All posts tagged Leadership Venango

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 First Session: Business & Economic Development

Written by Saxon Daugherty

The 2020 class of Leadership Venango reconnected for their first session of the program at Komatsu’s engineering office in Franklin to learn and discuss business and economic development in the region.

Komatsu’s Alan McBride opened the day with a presentation on the organization’s approach to leadership training, breaking down those who lead a function, those who lead leaders, those who lead others and personal leadership.

McBride also introduced how to create an accountability culture and incorporating progress tools, such as the Individual Development Plan (IDP) that can help employees improve their performance and meet both long- and short-term goals.

The class then heard from Frank Hajduk, the Branch Manager of SCORE’s Venango office, regarding economic development and strategic planning.

Hajduk provided an overview of America’s mixed economy, referencing the influences from capitalist and socialist dynamics.

The local economy revolves around having critical job centers with having useful resources readily availability.

Hajduk used the analogy of the cycle of water to describe how the flow of money and products impacts the local economy. This also stressed the importance of spending money locally and the Be Here initiative.

Wrapping up the morning was a panel of 2019 Leadership Venango graduates, including Randy Arnold, Lauren Lupinacci and Ashley Smith. The trio answered questions from the Class of 2020 and provided insight on their experience in the program.

Emily Lewis, the Executive Director of the Venango County Economic Authority, opened the second half of the day with a discussion on some of the most pressing economic development projects in the county.

At the top of the list is the transformation of the Oil City National Bank building into a multi-purpose facility including a brew pub and banquet space. 

Lewis also highlighted the eAcademy at Venango, which launched earlier this year. The program is an extension of the highly-successful eAcademy program at Linden Pointe that fosters and encourages an entrepreneurial mindset.

The Venango County version specifically targets high school seniors.

The remainder of the day for the leadership class was spent touring several businesses in the area including Komatsu’s chain plant, Webco’s Reno facility, and Klapec Trucking.

Each organization provided an overview of what they do and gave the group a behind-the-scenes look at how they operate.

The next session will take place on Wednesday, November 13 at PennDOT’s District 1 office in Oil City with a focus on maximizing clean communications.

To learn more about Leadership Venango, visit

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 Accepting Applications

The 2019 2020 Leadership Venango Class will hold their kick off retreat on September 12 13, 2019, followed by monthly full day sessions through May of 2020. This program is a significant commitment of money and time.

So, why should you consider investing in such an activity or encouraging someone else to do so? You may already be in a position where you are managing others, through your title or simply your areas of responsibility. Perhaps you’ve already taken classes, read books, and served in leadership positions. We encourage you not to dismiss this opportunity to further enhance your leadership journey, which is sure to be newly informed by the changing times, a diverse class make up, and an array of great speakers and activities.

Tessa Byham, a graduate of the inaugural class remarks “My favorite things about Leadership Venango were the connections made within the class, getting out into the community and learning about the different businesses and locations, and growing professionally in my ability and confidence in my networking skills.”

Ryan Sweeney adds “This program is a great value to the area and the people involved. I gained so much knowledge about the area that I didn’t know and also gained some great connections both in the class and with presenters.”

Emily Lewis, another member of the class of 2019, said: “Leadership Venango taught me that there are many traits of a good leader but the most important is the ability to truly listen and lean in to challenging issues. I feel I am a better equipped member of my community because of my participation in this program.”

If you have any questions about Leadership Venango, please visit for details or contact the Chamber office and we’d be happy to meet with you. Registration is open and scholarships are available.

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

Everyone is a Leader

When many hear the word “leader,” they imagine a CEO, executive director, or president. At the FLEX Speakers Series in June, panel participants assured attendees that “everyone is a leader.” The panel consisted of six of the 13 graduates of the inaugural class of Leadership Venango, the Venango Chamber’s new leadership program.

Brian McNulty, Randy Arnold, Dan Flaherty, Greg Lander, Ashley Smith, and Tessa Byham shared their experience and advice from the nine-month program. Leadership Venango is designed to identify, educate, involve and motivate individuals who desire to become more effective leaders, and participants got to know the region.

“It wasn’t just about leadership, but about getting to know your community,” said Ashley. “Most of the places we visited are hiring and expanding, and our eyes were opened to all we have here.”

Several sessions helped participants learn more about themselves, too, and involved personality tests, mindfulness, and diversity.

“Many of the activities helped us build self-awareness, which in turn makes us better leaders in our community and work,” said Tessa.

“Learning my strengths and weaknesses enlightened me and has helped me strategize how I can use those to better work with others,” Brian added.

The participants networked with local leaders, as well as the other participants, forming a “family” they described. “We found we’re not all that different and were able to grow and develop together,” said Dan. “We learned the community needs people to step up and this program gave us the empowerment and skills to do that.”

At the Speaker Series, each panelist covered a topic, including honorable leadership, community, economic development, and communications. “Leadership is what you make of it and the value you bring in your position,” said Randy.

The Chamber is currently accepting applications for the next class, which begins in September.

“Leadership is not knowing all the answers, but where to find them,” Greg said. “This program helped us build connections and knowledge to do just that.”

Learn more about Leadership Venango, at or get  in touch with us—we can connect you with graduates who are happy to share more about the program.

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) July 2019 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.