New SOPA director ready for the job

By Wayne Allen

December 24, 2013

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

Jason Kester, incoming Executive Director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA), has been working on issues in the community even before he officially takes the job in January.

Kester sat down exclusively with the Daily Times to explain what he’s been working on a what life experiences brought him to this point.

In terms of background, Kester grew up in Minford and has always stayed connected to that community even if he was on the other side of the world.

“I was the class president at Minford (High School) in 1997, I went to work at WPAY in 1996. I went to The Ohio State for a couple of years, transferred, because I was in love with a girl,” Kester said. “After that I ended up at Shawnee State University, graduated in 2001. Around that time I was a part of a group that went to the World Trade Center, we were there for four or five days, helping.”

He said after working with the Bloom Vernon School System, he went to Miami of Ohio got a master’s of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in public administration.

“I met my wife at Miami of Ohio. She went to work in the Secretary of State’s Office working on campaign finance,” Kester said. “I went to Capital (University), for three years, where I concentrated in environmental law, that’s where I got my law degree. After that I went to work for the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office and have been there ever since.”

Kester said he joined the Ohio Army Nation Guard in October of 2008.

“I went to my JAG (Judge Advocate General) basic course in February 2009,” Kester said.

He said after JAG school he returned to the prosecutor’s office.

“Then I volunteered to go to Iraq. One of my friend’s units was going and I volunteered to help with that. A week later my unit got notified of mobilization to Afghanistan. That was interesting because I was geared up to go to Iraq,” Kester said. “I started my mobilization on Sept. 11, 2011. I went over as a JAG officer.”

When asked why he joined the national guard Kester said, “A lot of it had to do with my experiences at the World Trade Center. I always felt like I needed to do something else.”

Kester said he has been a member of the Minford Volunteer Fire Department since June of 1997.

“I’ve written about $500,000 in grants (for the fire department) and I’ve been the lead guy on three of the last four fire trucks we’ve purchased,” Kester said.

Since signing on as the Executive Director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority, Kester has hit the ground running already addressing some issues within the community.

“I put 987 miles on my car last week driving back and froth from Columbus to Portsmouth and Ironton for meetings,” Kester said. “I had a meeting with Gov. Kasich last week, I met with the Ohio Department of Development, I talked with Representative (Terry) Johnson last week. I’ve also had conversations with Commissioners (Doug) Coleman and (Mike) Crabtree. I also spent a few hours with Mr. (Tom) Reiser trying to get up to speed with the New Steel project.”

Kester said he has mostly been listening to people.

“Mainly I just sitting a listening, trying to figure out what people think are the issues or what they think my agenda needs to be. I think that’s what I need to be doing for the next three months,” Kester said. “I’ve identified somethings, one of the things is that there appears to be lots and lots of meetings. I’m not exactly sure why people have all of these meetings, we should not have a meeting to have a meeting. Have a meeting to accomplish something.”

Kester said one of the first things he wants to do is setup an organizational chart of who is doing what in regards to economic development.

“There appears to be between 11 and 15 groups throughout the region that do economic development. One of the things that popped up this week was the department of development was working on something and needed information from the city of Portsmouth and had no idea who to call,” Kester said. “I got them in contact with councilman (Kevin W.) Johnson and literally the problem was fixed in five minutes.”

Kester said before he officially takes the job as SOPA Executive Director he has to attend two weeks of mandatory JAG School.

Once he takes the job Kester said he intends on staying involved with the Minford Fire Department and staying a member of the Ohio National Guard.

For more information about the Southern Ohio Port Authority visit them on Facebook.

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or tallen@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.