State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) Friday hosted LEADERship Ashtabula County (LAC) during the LAC Government Day in Columbus to discuss important issues facing local communities in Northeast Ohio. LAC is a yearlong program emphasizing civic education and engagement for residents of Ashtabula County. The LAC program’s membership includes civic, business and community leaders, as well as leading engineers, physicians, students and others from Ashtabula County interested in making a difference in their community.

Dr. Howard Fleeter from the Ohio Education Policy Institute and Attorney Tabitha Woodruff from The Legal Aid Society of Columbus were on hand to talk about issues LAC members identified as important to them and their communities: education funding and human trafficking.

In his remarks, Dr. Fleeter argued that inequities in education funding must be addressed. “Investing in preschool education is a policy no-brainer, a cheaper way to ensure low income children do not get behind in their education,” said Fleeter. He also discussed the importance of property tax funding, which he believes is necessary to address school funding issues facing Ohio communities.

Attorney Tabitha Woodruff talked about the challenges of addressing both labor and sex trafficking. “Many survivors of human trafficking are groomed through abuse they have experienced in their lives. A pimp may give them love and a family, things they’ve never had before. It’s difficult to prosecute when the victim wouldn’t testify against the perpetrator,” said Woodruff. She also discussed what she believes to be the biggest challenge in combating human trafficking: identifying it. “In Ohio, we have done a good job to identify human trafficking and are among the top four in the nation in arrests.”

Following the presentations, Patterson spoke with the group, discussing legislation that he is working on to better serve Ashtabula County and Ohio. “It is always a pleasure to welcome constituents to the People’s House in Columbus. Our government works best when our citizens are informed, empowered and encouraged to shape their future through the political system,” said Patterson. “The Ashtabula county LEADERship class and Laura Jones are to be commended for their interest in state government and its impact on our special corner of Ohio.”

The group took a tour of the Statehouse following the 3 presentations, meeting Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina), who is also from Ashtabula County.

“Spending time interacting with our leaders at the state level has given members the opportunity to truly understand how decisions made by our legislators impact local government,” said Laura Jones, Executive Director of LAC. “Rep. Patterson highlighted the ‘we’ in government, giving our members a greater appreciation for how important civic engagement is and the impact that we can all have on our communities.”

LAC has both adult and youth programs for residents of Ashtabula County. For more information on these programs, visit or call (440) 998-3888. 

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