Lou Whitmire, email@example.com
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Date Posted: 01:26:00 12/17/14 Wed
7:38 p.m. EST December 16, 2014
MANSFIELD – It’s unknown whether there will be a Miss Ohio Scholarship Program in June at the Renaissance Theatre.
Supporters say the Miss America stage in Atlantic City will have a representative from Ohio, but it’s unknown whether she will be crowned in Mansfield. There will be a Miss Ohio Scholarship Program somewhere in Ohio in 2015, Jay Jesenksy, interim executive director of the Miss Ohio Board, said Tuesday.
The Miss Ohio Scholarship Board of Trustees has been put on hold as the Miss America Scholarship Program goes in a new direction, Jesenksy said.
The Miss America organization last week informed the Miss Ohio board that the national organization is seeking financial proposals from the public to operate the Miss Ohio program. Deadline to submit a proposal to the Miss America organization is Jan. 16, Jesensky said.
“They called it a transition, but it’s not like the board is dismantled. We still have responsibilities to pay our bills and pay scholarships. ... I was verbally told we could make a proposal and also told in writing we could make a proposal,” Jesensky said, reiterating that anyone from the board is able to make a proposal.
He said every year, each state organization provides financial information as well as statistical information regarding local pageant scholarship and contestant recruitment to Miss America, to determine whether the national board should move forward with the current organization.
“We inherited from the last group over $30,000 in debt and we are debt-free. Under my group we’ve done a terrific job of making our organization more fiscally responsible,” Jesensky said.
“With that said, Miss America didn’t give me any reasons why they are going in this direction. Despite us moving forward in a very positive manner, we still had opposition within the organization from past leaders and volunteers that hindered us to fully move forward.
“Not only are we debt-free, we added two locals (events), one in the Columbus area and in Portsmouth. This year we added another new local in the Zanesville area, and next year we will have a new pageant in Akron-Canton,” he said.
Previously, the last time the Miss Ohio program added a new local was in 2008, he said.
“Because of the change in leadership, we were able to add these locals in 2013, 2014 and going into 2015,” Jesensky said. “I’m confident in ... how I’ve led the organization.”
Jesensky confirmed the Ohio board has a one-year license agreement, and the Miss America organization can either choose to renew it or not.
“They did tell me they enjoyed working with me and would like me to stay on,” Jesensky said.
Steven Oliveri, past executive director of the Miss Ohio board, said he has not been a board member in recent months, having reached his term limit, and is not speaking on behalf of the board.
“There are people actively working to put a proposal together to keep the program in Mansfield,” Oliveri said. “The Miss America organization put out a request for members in Ohio to put together a proposal. They are seeking a new group of people to run the program.
“Every once in awhile this happens, and some other states are in the same boat,” Oliveri said.
Oliveri said it is a possibility the program could move from Mansfield.
“The sponsorship is wonderful. They would be hard pressed to take it elsewhere,” Oliveri said.
The annual Miss Ohio Scholarship Program brings a total of 3,000 people to the Renaissance Theatre each June during the four-night pageant.
That scenario creates plenty of spending throughout north central Ohio, said Lee Tasseff, president of the Mansfield-Richland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Everyone associated with the pageant rents about 200 hotel rooms for at least four nights, which results in a $176,000 economic impact,” Tasseff said.
While many restaurants donate meals for contestants while they are here, contestants stay in host homes.
“The fact that it’s here is stirring up spending and buying,” Tasseff said. “You are having people come in to town to watch their contestants, their mothers, nieces.”
Tasseff said the contestants and their entourages provide meaningful revenue to local businesses.
“They rely on goods and services while they’re here. They are here, it’s not home. It’s like they are on vacation, so they spend money,” he said.
There is plenty of local support for Miss Ohio Week, too.
Newman Technology Inc. continues to donate $10,000 to the new titleholder each year.
The Miss Ohio board started a restructuring in 2011 at the urging of the convention bureau, after some Miss Ohio program members said publicly the city of Zanesville wanted to lure the pageant there.
Tasseff researched that and found it was never true. “There was no deal on the table from Zanesville,” he said. “That was a story perpetuated by leadership at the time. Eventually a Mansfield committee formed to keep the program here found out the bid from Zanesville didn’t exist.
“The Mansfield tourism bureau took over the responsibility of the money annually given to the Miss Ohio program from the city of Mansfield’s lodging tax and invested into the Miss Ohio program so that the necessary changes in restructuring could be done to strengthen the program, which had slipped under previous leadership.”
Jesensky said it’s been an honor to be the executive director and work with the Mansfield community and Richland County to run an honest and professional program.
“And if successful, I would love to keep working with the Mansfield community in strengthening and bringing a better Miss Ohio program in 2015,” he added.
The Miss Ohio’s Outstanding Teen Program operates under the umbrella of the Miss Ohio program. Drena McCurdy of Lexington remains the interim director of the teen program, Jesensky said.
Gloria Buwala, Miss Ohio board president, said Tuesday that “the Miss America organization said Jay (Jesensky) and myself and Drena (McCurdy) are all welcome to stay with the program and keep it moving forward.”
“It’s been a wonderful 20 years with the program, and I look forward to another 20,” Buwala said.
Already the changes are affecting the local Miss Mansfield Scholarship program.
There will be no Miss Mansfield or Miss North Central Ohio titleholders competing at Miss Ohio in June, Laura Russell, executive director of the Miss Mansfield and Miss North Central Ohio preliminary pageants, said Tuesday. She is taking a year off from her program in light of current changes being made.
She said she is going to use this year to build a bigger and better program to hopefully provide more scholarship money to contestants.
“I want to see what direction Miss America is going and that we’re both focused on the girls,” she said. “I believe what they’re doing is in a positive direction.”
She said she plans to come back strong and possibly offer a third preliminary pageant when she resumes.
The Miss Mansfield/Miss North Central Ohio pageant was scheduled to take place Feb. 14.
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