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Appalachia Forward

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Lodge at Hocking College
Nelsonville, OH


View the recording of Appalachia Forward, all available presentations are linked in the schedule below.


Available presentations are hyperlinked. 

10:00 a.m. Introductions and setting the stage for the day (expectations, goals, etc.)





Mark Weinberg, Dean, Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service
Mayor Tom Johnson, Village of Somerset

10:15 a.m. Remarks from Ohio Department of Development

Lydia Mihalik, Director, Ohio Department of Development - POWER.pdf

10:30 a.m. POWER 2022

Getting ready for 2022 submissions and resources available at GOA to assist communities

John Carey, Director, Governor’s Office of Appalachia
Jay Bennett, Governor’s Office of Appalachia
Brenda Haas, Governor’s Office of Appalachia

11:15 a.m. COVID Relief Opportunities 

Inspiring best practices and available assistance

Misty Crosby, Executive Director, Buckeye Hills Regional Council - Presentation.pdf
Amista Lipot, Executive Director, Mayors’ Partnership for Progress
Mayor Don Mason, City of Zanesville

11:45 a.m. Lunch and Advocacy Panel Discussion

John Hemmings, Executive Director, Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission

Chris Slagle, Bricker and Eckler 
Greg Lestini, Bricker and Eckler
Brandon Kern, Sr. Director, State & National Policy, Ohio Farm Bureau  

12:45 p.m. Creative Community Revitalization

Pulling together fundable creative placemaking projects - Creative Community Revitalization.pdf

Kathy Zook, ARC program Manager, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments

Joyce Barrett, Heritage Ohio
Amanda Terrell, Ohio History Connection
Donna Collins, Ohio Arts Council
Kristi Tanner, JobsOhio

1:30 p.m. Capital Bill 

How to pull together a winning capital bill request

Jeannette Wierzbicki, Executive Director, Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association (OMEGA)

Jeff Westhoven, Ohio Construction Facilities Commission - Cultural Facilities for Appalachia Forward
the Honorable Jay Edwards, OH- 94

2:00 p.m. Closing and Key Takeaways 


Joyce Barrett headshot

Joyce Barrett

Joyce Barrett currently serves as Executive Director for Heritage Ohio Inc. Ohio’s statewide preservation organization whose mission is helping people save the places that matter, build community live better. 

Joyce has worked and volunteered in the history field in Arizona, Iowa and Ohio since graduation from Iowa State with a bachelor’s degree in history and Arizona State with a masters in business. Originally in the museum field, she has also served on a local preservation commission, researched and written national register nominations, and mounted exhibits.

Joyce serves on the board of Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area, and is a volunteer for Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA).

Jay Bennett Headshot

Jay Bennett

Jay Bennett has 33 years in various potions within local government. He has twice been the City of Zanesville’s Public Service and Community Development Director. He spent 14 years in the Pacific Northwest where he worked for local government and a Community Development Corporation. Currently, he is the owner of Jay Bennett & Associates and is contracted with the State of Ohio’s Governor’s Office of Appalachia, helping communities with their planning and assistance to ARC funding. He is passionate about equitable access to technology and broadband for small rural communities. He resides in Zanesville.

John Carey headshot

John Carey

John Carey was appointed Director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia by Governor Mike DeWine in February 2019. The Governor’s Office of Appalachia works to coordinate economic and community development initiatives to improve the lives of those living in the 32-county region. The Office also works with the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington, D.C. and with various local entities to promote the region's assets and support initiatives that increase the economic activity of the region.

John Carey served as the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education from 2013 – 2018. As Chancellor he worked to align higher education programs with Ohio’s job creation and workforce needs. Carey also implemented initiatives that increased collaboration among colleges, universities, technical schools and local businesses and community organizations.

Prior to joining the Ohio Department of Higher Education, Carey was Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives at Shawnee State University. He led university workforce initiatives, working closely with local businesses. Carey served in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate. He was the Mayor of Wellston for seven years.

A graduate of Ohio University, he lives in Wellston with his wife, Lynley, and two sons. 

Donna Collins Headshot

Donna Collins

Donna Collins serves as the executive director of the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Collins brings more than 30 years of experience in leading a state agency and statewide non-profit organizations, demonstrating consistent success and solid results that impact policy, education, economic development, and arts and culture. At the state level Collins is a founding member of the Ohio Prison Arts Connection, a Fellow with the Ohio Art Education Association, and served as the Leader in Residence at Marietta College. In 2015 John R. Kasich, Governor of the State of Ohio, inducted Collins into the Association of Ohio Commodores whose mission is to assist the State of Ohio in its advancement in all areas contributing to the economic growth and development of the State, and the greater prosperity of its citizens. At the national level Collins is an elected Board member of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).

Misty Crosby Headshot

Misty Crosby

Misty Crosby has served as the Executive Director of Buckeye Hills Regional Council since 2007. She has risen through the ranks of the organization since 1990, starting as a Secretary when she was in high school. She was promoted to Development Specialist before rising to Development Director and, eventually, Executive Director.

Crosby leads Buckeye Hills Regional Council in its capacity as the Local Development District for the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Ohio Governor’s Office of Appalachia; the Economic Development District for the federal Economic Development Administration; the District 18 Liaison to the Ohio Public Works Commission; the Regional Transportation Planning Organization for the Ohio Department of Transportation; the Ohio Area Agency on Aging Region 8 and the Southeast Ohio Aging & Disability Resource Network. Under Crosby’s leadership, Buckeye Hills Regional Council has facilitated the investment of more than $625 million in its eight-county region since 2007.

Representing the Midwest Region of the country, Crosby serves as President of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Board of Directors and as President of the NADO Research Foundation. Crosby has served as President of The Development District Association of Appalachia and also served as Chair of the Training Committee. Crosby was recently appointed by the Ohio University Board of Trustees as the university’s first Regional Trustee. She was appointed by the Governor to the Ohio Advisory Council on Aging, where she now serves as Chair of the Best Practices Committee. Crosby currently serves on The Hippodrome/Colony Historical Theatre Association Board of Directors and is also a member of The Ohio Association of Regional Councils and The Executive Order of the Ohio Commodore.

Crosby holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management from Ohio Valley University and earned Executive Women in Leadership Certification from Cornell University. She also holds an Associate’s Degree in Accounting from Washington State Community College.

She resides in Belpre, Ohio with her husband Dave.

Jay Edwards headshot

State Representative Jay Edwards

State Representative Jay Edwards is serving his third term as state representative. He represents the 94th Ohio House District, which includes Athens, Meigs, Washington, and Vinton Counties.

Representative Edwards was born and raised in Nelsonville and attended Ohio University on a football scholarship receiving his degree in Mathematics. While in college he started investing in local real estate. Through educated decision making, hard work, and conservatism, Rep. Edwards was able to grow that business throughout his college career and also got a real estate license to start representing buyers and sellers in the area. He is a small business owner, a realtor, and a property investor.

Recently, Representative Edwards began working in medical sales, within the drug abuse/treatment market. With an understanding about addiction and health insurance, Representative Edwards knows that this is a critical issue for Ohio’s 94th District.

Representative Edwards resides in Nelsonville and is active within the community.

Brenda Haas headshot

Brenda S. Haas

Brenda S. Haas is a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. Currently serves as a consultant for the GOA. Her career in education includes K-12 teaching & building principal, Executive Director for OACHE college access and administrative positions as Dean at Shawnee State University and Associate Vice Chancellor of P16 Initiatives at the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Her graduate work was completed at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. Her interest and research are in Appalachian Culture, postsecondary education access and rural education/workforce.

John Hemmings III Headshot

John Hemmings III

John is the Executive Director (August 2008 to Present) of the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC).  The OVRDC, located in Waverly, Ohio, is a public regional planning commission that coordinates federal, state, and local economic and community development resources to encourage development in twelve southern Ohio counties:  Adams, Brown, Clermont, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton.  OVRDC serves as a Local Development District (LDD) for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC); as an Economic Development District (EDD) for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA); and as a Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO) for the Ohio Department of Transportation.  In these capacities, OVRDC prioritizes development needs and sets priorities for projects to be funded by ARC and EDA and develops a public participation and transportation plan for its region.  OVRDC, established in 1967, has a 54-year history of fostering economic development and job creation in the region.

John has been with OVRDC since 1991.  Prior to serving as Executive Director, John was the Assistant Director (March 1999 to July 2008), Economic Development Director (July 1996 to February 1999), and Regional Planner (March 1991 to June 1996).                                                                         

John is a native of Scioto County, Ohio and lives there with his wife, Crystal.  John's interests include music, guitar, genealogy, antiques, and classic automobiles. Majoring in Business Economics, John graduated summa cum laude from Ohio University in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration.

Tom Johnson headshot

Mayor Tom Johnson 

After retiring from a career international banking, Mayor Tom Johnson returned to his roots and has helped served as mayor of Somerset, the town he grew up in since 2009.  He is also executive in residence at Ohio University, where he is responsible for helping the university more intentionally focus its attention, resources, and intellectual capital on better understanding and addressing the significant disparities that exist between Appalachian Ohio and the rest of the state and nation. He currently serves as a board member of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, as founding director of the Community Foundation for Perry County, and as co-chair of the Perry County Access to Healthcare Working Group. He previously served as chairman of the board for Hocking Technical College and has been appointed to the Association of Ohio Commodores. 

Brandon Kerr headshot

Brandon Kern

Brandon Kern is the senior director, state and national policy for Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. He is responsible for managing the organization’s legislative and regulatory team and represents the interests of Farm Bureau members with Congress, the General Assembly and with federal and state regulatory agencies.

Kern was formerly on the Farm Bureau public policy team from 2013 – 2018 and rejoins the organization after being director of policy and legislative affairs for Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague.

Kern has previously filled various policy and legislative roles including serving as legislative aide and policy advisor to the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus in the office of U.S. Sen. George Voinovich. He is a graduate of Wright State University with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and is currently completing his master’s degree at Ohio Dominican University. He is active in his local community and also serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. Kern and his wife, Amie, live in Amanda and are the parents of three children.

Ohio Farm Bureau’s mission is working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.


Greg Lestini Headshot

Greg Lestini

In private practice for more than 13 years, Greg Lestini utilizes his experience within multiple levels of government to help clients navigate complex legal, legislative and regulatory structures. As a member of the firm’s government relations and insurance teams, he focuses on using the levers of public policy to the advantage of insurance companies, public corporations, trade associations and private businesses. Greg's practice concentrates on insurance, public sector, healthcare and agriculture law.

Greg has served as a legislative aide in the Ohio Legislature and at Columbus City Council. In addition, he was chief of staff for the Ohio Senate Minority Caucus, helping lead strategy, talent development, public policy and other critical initiatives for the minority leader and caucus. In addition, he worked with the AmeriCorps Legal Service Corps following law school, representing low/no-income renters in eviction defense and conditions cases in Toledo and throughout northwest Ohio.

Greg is an active community member, participating on many boards throughout central and southeast Ohio. He is a member of the firm’s Racial Equity Task Force and was also responsible for reinventing a firm-hosted art show, featuring artists in recovery from and dealing with mental health and addiction challenges. He is active on social media and manages several accounts. Greg also regularly contributes to updates on legal and business developments in the insurance space as it relates to finance and insurance technology by public and private entities.

Known for his accessibility and responsiveness, clients can typically reach Greg after-hours, while he’s either in his kitchen, practicing the guitar or building elaborate and structurally questionable Lego projects with his daughters.


Amista Lipot headshot

Amista Naylor Lipot

Amista Naylor Lipot has been with the Voinovich School since 2003. In addition to establishing and cultivating critical partnerships, her portfolio includes strategic communications, development, alumni relations, advocacy, and special projects. She also serves as Executive Director for the Mayors' Partnership for Progress, a bipartisan coalition of Mayors and City Managers from eighteen southeast Ohio counties, representing nearly 120 communities. Before joining the Voinovich School, Amista managed administrators throughout Ohio for an international consulting and software company. Amista has a bachelor's degree in Interpersonal Communication from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Ohio University.

Tom Johnson headshot

Mayor Tom Johnson 

After retiring from a career international banking, Mayor Tom Johnson returned to his roots and has helped served as mayor of Somerset, the town he grew up in since 2009.  He is also executive in residence at Ohio University, where he is responsible for helping the university more intentionally focus its attention, resources, and intellectual capital on better understanding and addressing the significant disparities that exist between Appalachian Ohio and the rest of the state and nation. He currently serves as a board member of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, as founding director of the Community Foundation for Perry County, and as co-chair of the Perry County Access to Healthcare Working Group. He previously served as chairman of the board for Hocking Technical College and has been appointed to the Association of Ohio Commodores. 

Lydia Mihalik headshot

Lydia Mihalik

Lydia Mihalik is the director of the Ohio Department of Development. The agency provides customer service and support to businesses, communities and individual investors and entrepreneurs to encourage economic development in the state.

Director Mihalik was appointed to lead the agency by Governor Mike DeWine. She comes to the agency after serving as the mayor of the City of Findlay. She is the first woman to hold the city’s top post. As mayor, she was a strong proponent of small business and workforce development.

She has been a board member for the Ohio Mayors Alliance, a collaboration of Ohio’s 20 largest cities, and has served on the Advisory Board for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Director Mihalik is a native of Indiana who moved to Ohio to attend the University of Findlay, where she earned a degree in political science. Her interest in public administration earned her an internship with the City of Findlay, which led to a full-time position in city economic development. She has served as Grant Administrator for the Hancock Regional Planning Commission. She serves on the Hancock County Red Cross Board of Directors as well as Board of Directors for The Partnership for Excellence.

Chris Slagle Headshot

Chris Slagle

Chris Slagle is Partner In Charge of Bricker & Eckler's Marietta office, and chair of the firm's Government Relations group. He practices in the areas of government relations; real estate, including land use, development and zoning; banking law and financial services; transportation and logistics; consumer finance, and mortgage banking. Chris is also a member of the firm's Shale Task Force practice as well as the Southeast Ohio team.

His government relations work includes representing political parties, candidates, statewide ballot committees, corporations and businesses, and political action committees in all aspects of election law issues and campaign finance compliance. He also advocates for them before the Ohio Election Commission, boards of elections, and in litigation in state and federal courts. Chris represents and lobbies for various trade associations, businesses and corporate entities before the Ohio General Assembly.

In real estate, Chris represents businesses, developers and political subdivisions in complex zoning, land use, annexation and land development issues, and appears before planning, development and zoning commissions in zoning, variance, annexation and related public service matters. He also represents wireless communications carriers in zoning matters and public hearings, including negotiations with law directors, city attorneys, county prosecutors and other public officials.

Chris represents banks, credit unions and other financial institutions in various regulatory and compliance matters, as well as mortgage banks, lenders and consumer finance organizations in licensure, regulatory and compliance issues. He also represents transportation and trucking companies and logistics operators in regulatory and compliance issues.

Chris is a former spokesman, speechwriter and federal policy liaison for the former Ohio Attorney General and Ohio Auditor of State Betty D. Montgomery; senior staff member and Director of Communications for Ohio Congressman Paul E. Gillmor; legislative aide for former Ohio State Senator Karen L. Gillmor; and district representative for former Ohio Congressman Frank A. Cremeans.

Kristi Tanner Headshot

Kristi Tanner

Tanner is JobsOhio’s managing director for automotive, steel and appliances. She played an essential role in the startup of JobsOhio, the private, non-profit corporation designed to drive job creation and new capital investment in Ohio through business attraction, retention and expansion efforts.

Amanda Terrell headshot

Amanda Terrell

Amanda Terrell is Director of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at the Ohio History Connection. A native of Virginia, Amanda earned a Master of Historic Preservation degree from the University of Kentucky and worked at the Georgia SHPO in Atlanta before coming to the Ohio SHPO in 2014. At the Ohio SHPO, Amanda has focused on creating strong partnerships and promoting historic preservation as a key to community revitalization. 

Mark Weinberg headshot

Mark Weinberg

Mark L. Weinberg is a professor of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University specializing in the areas of organizational strategy and public sector value creation. He is the founding and current Dean of Ohio University’s George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. In 2002, he was named the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Whisman Scholar and served in that capacity for three years. He currently is a member of the Ohio Innovation Funding Commission.

Mark received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland and his doctorate from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has taught a range of management courses including the capstone seminar in Public Administration, Public Budgeting, Financial Management, and Public Policy Analysis and published in these areas. He was on the faculty of the Ohio University Executive Leadership Institute from 1998 to 2010.

As Dean, Mark also provides strategic oversight of economic development at Ohio University, including a range of business technical assistance programs and equity funding for high-growth businesses in the Appalachian Region of Ohio

Jeff Westhoven Headshot

Jeff Westhoven

Jeff joined OFCC in 2013 as its Chief of Program Services. His current areas of responsibility include grant programs, communications, legislative affairs, and post-construction.

Jeff was appointed by Governor George Voinovich in 1994 to create Ohio’s Office of Energy Services. As Ohio’s first state facility energy coordinator, he established programs to save energy and money in state government buildings and operations. To date those programs have saved the state more than $120 million in energy costs.

Previously, Jeff served for six years as deputy director of the General Services Division of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, which is often referred to as central business arm of state government. The General Services Division included the operations of the State Architect’s Office and the Office of Energy Services, prior to its merger into OFCC in 2012. During this time, Jeff was a key member of the Ohio Construction Reform Panel and a primary author of the 2009 Construction Reform Panel Report, which led to historic changes in Ohio’s construction laws.

Jeff moved to OFCC in 2013 to oversee the merger of the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission into OFCC. Since then, the cultural grants program has administered more than 400 community project grants valued at $220 million in state appropriations.

Jeff also served as the state’s Chief Procurement Officer for five years, and is certified by the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council as a Certified Public Procurement Officer (CPPO).

Jeff earned his Bachelor of Science (BS) in electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at Franklin University.

Jeannette Wierzbicki Headeshot

Jeannette M. Wierzbicki

Ms. Jeannette M. Wierzbicki, P.E. is the Executive Director of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association (OMEGA), a Local Development District that serves ten counties in Eastern Appalachian Ohio:  Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Muskingum, and Tuscarawas Counties.  OMEGA’s mission is to provide a pathway to enhance community and economic growth in the region by connecting communities to resources.  Ms. Wierzbicki plans, directs, and coordinates OMEGA’s programs and operations. OMEGA is also a designated Regional Transportation Planning Organization and is participating in a regional coordinated public transportation/human services transportation pilot program.  She is a professional engineer, registered in the State of Ohio and has over 35 years of engineering experience in the field of public works and community and economic development. Ms. Wierzbicki has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University.

Kathy Zook Headshot

Kathy Zook

Kathy Zook has worked in public service for Eastgate Regional Council of Governments for over two decades serving as the ARC Program Manager for the last 12 years. She is a graduate of the University of Akron and lives in Cortland, Ohio. As the ARC Program Manager, Kathy works with communities in her 3-county district to identify and prioritize projects to utilize Federal and State Appalachian funding to make investments to support economic and community development, critical infrastructure, workforce development, job training, and improved access to health care.

Local Development Districts