All posts tagged leadership development

Introducing the Leadership Venango Class of 2020

Leadership Venango is a nine-month program designed to identify, educate, involve and motivate individuals who desire to become more effective leaders. This is the second year of the program and there are 12 people in the class of 2020.

Learn more about the program at

Class of 2020

Kaylee Azzopardi is a Human Resources Generalist at UPMC Northwest in Seneca. Kaylee earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Policy and Administration from Penn State University. She lives in Clarion with her dog and enjoys volunteering with her local Humane Society as part of the Human Resources Day of Service. She has also helped organize career fairs and donation drives at the hospital and assisted with the United Way Annual Campaign.

Thomas Chase is a Dempseytown native and 2019 graduate of Oil City High School. Thomas is a video producer with his company, CluenMedia, and does freelance video production and editing work. Thomas also works in maintenance at Lowrey’s Auto Body and for InstaCart. He is a volunteer for the Oakland United Methodist Church, Relay for Life, Community Services, and the Salvation Army.

Damien Cherico is a Clarion native and works as a Plant Metallurgist at the Oil City Webco facility. Damien graduated from Clarion High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Penn State University. At Penn State, Damien was a member of the Glee Club and still enjoys singing. Damien moved to Franklin in 2018 and is an active member of FLEX and enjoys exploring the Venango County area and spending time outdoors. Damien plans to go back to school for a master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering.

Saxon Daugherty is the Communications and Public Relations Specialist at Child Development Centers where he handles the media relations for their nearly 400 employees and 2,000 children in Venango, Crawford, and Erie counties. Saxon is a Cranberry High School graduate and still lives in the area with his wife and daughter. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Media Studies from Edinboro University in 2015 where he was named the Most Outstanding Graduating Senior in the Communications department. Saxon will serve as the Vice President and Secretary of FLEX in 2020 and assist with youth ministry at Venango Youth for Christ.

Matthew Deal is the Funeral Director and Owner of Morrison Funeral Home in Oil City. Matt has a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice from Penn State and an associate degree in Mortuary Science from Hudson Valley Community College. Prior to becoming a funeral director, Matt worked in asset protection management in retail sales with his biggest responsibility being a retailer that grossed over $60M annually. Matt relocated to Oil City in 2012, and he and his wife purchased the funeral home in 2017. Matt is currently serving on the board of the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce and on the NWPA Funeral Directors Association board beginning in 2020.

Ethan Gravatt is a Franklin native and 2008 graduate of Rocky Grove High School. Ethan works for Klapec Trucking Company as a Logistics Coordinator. In 2010, he joined the United States Army and attended basic combat training at Fort Leonard, Missouri. He deployed as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan in 2013. During his time in the service, he traveled to Germany, Poland and South Korea, earning various awards and accommodations along the way. He recently moved back to Venango County and now lives in Franklin with his wife and two children. He attends Galloway Methodist Church where he volunteers as a greeter and enjoys Steelers football and outdoor recreational activities.

Carrie Karns is a Venango County native and graduate of Rocky Grove High School with a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Slippery Rock University. Carrie was a recreation therapist at UPMC Northwest Behavioral Health before taking on her current role as Lifestyle Engagement Director at Oakwood Heights, where she loves working with the residents and their families. Carrie served as assistant coach for the Franklin YMCA competitive gymnastics team from 2005 to 2018. She lives outside of Oil City with her daughter and their dog and enjoys spending time outdoors, visiting antique shops, and attending local events.

Amy Keth is the Assistant Director of the Clarion University Small Business Development Center, where she has been a business consultant since 2004. Amy works with small business owners in Forest, Jefferson, and Venango counties, providing free and confidential consulting services as well as instructing programs and seminars. She attended Clarion University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, and she also earned her MBA in 2016. Amy lives in Clarion and is involved with Charitable Deeds and her children’s high school booster clubs.

Tracy Lander works for Klapec Trucking Company in Reno where she manages IT, Payroll, and Accounting. Tracy graduated from Penn State Behrend with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and spent a semester abroad in Australia. Tracy moved to Ohio after graduating from college and returned to the area when she got married. Tracy and her husband live in Oil City with their two children and love the Venango County area. Tracy is an active volunteer and serves as a Be Here ambassador, a greeter and lector at her church, St. Stephen’s parish, and as treasurer for St. Stephen’s Home and School.

Annie Welsh is the Youth Services Coordinator for the Oil Region Library Association in Venango County and the surrounding district, encompassing 14 total libraries. Annie earned a master’s degree in Library Science in 2008 and oversees all aspects of the Children’s Department at the Oil City Library, as well as cataloging children’s materials for all three Venango County Libraries. She also assists with developing and presenting youth focused workshops and training new employees. Annie lives in Clarion with her husband and two children and volunteers at her children’s school as well as for the Clarion Free Library’s Friends of the Library group.

Jessica Schultz is the Marketing Coordinator at Child Development Centers where she is responsible for the marketing, advertising, graphic design and website for Venango, Crawford and Erie Counties. Jessica graduated from Pittsburgh Technical Institute with an associate degree in Graphic Design and was awarded the Richard S. Caliguiri top of the class recognition. Since graduation, Jessica has worked in marketing departments on the global and national level. Jessica serves on the board of Jamie’s Kids, a local nonprofit, as a youth leader for her church, and has volunteered with Cranberry High School’s musical productions.

Kathryn Thompson moved to Venango County in high school and graduated from Christian Life Academy. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Spring Arbor University in Michigan and spent 3 years living in XinZheng, China, while teaching at Sias International University. Kathryn is employed as the Talent Engagement Facilitator for Northwest PA CareerLink where she enjoys traveling throughout the region meeting with individuals and community organizations. Kathryn lives in Oil City and is involved with the Oil City Vineyard Church, serves as a Be Here ambassador, and will serve as the President of FLEX in 2020.

These bios were also published in the Venango Chamber’s December 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Second Annual Retreat

The Leadership Venango Class of 2020 met for the first time on September 12-13 for a day and a half overnight retreat.

The first afternoon, at Whitehall Camp and Conference Center, was spent exploring our personalities and how to work better by understanding what influences our behaviors.

After dinner, the class reconvened for a Community Conversation with Dan Flaherty, a LV  Class of 2019 alumni. Before turning in, the new class met around a campfire, getting to know each other.

Friday morning began with an exercise on visioning, led by Chamber President Susan Williams. Next, Andy, on staff with Whitehall, led the class in teambuilding.  Along with completing physical challenges, the class discussed the dynamics of working together.  With encouragement from the new class, Susan willingly participated in the trust fall, allowing the class to catch her from a fall.

The day concluded with the class approving class rules, learning about managing a meeting and introducing speakers and creating a class vision for this year.

Participants this year include:

  • Kaylee Azzopardi, UPMC Northwest
  • Damien Cherico, Webco Industries
  • Saxon Daugherty, Child Development Centers
  • Matthew Deal, Morrison Funeral Home
  • Ethan Gravatt. Klapec Trucking Company
  • Carrie Karns, Oakwood Heights
  • Tracy Lander, Klapec Trucking Company
  • Jessica Schultz, Child Development Centers
  • Kat Thompson, PA CareerLink Oil Region
  • Annie Welsh, Oil Region Library Association
  • Amy Keth, Clarion University Small Business Development Center
  • Thomas Chase, Videographer

Learn more about the Leadership Venango program at

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s October 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Eighth Session: Energy & Agriculture

The Leadership Venango Class of 2019 met for their eighth session on April 10 at the Venango County Fairgrounds. This session focused on Energy and Agriculture. Renee Tritten, Communications Supervisor for Central Electric Cooperative (CEC) and member of the Chamber’s leadership committee, had a full day planned for the class.

The session began with Larry Brink, System Engineer from CEC, discussing the alternative energy initiative and the pros and cons of various energy sources. He explained that in 2018 the United States was still 64% dependent on fossil fuels, 19% dependent on nuclear power and only 17% dependent on renewable resources. The class next heard from Bill Fesenmeyer, Senior System Engineer at CEC. Bill spoke on the energy industry, reliability, and grid security. Bill explained the different types of grids for areas from cities to rural communities.

Jeff Fowler, Senior Extension Educator for the Penn State Cooperative Extension, introduced the Extension to the class and provided an overview and history of the Venango County Fairgrounds and 4H Program. Jeff is passionate about the program and the life skills students learn through their 4H projects and classes taught by the Extension. He then led the class on a tour of the Fairgrounds.

Following lunch, the class heard from Dan Brockett of the Penn State Extension Program, who spoke on the oil and gas industry and its impact in Venango County. The class discussed the new cracker plant in Monaca and its effect on the economy and the environment.

Warren Thomas, owner of Baytree Farm in Emlenton, then spoke on local agriculture opportunities. He emphasized the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how much work goes in to each crop. Warren recommended supporting local farmers through community-supported agriculture (CSA) and being mindful of the amount of food we waste. 

Finishing up the day was Adam Cook, CEO of the Franklin and Grove City YMCAs. Adam spoke on leading change with energy, touching on the different levels of leadership and how to encourage and motivate others. The Leadership Venango Class of 2019 will meet for their final session May 8 at the Drake Well Museum.

Join us in celebrating the inaugural class of Leadership Venango on May 22! Find more details about graduation here.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s May 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Seventh Session: Business & Economic Development

The 2019 class of Leadership Venango met for their seventh session to learn and discuss diversity, local economic development, and conflict management. The session was hosted by Komatsu and included a tour of the research and development facilities the company uses to move their product forward.

Komatsu’s Alan McBride provided the first presentation on Komatsu’s approach to inclusion and diversity. There is a strong business case for making sure your teams are focused on respect and having an open mind. Having or allowing personal judgements in a group causes people to shut down and dampens creativity. Alan shared how one of the biggest hurdles can be getting the executive team to buy into the value of diversity and actively promote open mindfulness. Working with people who are different is all about learning what we can from people who see things from a different perspective.

The biggest areas for improvement include gender diversity, disability inclusion, and cognitive diversity. Cognitive diversity is simply accepting different ways of problem solving and different methods of thinking. Left unchecked, unacceptance of different ways of thinking will obstruct a productive work environment. Alan also shared with us how, as a company, Komatsu works toward development of individuals in these types of areas through professional networking and mentorship.

The second part of the morning involved an “MBA in an hour” where Frank Hajduk of SCORE discussed economics and particularly, the economics of the local economy. He provided input on the capitalist and socialist dynamics of the American economy. A lot of focus was put on our local economy, its history, its potential future, and what it needs to succeed.

The local economy is defined by its job centers and everything within a one hour travel time. One of the most important dynamics, according to Mr. Hajduk, is the flow of money and product into and out of the local economy. If money is brought into the area, the area will see economic growth, but if money is carried or spent outside of the local area, it hurts the local economy.

This stressed the importance of the shop local mentality and the Be Here initiative.

The final discussion was brought by Pamela Watkins about conflict management. Pam is an experienced human resources (HR) professional who is the director of HR at Matric Limited and provides HR consulting through Watkins HR Strategy. There are many things that create conflict in a workplace and in any group involving people. The discussion of causes of conflict correlates closely with the discussion on diversity.

Many of the biggest issues start with barriers to communication and respect of peoples’ position and perception. There are many methods that people use to deal with conflict ranging from detrimental to constructive, and the most constructive way may not always be the same. In the end, there are real and measurable costs associated with conflict. Building on the theme of the day, we need to learn how to manage conflict as part of maximizing productivity and enhancing the benefits of life in the local economy.

Pam challenged the group with further reading of the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

Leadership Venango will meet again on April 10 at the Venango County Fairgrounds on Empowering Your Community. For more information, visit

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s April 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Fifth Session: Leading a Healthy Community


On January 9, the class of Leadership Venango met at UPMC Northwest for an enlightening session about achieving a healthy community.  Joyce Morgan, Director of Patient and Community Relations and Diabetes Center, and Cheri Siverling, Director of the Family Birthing Center, shared some of the struggles Venango County faces from a healthcare standpoint. UPMC Northwest conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) every three years.  The hospital identifies three areas of significant health needs of our community. Resources and programs then center around these areas.  Currently, the areas of focus are diabetes, respiratory diseases, and maternal infant health.

Joyce highlighted the Better Breathing Clinic and Smoking Cessation classes that UPMC offers, as well as the opportunity for individual instruction with a Diabetes Educator. Cheri discussed the high occurrence of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in Venango County. NAS is a group of problems associated with withdrawal that occurs when a baby has been exposed to certain drugs in the mother’s womb. Sadly, Venango County is the 3rd highest county for infants diagnosed with NAS, according to the PA Healthcare Cost Containment Council Bulletin in December 2018. Many services are available to help these families through Human Services and Community Services. 

Following Joyce and Cheri, Aaron Rosen, Senior HR Consultant for UPMC, shared insight on creating a healthy work community. Aaron shared UPMC’s five core values they expect each employee to uphold. They build the culture of UPMC Northwest around these values and they are what they look for when hiring a new employee or evaluating current employees.  Aaron stated: “You must create an environment that employees want to work in; when you have happy employees they inherently give better care to the patients.”

The class then took a quick tour of the new Hillman Cancer Center, TeleMed unit, and Stroke unit and got to hear about the successes of each. Though UPMC Northwest is located in a smaller community, they offer many state-of-the-art services to their patients and are on the cutting edge of new technology.

Brian Durniok, President of UPMC Northwest, spent some time with the class following lunch. He discussed his management style, the importance of delegating, and how he empowers his employees to make quick decisions. The class was able to spend some time in a dynamic discussion on current affairs of the hospital and healthcare in general with Brian.

The class ended the day with Joe Croskey, who is a Mindfulness Coach and Assistant Professor at Clarion University. Joe led the class in meditation and breathing exercises and talked about how to be a mindful listener. He spoke on the importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and reminded the class to be intentional with themselves and others.

The 2019 class of Leadership Venango will meet again on February 13 at Venango College. For more information, visit

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s February 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.