State Rep. Debbie Phillips to work for Rural Action after term expires

Samantha Nelson of The Athens Messenger:

As Debbie Phillips’ eight years and four terms as representative for the 94th District of the Ohio House of Representatives comes to a close this month, she prepares to take on the role of a new staff position at Rural Action.

Rural Action is a member-based, regional sustainable community development organization with a mission “to foster social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio.”

Michelle Decker, chief executive officer of Rural Action, recruited Phillips as the development director. Phillips will join {span}21 staff members in five offices across Athens, Perry, Morgan and Tuscarawas counties. The organization also hosts the Ohio Stream Restore Corps, with 26 AmeriCorps members.

In the position, Phillips will work to reinforce the membership and support base of the organization through engaging existing and potential members in its work, and growing its membership and donor base. Phillips will reach out to members and other people who have been involved in the various programs of Rural Action to encourage them to invest into the organization.

Decker said that this will require the position holder — in this case, Phillips — to have face-to-face conversations, organize member meetings and sit down with existing and potential donors to ask and gain an understanding of what they care about and what they want to see Rural Action do.

Although the position has existed within the organization under the umbrellas of other roles in the past, the full-time position stands by itself this time. The organization is “more ready for this position than ever before,” Decker said, and having someone with a “robust skill set” like Phillips will benefit the organization.

Decker said that the development director position was created because of the decision by the board of directors of Rural Action to invest the organization’s funds into development. The board sees the organization growing, and they want to make sure that the organization will keep up with that growth, Decker said.

With Phillips’ term as representative set to expire soon, Decker said Rural Action saw a “special opportunity” for Phillips to work with them.

Phillips said she is excited to work for Rural Action. “I love the work that Rural Action does and the way they do the work,” she said.

Phillips said that although she loves the work she has done as the district’s state representative and considers it an honor to have served in the position, she acknowledged that the position can be frustrating because of gridlock and partisanship that occurs within the Statehouse. Phillips said that she looks forward to working with an entity operated by local members who are all working toward “positive community development.”

She is also excited to learn about projects and other work that more recent members of Rural Action are doing, particularly the younger members.

“A lot of young leaders have gotten a great start through Rural Action,” she said.

Phillips has worked with Rural Action in the past, during and prior to her service as the district’s state representative. In 2001, Phillips started working with the organization as the founding executive director of Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, which was hosted through Rural Action.

Phillips’ term as state representative will end at the end of December, and her position as development director for Rural Action will start at the beginning of January, 2017.

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