Ashtabula — For the Ashtabula County community, it is rare when LEADERship Ashtabula County Executive Director Laura E. Jones does not say "yes". From being present at community events, county-wide meetings, a part of new initiatives, or collaborating with local non- profit organizations, schools, or businesses, Jones is an ever-present resource in the County. However, a decade of service at the helm of LEADERship will come to an end in June for Jones, as she departs the organization.
Jones is stepping away from the organization after 10 years as the Executive Director of LEADERship Ashtabula County. Her last official day will be in June.
"I have two children, 10 and 5, and they need to be the focus of my time now, she said. My oldest son, Christian, attends a school on the West side of Cleveland, and Hobbes is in Kindergarten here in Ashtabula. For ten years, my focus split between an all-encompassing role at work and one at home. I've loved both and regret nothing. It's simply time to give them my energy and focus. My husband and I decided a few years ago that it would ultimately become necessary for me to take a step back."
"Additionally, I believe in organizational change, and when I started, I had a list of 5 major goals to work through. Grow our youth program, become fiscally sustainable, expand our Signature program curriculum, further our community outreach, and plan for the future. We are in the future plan stage now. I feel like it is the perfect time for new leadership and new ideas,' said Jones.
The LEADERship Board of Trustees was made aware of Jones's plans in May of 2018 and began a succession planning process at that time. "When we hired Kelli Jones, we knew that we were looking for the next Director, Jones stated. The organization will thrive with her at the helm, and our Program Manager, David Clayman, will be a part of LEADERship's future as well."
Board President Vincent Gildone said, "Laura made Leadership Ashtabula County financially sound while adding programs and community outreach. She has taken the organization to levels not dreamed of during the ten years she has been the Executive Director. Her efforts directed toward succession planning have been nothing short of amazing.
The entire leadership community has greatly benefited from her efforts. The Leadership Board of Directors as well as myself will find it hard to say good-bye even though we have been preparing for the day for some time now.
We all wish her well in all her future endeavors."
Laura E. Jones is a graduate of Ashtabula Harbor High School and Case Western Reserve University. After spending several years working in learning and development for an international cosmetic company, Laura transitioned to working in commercial insurance sales with Huntington Insurance. As an aspect of her role with Huntington, Laura became involved with several non-profit organizations in the Cleveland, Lake, and Ashtabula County areas. Laura focused on encouraging and coordinating volunteer efforts and community involvement in the workplace while working and residing in downtown Cleveland.
In 2009, Laura became the Executive Director of LEADERship Ashtabula County, to continue the organization's mission of encouraging, educating, and stimulating individuals to become interested, engaged, and familiar with all aspects of civic endeavor. Now in its 31st year, LEADERship Ashtabula County successfully continues its core programs of the Signature Adult Class and YOUth LEADERship for High School juniors and Seniors. LEADERship also is a sponsor of the Profiles of Ashtabula County Speaker Series and is active in facilitation and many county-wide initiatives.
Under her tenure, Laura added programming to enhance the class experiences, building upon the core values of inclusion, sustainability, and diversity. LEADERship became a trailblazer for initiatives such as Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship in school and program based settings.
"One of my goals has always been to help individuals get to where they want to be in terms of civic endeavor. A big part of this job is knowing what is going on in every corner of the County, from the manufacturing industry to an elementary school classroom. I want to see others succeed in reaching their goals, and to not be afraid of failure, or of a door that was previously shut to them. We are door-openers. I truly believe that people are often looking to be included and are hoping to be asked. We continue to empower people to make a change, step up, and to encourage others in the process."
Laura has served as a Board of Trustees member for LEADERship Ashtabula County, is a 2008 LEADERship graduate, and served as a member of the United Way of Ashtabula County Board of Trustees from 2006-2012. In 2011, Laura was appointed to the Ashtabula County Airport Authority by the Board of Commissioners and is a past Vice-President. Laura is also a member of the Ashtabula Rotary Club. She is a past member of the St. John School Board of Directors, and the Footprints Center for Autism.
Currently, Laura is the Vice President Ashtabula County Growth Partnership Executive Committee and is a Past President and current Secretary/ Treasurer of the Kent State University Ashtabula Area College Committee. Laura also serves on the Board of the New Entrepreneurs Opportunity Fund.
"At one point, I was the only female on two economic development focused Boards. That has changed, and we are seeing so much more diversity and inclusion. I am really proud to work with the individuals that I have. LEADERship Alumni and supporters have become an extended family to my family." she said. "I hope that in my time here, people have gained some higher perspective on the good that takes place in the community. Recognizing the work and sacrifice that so many put in to give back is essential. Being at the forefront, and quietly behind the scenes of our Giving Tuesday Initiatives, classroom funding via outreach, and programs such as the Dragon Empowerment Center and Entrepreneurship classes has been truly rewarding."
Class of 2018 graduate, and Executive Director of the Civic Development Corporation Amanda Tirotta shared, "Laura has influenced all graduates of LEADERship to not only lead, but to use your journey for the betterment of all and to seek genuine opportunities to collaborate whenever possible. She instilled that LEADERship takes courage, heart and creativity. Anyone that has been fortunate enough to be part of her class has taken away not only life skills, but a unique opportunity to grow professionally and individually."
Jones shared “I have been asked over and over, "are you really leaving?, LEADERship is your life". My answer is the same. LEADERship is a job that I have treasured, and it's a part of who I am. My family is my life."