Making the World a Better Place


We’ve all heard the comments:

“Nothing good ever happens here…”

“The old money in town doesn’t want anything good to happen…”

“Our drug problem is so bad, why would anyone want come here…”

We’ve all heard those tired old lines…and they are all a bunch of bologna.

The Portsmouth Daily Times has graciously invited me and a number of other community leaders to write articles which will appear periodically in the paper. My contributions will focus primarily on economic development & business news and may occasionally venture into other topics such as local volunteer organizations, education, military life, my saintly wife and newborn son, and whatever else may be interesting topic of the day. Oh, and we will spend a lot of time debunking the myths mentioned above as well as many others.

In the first column we will address the two most common questions:

(1) What is the port authority?

(2) Why did you take this job?

The Southern Ohio Port Authority, aka SOPA, was formed in 1983 by the Scioto County Commissioners. Port authorities are statutorily defined as government entities that facilitate economic activity, capital investment, and job creation & retention. Ohio law allows port authorities to construct facilities, issue bonds, make loans, and sell or buy real and personal property. In Scioto County, the Port Authority is designated by the County Commissioners, City of Portsmouth, and Village of New Boston as the lead economic development agency for our community.

To understand why I took this job requires a look back on how I got here. My first job was as “Road Kill Rooster” for WPAY before being “promoted” to overnight and weekend disc jockey. Both of my parents served on the Minford Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., and I followed in their footsteps as soon as I was old enough to join. Like a lot of folks stuck in the gap between Generation X and being a Millennial, 2001 was the defining year of my life. I graduated from Shawnee State, lost my father suddenly to a heart attack, received an appointment to the AmeriCorps*VISTA program, and had the opportunity to respond to the 9/11 disaster with area first-responders. After that tumultuous year, I enrolled in, and graduated from, the Political Science-Public Administration program at Miami University before subsequently enrolling in Capital University Law School and the environmental and pro bono assistance programs. I spent the next seven years as an assistant county prosecuting attorney in Columbus which was interrupted briefly by a trip to southwest Asia with the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Ohio Army National Guard.

While overseas I spent a lot of time in conveys, on helicopters, and on guard duty which gave me a lot of time to reflect. The first thing I determined was that I really enjoyed helping people, whether it was on the fire department, in the AmeriCorps, or helping coach youth sports. The prosecutor’s office allowed me to work with victims of crime, but the cyclical nature of crime, drug offenses, and mandatory sentencing requirements really had me questioning whether I was making much of a difference. I was also bored out of my mind. After some close friends where killed in Afghanistan, I determined that I wanted to do something that could really make a difference. I investigated a position assisting veterans, another working with the homeless, but as soon as I saw the advertisement for the port authority job – I knew that was the one I wanted. I had always been intrigued by economic development and the port authority would give me the opportunity to give back to my hometown – a place I cared about greatly. So, that’s why I go to work every day – I want to “make the world a better place” or as my board often says – they want to make the community better for their children and grandchildren. There’s no better way to help someone than by helping them, or at least giving them the opportunity to, get a job.

Julius Caesar once said “experience is the teacher of all things.” I’ve seen unimaginable suffering on the fire department, learned the value of team work and strategic planning in the Army, was shown humility by the homeless on the streets of Cleveland, and spent the last two years learning everything possible about economic development. I’m also a new father. My hope is that all of those experiences will enable me to continue to lead SOPA in a positive direction and make for some interesting future columns.

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by Jason D. Kester

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

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