in getting me to start thinking about being a Superintendent,” Allen said. “I kept thinking, ‘would I want to work for anyone else other than Roger or Jeff, once they were totally gone from the Board?’ The answer was no.”
When Allen thought about going back to school, the lifelong Bobcat saw only one option; “I was set on going back to OU,” he said. “My twin brother Joe and I attended OU together in the eighties and we loved every minute of it.”
Besides Allen’s alumni loyalty, the Voinovich School’s Executive MPA program had been recommended by numerous colleagues for its quality and accessibility. The Executive MPA program is designed for working professionals: candidates can earn their degree in two years over 20 Saturdays through a combination of online learning and in-person classes at OHIO’s Dublin campus.
After enrolling in 2013, a death in the family caused Allen to take a break from the program in 2015 with only a few assignments left. In the summer of 2019, MPA Director Dr. Jason Jolley contacted Allen about officially completing his MPA degree.
“[Jason] was really supportive and pushed me to do that, and I’m glad I did,” Allen said. “[Professor] Ani Ruhil and [Senior Associate Dean] Dr. Marsha Lewis were very helpful [as well]. I couldn’t have done it without their help.”
The Pike County Board of Developmental Disabilities works to ensure that citizens of Pike County with developmental disabilities and their families, “experience lifestyles that provide opportunities for personal security, physical and emotional well-being, full community participation, productivity, and equal rights.” The Board works closely with Pike County local government and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.
From updating strategic plans to writing grants and analyzing programs and budgets, Allen frequently uses the skills he learned at the Voinovich School. “It comes in handy practically daily,” he said. “Just anything and everything … I continue to draw on past notes and books from all of my Executive MPA classes.”
Today, Allen is inspired by the example set by Kemper, who was with the Pike County Board of Developmental Disabilities for more than 47 years, as well as that of his brother, who passed away in 2010.
“[These are] big shoes to fill, of course. [Kemper] started our DD program here back in 1970, he devoted his life to the Board and there is a big responsibility to maintain our programs here like he always did,” Allen said. “I hope and believe that with everything I’ve gone through, with Roger’s help, the Board’s help, and with OU’s help that I’m ready to do that.”