“I have found that women do not participate in politics and government because it may not be a convenient time, or they do not believe they are qualified.  The purpose of the Institute is to increase their self-confidence and coach them for a future in politics.  Perhaps no time is a ‘good’ or ‘convenient’ time to be involved, but there is a real need to educate and encourage women to participate in our political and governmental system.” 

- Jo Ann Davidson, Founder



Jo Ann Davidson


Before most women even thought of running for public office, Jo Ann Davidson had already decided to serve.  She first ran for Reynoldsburg City Council in 1965 before any women had been elected to council.  She did not win.  Undaunted, she ran again in the next election cycle.  This time she won.  She went on to serve ten years as a hardworking member of city council and become chair of its powerful finance committee. 

In 1980 Davidson successfully ran for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives where she served with distinction for 20 years.  She was elected by her peers to be the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives in 1995.  During her historic service as the first woman Speaker from 1995 through 2000, she guided many important legislative initiatives through the Ohio General Assembly including welfare reform, electric deregulation and criminal justice reform. 

In addition, Davidson has extensive experience in the private sector.  Prior to 1994, Davidson worked as Vice President of Special Programs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Davidson holds honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Franklin University, Ohio University, Capital University and Cleveland State, an honorary degree in Government Leadership from the University of Findlay, and an honorary Doctor of Public Administration degree from The Ohio State University.

She formed her own consulting firm, JAD and Associates, and is doing consulting work on a broad range of issues involving public policy development and analysis, strategic planning and political campaigns.  She served as Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2009.

Jo Ann Davidson



Governing Board

The Institute is governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of women from across Ohio with proven leadership capabilities in business, government and politics.  Former Ohio Attorney General and Auditor of State Betty Montgomery serves as chair.  Former Speaker Jo Ann Davidson and Former Congresswomen Deborah Pryce are Honorary Board Members.


Jo Ann Davidson

Honorary Board Member

Speaker of the Ohio House – Former


Deborah Pryce

Honorary Board Member

Congresswoman – Former

Betty Montgomery

Board Chair

Auditor of State – Former, Attorney General – Former

Linda Dotson

Secretary & Treasurer




Board of Trustees


Kathy Eshelman



Barbara Lewis, Ph.D.

Delaware County Commissioner 

Mary Schell

 Senior Vice President, External and Government Relations, The Wendy’s Company

Andrea Helfrich *

2018 Member Representative

Susan Fairless

Government Affairs Consultant

Angela Phelps-White

Attorney at Law 

Elise Spriggs

Senior Vice President, External Relations, State Auto Insurance Companies

Valoria C. Hoover

 Attorney at Law


Carol Porter

Community Volunteer 

Christina Wagner

Government Affairs

Barbara B. Lach

Realtor, Coldwell Banker King Thompson 

Jacqueline Romer-Sensky

President, JRS Group, Ltd.


Sara Walsh

Realtor, RE/MAX Impact


*Each year, the current class elected one of its own to serve as the Membership Representative to the Board of Trustees.