The growth and development in Licking County created employment opportunities, changed the landscape and elevated community planning efforts to the highest priority. It has changed lives and created enormous challenges.
As older leaders pass the torch of leadership, a new generation will confront the challenges with new ideas and enthusiasm.
The Advocate’s 10th annual list of 20 Under 40 winners showcases some of those leaders. The list includes a doctor, teacher, social worker, school treasurer and village fiscal officer. They have second and third jobs. They volunteer at schools, churches, charitable and civic organizations. One was Rotarian of the Year. Another was the Ken Johnston Volunteer of the Year.
Two of this year’s honorees have overcome great personnel challenges and now provide help to others in the community.
Melody Bolin at The Main Place
Melody Bolin, 36, of Newark, assistant clinical director at The Main Place, a mental health recovery center in Newark, supervises and performs mental health assessments and mental health therapy. She is part of the overdose response team for Licking and Knox counties and does homeless outreach in both counties.
Bolin is familiar with the challenges some of her clientele face, as her husband Mike explained in his 20 Under 40 nomination.
“Melody has lived experience with trauma, addiction and homelessness,” Mike Bolin said. “She turned her life around and strives to show people in the community that change is possible Melody is the true definition of ‘being the change you seek’ and wants nothing more but to help people overcome the same struggles she has.”
The 2005 Newark High School graduate went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State and her master’s from Chamberlain University College of Nursing. She is a licensed social worker, previously employed as a Licking Memorial Hospital point-of-care technician at Shepherd Hill residential treatment center for those with addictions.
“I have faced many challenges in life and I turned my life around,” Bolin said. “I hope that my story can show people in our community that change is possible and hopefully I can instill hope and change in others.
“I think it helps because I’m not judgmental. I understand and am empathetic because I’ve been in their position.”
Zack Bryner at Buckeye Shooting Center
Zack Bryner, 36, of Pataskala, founder and chief marketing/operations officer at Buckeye Shooting Center in Newark, is a disabled veteran medically retired from the military. He graduated magna cum laude from Wright State University.
The former Department of Defense intelligence analyst worked high-level military operations in five deployments to various countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Bryner, a 2006 Licking Valley High School graduate, has certainly not retired from helping his community. In addition to the business, which moved into a new building two years ago on East Main Street, he founded Buckeye Charities, raising thousands annually for local charities.
“My biggest motivation to make a difference locally is very simple — this is my home,” Bryner said. “I was raised in the Newark/Hanover area and now reside in Pataskala. My parents raised me to always leave a place better than I found it, and I have carried that throughout my adult life and have passed it down to my kids.”
Bryner and Bolin are not the only young leaders making a difference. Chelsea Fulk organized a free summer lunch program for children. Hannah Goodwin helped develop a program for children with disabilities to show animals at the Hartford Fair. Jim Dodderer helped create a cultural identity club at his school. Kristin Ream created a foundation that gives weekly to local community organizations.
Hardest worker award: Bethany Malcolm
The hardest worker award may go to Bethany Malcolm, mortgage processor with TrueCore Federal Credit Union, owner of Malcolm Photography and server and shift manager at Red Oak Pub restaurant. In her spare time, she led the Utica Streetscape Committee, helped with Utica Farmer’s Market and is a committee member for Envision Utica 2030.
In her nomination of Malcolm, Chelsea Markert said, “In the 16 years I have known Bethany, she has almost always held more than one job. She has always been a leader, no matter where she goes. She truly puts her heart and soul into her jobs and it shows by the way she excels in any position she has ever held.”
20 Under 40 winners respond to Intel
The $20 billion Intel computer chip manufacturing facility under construction just south of Johnstown, as well as the presence of giants Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, has transformed western Licking County.
The 20 Under 40 winners were asked, “What challenges and opportunities do you believe the Intel project provides for Licking County?” Here are some of their answers:
Adrienne Anderson, 36, of Jersey Township, 4-H program assistant for Licking County Ohio State University extension:
“Those who live in the area are dealing with road closures and construction, heavier traffic on those roads, and landmarks that have been there their entire lives are either gone or look very different. These changes bring out strong emotions, and these growing pains are difficult for some to deal with. Change is often hard, and while change can bring many positives, it can still be difficult while in process.”
Jim Dodderer, 36, of Johnstown, social studies teacher at Licking Heights High School:
“The opportunities that Intel and other companies bring to the area are very exciting. As a teacher I see many well-paying jobs and career opportunities for my students right here in our own backyard. I hope our leaders are able to keep some of our local identity. I am very proud to be from Licking County and do not want to see our hometowns become something totally different.”
Seth Elliott, 39, of Newark, founder and owner-operator of Elliott Heating & Cooling:
“I believe the opportunity of growth for small businesses due to Intel can be immense in the next five to 10 years if businesses can overcome the challenge of avoiding turnover. The most important thing Licking County leaders can do to continue securing a bright future for our community is continuing the support of small businesses.”
Hayley Feightner, 29, of Newark, assistant director at Grow Licking County community improvement corporation:
“There is still a lot of work to do, but the momentum in Licking County right now is strong. Our community has risen to the challenge since January 2021, and there is a growing list of accomplishments that have already resulted from our ability to work in partnership.”
Chelsea Fulk, 37, of St. Louisville, fiscal officer for village of Utica:
“I see challenges that will and are already affecting small, rural areas like the one I work for. We are caught between a rock and a hard spot in preparing for growth but not having the financial means if we don’t get awarded grants.”
Todd Griffith, 36, of Newark, treasurer/chief financial officer at Licking Heights:
“It’s important to acknowledge that the rapid enrollment growth driven by such projects can be challenging. It necessitates the continuous construction of new schools to accommodate the increasing student population, which often strains the financial resources, as revenue doesn’t always keep pace with the expenses incurred due to the influx of new enrollees.”
Alyssa Johnston, 34, of Granville, assistant director at Career and Technical Education Centers of Licking County:
“We have some incredible business and industry leaders that have been operating successful companies in the Licking County area for decades. I believe Intel will join an incredible group of manufacturers as they move into this area and will have a significant amount of support from other local industries.”
Tim Keith, 37, of Newark, commercial loan officer with Park National Bank:
“The Intel project will provide a multigenerational opportunity of economic growth. The youth of our communities will no longer be forced to leave to find meaningful work on the cutting edge of tech. We are on the map now and will need to compete globally.”
Bethany Malcolm, 32, of Newark, mortgage processor with TrueCore Federal Credit Union:
“Challenges: Housing shortages throughout the community, which is causing an increase in rent. Opportunities: Keeping our future generation in Licking County to live and work. Higher pay and opportunities for on-the-job training and experience.”
Lacie Priest, 39, of Newark, senior executive assistant and secretary to the board of Park National Corp. and Park National Bank:
“In many ways, it will be exciting to see the evolution that will occur because of the growth, but there is also a sense of melancholy around what may be lost. We don’t know exactly what we will gain and what we will lose, and it will be different for each person as they experience the change differently, but we certainly know new and exciting changes are coming, and also that change can be difficult.”
Kristin Ream, 38, of Granville, senior high youth director and communications director at First Presbyterian Church of Granville:
“Intel’s arrival brings lots of exciting opportunities for Licking County. Looking forward to a more multicultural experience for our community. I am also very excited to have more young families and young professionals in the area.”
Adam Shilling, 39, of Newark, CEO of Buckeye Valley Family YMCA:
“I believe we have an opportunity to define what matters most to us and to grow our community in alignment with our regional values.”
Hayley Snider, 32, of Granville, director of Youth Engaged in Service Club, in Newark:
“Licking County’s economy/commerce will see growth, but Intel also has the potential to have a positive impact on social services available to the public. With this degree of growth, there is an opportunity for expansion. This could allow for the creation of outreach and a broader influence on more rural communities in need.”
Sara Whittington, 33, of Perry Township, human resource and safety administrative assistant at The Energy Cooperative:
“Intel is bringing many career opportunities and diversity to Licking County both by their hiring initiatives but also the other companies and organizations looking to relocate to the area. But I fear the amount of agricultural land that is being irrevocably lost in the process. I also worry about how the schools will afford to expand their buildings to accommodate the families moving into the districts.”
Motivation for community involvement
The honorees were also asked, “What motivates you to make a difference locally?” Here are some of those responses:
Ashley Campbell, 39, of Pataskala, senior financial analyst for Ohio Department of Commerce:
“I’m a long-term resident of Licking County and have a heart that loves to serve. I like to solve puzzles and seeing how all the pieces fit together. I have children of my own; I want them to know they can make a difference. Great communities do not appear, they are built.”
Kevin Cox, 32, of Newark, financial advisor at Edward Jones:
“I am grateful of my upbringing in Licking County and all that it has provided myself and my family. I feel a strong responsibility to give back and help pave the way for future generations.”
Hannah Goodwin, 31, of Newark, finance director at Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities:
“Having been born and raised in Licking County, I feel the need to help others in this community achieve what is important to them.”
Dr. Elizabeth McIntosh, 33, of Johnstown, outpatient family physician at Licking Memorial Family Practice, Johnstown office:
“I became a physician because I wanted to help people and a family physician because I wanted to care for people of all ages and health conditions, and that has not changed. I believe that life is intrinsically valuable and worth fighting for, and this fuels my passion to help patients achieve true health — meaning complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”