The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Bad vibes: Lack of opportunities, progress make for sour attitudes


“We can be our biggest cheerleader or worst enemy,” he says.

Help, I’ve fallen and ...

Susan Stocker, dean of Kent State University-Ashtabula campus, says the attitude she encounters most often in the county is one of “helplessness.”

“It is not just related to education,” she says. “On the other boards I serve on, it’s reflected in other sectors: health care, business. There is a sense, a kind of culture, that we don’t deserve something better.”

Even in unguarded, off-the-record moments, public-sector leadership officials have been known to make comments resigned to the idea things are just the way they are because, after all, this is Ashtabula County, and it will never change. Generations of entitlement dependency have created a culture that thrives on negativity and status quo, at least in the minds of many who live here.

But what do those who don’t live in the county think of us? Stocker, who meets with faculty and leadership from other Kent State branches and the main campus, says one perception is “Snow Belt.”

“After you get past the jokes about snow, they really don’t know a whole lot about Ashtabula County. They understand it as being rural and depressed. On the flip side, people also are starting to learn about our wineries, lake and tourism.”

Unfortunately, even with all the county’s quality-of-life amenities, KSUA faculty members who live outside the county prefer to commute, due in part to the dearth of cultural attractions in the county, says Stocker.

Sandy King is a guest-service representative for the Geneva State Park Lodge and Conference Center. She welcomes guests to the lodge from all over the state, nation and world.

“They are overwhelmingly positive,” King says. “One of my biggest frustrations is that people are not aware of how positively we are viewed from those who come here from all over the world. They really are positive about not only this facility, but also the general area. They think Geneva-on-the-Lake is charming and quaint, kind of a time warp. They love the lake and the wineries.”

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