Jennifer Meek Eells
TITLE AND EMPLOYER/ORGANIZATION
Executive Director, Stark Tuscarawas Workforce Development Board
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DAY JOB TO A CHILD?
I have fun talking with friendly people every day who care about Stark County.
WHAT LED YOU TO YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER OR JOB FIELD?
I actually started in college as an education major and wanted to be a high school teacher. I changed gears after my first semester and wanted to work for a while, and had an opportunity to take a civil service test to become an eligibility worker in Ohio counties for public assistance programs. After I passed the test, I was immediately called by Stark County Job and Family Services, was hired, and have worked in public service since 1988. At Stark County JFS, I worked as an eligibility specialist, as a Job Club Coach, as a young adult case manager, as an Employment Supervisor, and as a Program Administrator overseeing all of the federal work activities and publicly-funded child care programs. In 2006, I left JFS to become the Deputy Director for the workforce board, and in 2013, I became the board’s Executive Director. I feel incredibly blessed, because through all these roles, I’ve had unique experiences to learn, grow, work with wonderful people in our community, lead and/or partner with initiatives, and teach… all of the things I truly enjoy.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE STRENGTHENING STARK MOVEMENT?
Hrishue Mahalaha and Ray Hexamer reached out to the
OhioMeansJobs Center after the Strengthening Stark report was published through
the support of the Stark Community Foundation. Within just a few
discussions with Hrishue and Ray regarding business outreach and job seeker
services we offer through the OhioMeans Jobs Center, I was hooked! The
Stark County Economic Development Board and the Strengthening Stark Initiative
was truly interested in how community partnerships could strengthen and build
Stark County to address the issues of residents becoming poorer, older, and
less populated across the county. The workforce board and the
OhioMeansJobs Center serve as the hub for coordination of community resources
for talent development, and so I immediately saw the board’s role and seat at
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN STARK COUNTY?
What I am most proud of in Stark County is its organizations’ dedication to partnering to address issues. I’ve worked in Stark County for almost 33 years now, and I was impressed early in my career how well organizations would work together. The local elected officials at the city, municipality, and county level have also been a part of that dedication to Stark County and its residents and businesses.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEW STARK COUNTY RESIDENTS?
Stark County is RICH in so many ways… it’s home to the ProFootball Hall of Fame; the cost of living is great; property costs are low compared to other parts of the country; we have great shopping, beautiful parks and outdoor venues, wonderful museums and historic landmarks; strong K-12 schools along with access to 5 higher education facilities including Stark State College, Kent State University Stark, Malone University, Walsh University, and Mount Union University. And… if you’re a new resident looking for work in Stark County, we have the best OhioMeansJobs Center in the state (Of course, I am a bit biased… BUT IT’S TRUE!)
IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY AND COULD PURCHASE ONE THING FOR OUR COMMUNITY, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I think one of Stark County’s hidden gems is Beech Creek Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Alliance. I love walking the grounds there and visiting the butterfly house with my nieces and great nieces. If I won the lottery, I would give a huge donation to that organization, so they can continue to expand their work and programs for young children, as well as all community members. Did I mention that Stark County is rich with so much to do for just about any interest?
WHAT STARK COUNTY RESTAURANT SHOULD WE CHECK OUT THIS WEEKEND?
Papa Gyros – their Gyro Grecian salad with the house dressing and a side of tzatziki is absolutely incredible!