Bob ThomasMore than two decades ago a man from Coshocton took a chance and began to think outside the box. Coshocton Foundation President, Robert Thomas envisioned a program that would identify, train, and motivate citizens to accept volunteer leadership roles within the community. In August 1990, after months of discussions and planning, the permanent trustees of the Coshocton Foundation approved support for the Leadership Coshocton County Program.

Bob Thomas, along with Project Chairman Bruce Wallace and Jim Elliott, the first Executive Director, met with other communities; Newark, Zanesville, Marietta, to get ideas on how to establish what our community now knows as Leadership Coshocton County. A Steering Committee of 12 individuals, ready and willing to accept the challenge, was also assembled to oversee the operations of the program. Over 50 applications were received, all serious and worthy of consideration, to become members of the Charter Class and only 20 were chosen.

Volunteer director Elliott was at the helm for the first three years. Christine Cugliari, 1993 graduate, then assumed responsibility as the Executive Director. Lena Crouso, a 1999 graduate, then assumed responsibility as the third Executive Director. Cindy Byers, a 2000 graduate, became the fourth Executive Director, Donna Meyers, a 2001 graduate, became the fifth Executive Director and Betsy Gosnell is the current Executive Director.

Since the first class graduated in 1992, each Leadership Coshocton County class has enrolled up to 20 members. The classes work together to broaden their leadership skills and community awareness. Each year classes begin with an opening retreat led by a facilitator. The purpose of the retreat is to create a comfort level between members, to begin the process of forming cohesiveness within the class, to solidify the understanding of the goals and purpose of the program, to assist other class members as they determine their individual leadership styles, and to begin the process of developing different leadership skills.

The more than 500 alumni of Leadership Coshocton County have, in fact, risen to the challenge to think outside the box, all to improve the quality of life here in Coshocton County. This can be summarized best by a quote Bob Thomas loved to use from Andrew Carnegie, “The best means of benefiting a community is to place within reach the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise.”